While I have not posted recently, if you have read my blogs, you will see that I normally handle high-conflict custody disputes, which can be some of the toughest cases to handle. Today, I thought I would discuss a fairly new opportunity for couples that want to get divorced while avoiding negative animosity and saving significant money on legal fees.
In January 2020, Maricopa County approved a new procedure whereby parties can submit a Summary Consent Decree and avoid the litigation hassle. Normally, one party will file a Petition, then the other party will file a Response, and then the litigation process begins. In this new process, the parties will file a joint Petition and Response that essentially outline all of the parties’ agreement then uses this information to complete a Consent Decree (an Order that sets forth the parties agreements). Once the Joint Petition and Response are filed, you still have to wait the 60 days to file the Consent Decree, but once the Consent Decree is filed, the Court will sign it and the parties will be officially divorced. Sounds simple enough.
While this process is a lot easier and highly encouraged, it is recommended that you use an attorney who knows family law to assist you in the process to make sure your Decree is done right. I deal with a significant number of cases that have to go back to Court to fix or change poorly drafted Decrees or to obtain modifications that were not considered originally. I suggest avoiding the additional time and expenses by making sure it is done right the first time.
Another point about this process to consider is that if you and your spouse are in agreement on the majority of issues, but not all, meeting with an attorney (who acts as a mediator rather than representing either party) to negotiate the final item or two can be helpful. Since this is a fairly new process, I’m not sure what other attorneys are doing, but Castle Law, LLC. has developed a service specifically for this new process. It includes two one-hour sessions to finalize the agreements, draft all documents, and submit them to the Court for a flat fee of $2,500. To put this in perspective, our normal retainer is $5,000.
As a family law attorney, I can tell you there is a significant cost to litigation that is not just monetary. This new process, if successful, can save you and your family a lot of heartache and some money.
Cheers to an amicable divorce!
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Jason Castle is a family lawyer who specializes in high-conflict cases. He's also a former prosecutor & social worker. Hear his latest divorce thoughts!