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Uncontested RI Divorces - Does One Size Fit All?

My practice is focused almost entirely on Rhode Island family law.  Every week I hear the same sentence by people trying to find the most affordable Rhode Island Divorce lawyer.

"I have a simple divorce.  We agree on everything.  What's your price for an Uncontested Divorce"

No doubt I'm going to burst a few bubbles here and perhaps even anger a few people, but I'm a lawyer who tells it like it is.

First, when you call an attorney and you say these three little sentences, here is what the translation ends up being. 

I'm shopping for an attorney because I don't think I can do this divorce myself.

I'm calling you because I'm looking for someone who is cheap. 

If you are a lawyer and you are cheap then I might hire you because any lawyer should be able to do something as simple as my divorce.

Even without any tone or inflection, this comes across as an insult, especially to a family law attorney who knows that every case is different.

It is no understatement on my part to you that these are the calls I get all week because I offer my services as Rhode Island's Most Affordable Full-Time Divorce and Family Law Lawyer.  More than 90% of the calls I get are asking, What's your price for a completely uncontested divorce?

People are lawyer shopping.  Not only do I understand that, but I encourage it.  Yet this is far from the best way to go about it.  Certainly, it is not an easy thing to find a good Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer and there is no magic book to tell you how to find a good one that offers reasonable rates. 

However, calling a bunch of Rhode Island lawyers who advertise that he or she does divorces and then asking how much he or she charges for an uncontested divorce and choosing the lowest price one because you have limited financial resources is far from the best way to get good results.

I can say with sincerity the following just as if I were saying it to one of my brothers, "It is worse to have a lawyer who doesn't know what he or she is doing in divorce and family law than it is to have no lawyer at all."

Certainly you want to price shop for an attorney, but if you engage the services of a lawyer who does not know what he or she is doing when it comes to divorce or family law then you  might as well fold your money into a paper airplane and sail it out the window.  A lawyer who is not skilled in Rhode Island divorce and family law may quickly and easily give you a telephone quote for an uncontested divorce because he or she does not handle them frequently and simply wants to get some money "in the door".  Most attorneys have overhead expenses to pay after all.

Yet I digress.  This article is not about how to select a Rhode Island Divorce and Family Law Lawyer.  Rather, this article is about understanding that a good Rhode Island Divorce and Family Law Lawyer will not simply quote a a price to you over the phone. 


Because good Rhode Island divorce lawyers know that 9+ out of 10 people who call will say that they have an uncontested divorce when the divorce lawyer who practices enough before the family court knows that only about 1 in 20 cases is truly uncontested from the outset and that this can only be determined with any degree of certainty after a detailed consultation and question and answer session with the prospective client.

If you get anything out of this article, I hope that it is this sentence. 

Every divorce case is different.

Those of us who choose to practice as Rhode Island Divorce lawyers know the intricacies that plague each of the cases.  We have honed our skills and our minds to identify the present issues, tax consequences, future medical issues and much more so that you can rely upon our advice and give you solid legal representation.   A good Rhode Island divorce lawyer knows that family law is always changing and that as much as we may try we are not always "up to the moment" on every case that has been ruled upon.  A true professional when it comes to divorce and family law will state with confidence that  he or she would prefer not to give you advice on a particular issue until he or she has checked into the latest cases on the issue. 

No lawyer is expected to know everything on any subject.  However, a good lawyer working within his or her primary practice focus will take prudent steps to insure that the correct advice is given to anyone he or she is speaking to.

So, what's my price of an uncontested divorce?  I have none.  I make it a rule not to quote prices over the phone because as I have said, I know that every divorce is different.  All lawyers are not the same.  Some have chosen to focus their practice in an area of law.  If you are going to hire a Rhode Island lawyer for your divorce or other family law matter, then take the time to meet with and screen each lawyer.

If you just want to hire the cheapest attorney possible, then just call a lawyers who just finished law school, has passed the Rhode Island Bar Examination and was just sworn in before the Rhode Island Supreme Court.  Why do that if you want CHEAP?  That lawyer is hungry for income and clients to start his or her new career.  Then, chances are better than not that you can just waive goodbye as your money goes out the door as you pay for a lawyer who probably doesn't have the slightest idea what they are doing in family court or perhaps where it is located.

I'll say it again and I can't stress this enough.

Every divorce is different.

