What About “Flat Fee” Divorces?

Generally speaking, many of the so-called “flat fee” divorce offers from attorneys or para-legal services are scams.  Offering to do a job for a flat fee, especially when the process has not even started, is a lot like saying “You can hire me to fill out the forms for you, but if there are any problems you have to pay me more.”

The fact is, divorce forms are available on-line.  You can get some good ones here: http://www.mncourts.gov.  Just click on the link on the left-hand side of the page that says “court forms” and follow it until you get to the page that has divorce forms.  These forms are free.  You should not pay anyone for forms, especially online.  The chances are very good that forms that you pay for online will not work in Minnesota.  On the other hand, the forms made available by the Minnesota Supreme Court are free, and they will work in Minnesota.  Attorneys who offer reduced rates and “flat-fee” specials do not want you to know about these forms, which again, are available for free.

The fact is, when people hire me, they hire me for my legal advice.  My legal advice saves my clients lots of money and it prevent lots of problems.  People do not hire me to fill out a form.  And really, when you hire an attorney for a reduced rate for a so-called “uncontested divorce,” that’s usually all the attorney does.   Do you think they would charge you a flat rate so they can do more work for you?  Or do you think they charge a flat rate so they can do less work?  These are not difficult questions.

Be especially wary of scams that advertise an “uncontested divorce” for $99 or some bargain rate.  In Minnnesota, the court filing fee (the fee you pay to file your Petition and other documents with the court) is $400.  (In some counties this filing fee is slightly higher.)  The fee to bring a motion for temporary relief is another $100.  The fee to fax a document to the court is $25.  You do not need a degree in mathmatics to realize that when someone advertises a $99 divorce, the math does not work.

Daniel Fiskum is a Minnesota divorce attorney who has been practicing since 1992. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and has been named a "Super Lawyer" by the Minnesota Journal of Law and Politics. Mr. Fiskum is currently writing a book for attorneys and non-attorneys entitled "The Streetfighter's Guide to Divorce," which is scheduled for publication in May, 2010. Many of his blog entries will appear in the book. You may contact attorney Fiskum directly at (952) 270-7700. His office is located in the Carlson Towers in Minnetonka, Minnesota. The Fiskum Law website is found at www.fiskumlaw.com.

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