Don’t Just Go for the Cheapest Divorce Lawyer in Singapore
Getting a divorce may be bad enough without having to pay through the nose for a possibly painful process.
However, for those who might be tempted to just engage the cheapest fixed-price divorce lawyer you can find – caveat emptor (buyer beware!)
Getting a root canal is almost as painful as getting a divorce, but if you found a dentist who was willing to do it for 20% of what most other dentists were charging, you would approach him/her with caution and might think twice before letting him/her anywhere near your molars – and rightly so.
Why should your approach with lawyers be any different? Perhaps this laxer approach stems from a mistaken belief that a divorce is a divorce, whoever is doing it.
However, a botched divorce could leave a long-term impact that might actually be worse than a botched root canal. There is some truth to the cliché “if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”.
The Amount of Fees Quoted by a Lawyer May Say Something About the Level of Service They Provide
Logically speaking, it should be obvious that if you find a lawyer who is willing to do a divorce for $800 flat, when there are plenty of others who do them for $800 an hour, they are not selling the same service.
What they are offering are two completely different things. You should know what they are before deciding what is right for you.
Engaging a Divorce Lawyer Who Offers a Fixed Fee Arrangement in Singapore
When do fixed-fee divorces apply?
If you see a fixed-fee advertised for a divorce, this probably refers to an “uncontested divorce“.
An uncontested divorce means one where the husband and wife agree on everything and just want to get the formal paperwork done. This is indeed the best way to keep your legal costs low.
It is not unrealistic for a lawyer to be able to calculate a fixed-fee that will cover the time it will take to go through the process of obtaining an uncontested divorce.
However, be aware that the minute you disagree with your spouse on some point or other, it becomes a contested divorce and that fixed fee quote goes out the window.
What sometimes happens then is that an hourly “out of scope” fee starts to apply to everything after that. This is unless and until you agree to some new fee arrangement with the lawyer for a contested divorce.
What is the typical level of service provided for a fixed-fee divorce?
So what do you get for your money for a fixed-fee divorce?
Well what you will get from the “cheap lawyer” is most likely a template to fill in, which he/she will then file in court and hopefully, at some point thereafter, his/her secretary will send you a decree of divorce.
As you wait to receive the decree of divorce, the lawyer may not want to take any calls or emails from you or discuss your “flat-fee case”. This is entirely understandable.
A lawyer’s time is money, and you simply haven’t paid for enough of it to be entitled to an expectation that you will get more face time with the lawyer.
Engaging a Divorce Lawyer Who Adopts a Flexible-Fee Arrangement
What is the typical level of service provided for a flexible-fee divorce?
Perhaps the point is better illustrated by asking what you would typically expect to get under a more conventional, non-fixed fee arrangement.
Typically, a lawyer who is not unduly restricted by an inflexible fee arrangement would sit down with you at the outset and take your detailed instructions.
He/she would propose some plan of action and then give you regular updates as the case progresses, asking you for appropriate information and evidence as and when required.
He/she may engage the services of a private investigator to gather more evidence when necessary, in appropriate cases.
He/she will be open to making interim applications for all kinds of things like overseas travel with children, variance of interim orders, appeals of various minor decisions, emergency relief, etc.
When should I choose a flexible-fee arrangement over a fixed-fee?
The services offered by flexible-fee divorce lawyers (such as planning a long-term case strategy, providing updates on your case or making interim applications, as mentioned above) are likely to be all the kinds of things that the fixed-fee lawyer won’t want to pick up the phone to hear about.
Even if he/she does, the first subject of discussion will likely be how much more you need to pay before the conversation can continue.
This is fine if it is an uncontested divorce where the parties can agree on everything, as discussed earlier.
The only problem is that, without discussing all the issues with a lawyer first, it’s difficult to anticipate in advance the kind of issues that you will need to agree with your spouse, or to predict how likely you are to disagree and therefore need a more bespoke divorce service.
What About DIY-Ing Your Divorce Instead?
On the other hand, you may be thinking of saving yourself even more money, and not hire a divorce lawyer for your divorce at all.
While you certainly can adopt this approach – there is no legal requirement that you must hire a lawyer if you’re getting divorced – be prepared to manage all the legal processes involved in getting a divorce on your own.
Procedure-wise, this includes knowing where to obtain the relevant paperwork, how to fill them in and where to file them, and keeping to the filing deadlines. You will also need to have sufficient knowledge of Singapore’s divorce laws themselves, such as:
- Which fact of divorce would be most appropriate or strategic one for you to opt for, and
- What you may be entitled to as you separate your assets and (your life in general) from your spouse.
Consider whether you are capable of this undertaking, or whether navigating your divorce solo will put you in a disadvantaged position against your spouse in an already stressful period of time.
Ultimately, the decision is yours.
In choosing a divorce lawyer based on their price, you can choose to engage what may essentially be a law firm’s administrative service, or you can choose to build a strong medium-term relationship with a trusted advisor who will talk to you when something unexpected happens in your divorce and you don’t know what to do.
Just be sure to research the lawyer in advance, find out about his/her reputation and understand what you’re getting.
Alternatively, you can choose to not engage a lawyer, and take on the significant strategic actions and responsibilities involved in obtaining a divorce on your own.
You can also refer to our divorce fee guide for a more comprehensive understanding on the cost of hiring a divorce lawyer – and how these fees go towards helping you obtain the best possible outcome for your divorce.
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