More than 9+ people out of 10 who call me will say they have a completely uncontested divorce.  Yet only 1 out of 20 of those callers actually do have an uncontested divorce.

When trying to get a price for your divorce, the attorney will know if your divorce is likely to be considered uncontested or not, BUT only after a detailed consultation and explanation of your rights to you.  Without that, most people only state they have an uncontested divorce because they think that they do or they want it to be uncontested OR because they believe that by asking for the uncontested rate they can just hire the attorney at the cheapest possible cost and then deal with any additional cost later.

Consider this analogy and perhaps you won't be so offended or you will understand when a professional Rhode Island divorce lawyer tells you that he or she is unable to quote you a rate for your divorce over the telephone.


Let's say that you call up up a department store to get a price on spark plugs for your car, the call center must switch you to the department that focuses on that specialty product right?  So you have to get to the department that carries that product.  This is just like finding a true divorce lawyer in the midst of all the thousands of lawyers in Rhode Island.  Fortunately, it's much easier because the call center person knows that there is a specific department for that and just shunts your call to the Automotive Department.

When the Automotive Assistant picks up the telephone, you ask how much it costs for the cheapest spark plugs for a basic Chevrolet.

Can the Automotive assistant tell you the correct price without asking you more questions when the store carries (4) 4 brands of spark plugs for all different makes and models of cars and trucks? 

No.  The automotive assistant can't help you at all without asking you more detailed questions.  In fact, without more information the automotive assistant may not even carry the spark plugs you need. 

Fairly similar, right? 

What's your price for an uncontested divorce? 


What's your price for the cheapest spark plugs for a Chevrolet?

In fact, the automotive assistant may have to take quite some time with you on the telephone asking you about the Model, YEAR, Number of Doors, Engine Size and other information in order to figure out which spark plugs would even fit your car for ONE BRAND!  Then he or she may have to do the same for all four (4) brands to see what fits, what is available and what its cost is.  Then, finally the automotive assistant might be able to tell you what the cheapest one that fits your car is that they have in stock.  This is pretty similar to a full consultation with a divorce lawyer don't you think.  He or she has to ask you the questions that he or she knows to ask to find out what is needed for your case just as the automotive assistant needs the information to find out what spark plugs fit your needs.

Now, what happens.   You are dealing with an inexperienced lawyer who thinks he or she knows the questions to ask.  Yet isn't he or she really just like an inexperienced automotive assistant who is some poor kid just out of college trying to figure out what to do with his life and is working in the automotive department for minimum wage?  What if the automotive assistant is wrong andgives you the wrong spark plugs and you try to use them into your car.  After all, you relied on the automotive assistant's knowledge, right?   And a spark plug is just a spark plug, isn't it?

Well, you can guess what could happen.  You could blow the engine and make it unusable.  You couldstrip the spark plug threads requiring retapping of the treads at substantial cost.  You could ruin the ignition timing so the timing needs to be redone, perhaps the replacement of the timing belt, engine damage, etc . . .   

So you paid the cheapest price on spark plugs from someone who you expected to know what they were doing and you have a ton of headaches. 

Do you think the automotive assistant or the department store is going to be responsible for those headaches or your costs?  Do you think they will be able to reverse the damage that was done?  Nope.  Too late.  You should have gone to a specialist who might have told you which spark plugs were correct or you might have been told that the cheapest ones will only cause you costly headaches down the road and that the middle priced spark plugs are much better for your needs.

Ultimately, some attorneys may have a fixed price for an uncontested divorce.  They may, in fact, be cheaper than everyone else, including me, but that doesn't mean that they are the best for your situation, nor does it mean that they even care about your situation, or what happens to you if you follow their advice and it happens to be a bit off. 

Unfortunately, though readers may not wish to hear this, getting a price on what you state as an uncontested divorce is not the same as buying a small, black coffee at the Dunkin Donuts drive through.  This is divorce law.  It is complicated and it changes frequently.  Without knowing all the details a good family law attorney can't properly give you a price. 

If you call an attorney and simply get a set price on the telephone for a retainer and hourly fees and you haven't discussed with the attorney any aspects of your situation or your case or your life then I have only one word for you . . .


Authored By:

  Christopher A. Pearsall
70 Dogwood Drive, Suite 304
West Warwick, RI 02893

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Copyright 2008.  Christopher A. Pearsall, Entrepreneur and Attorney-at-Law

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