I have handled thousands of divorce cases since 1992. Most of the cases that I handle are uncontested where the parties are generally in agreement. My services involve preparing the documents at your specific direction, filing them with the court and following the overall progress of the case.
My fee for preparing divorce papers ranges from $900 to $2,500. This does not include the court filing fee which is $435 plus an e-file fee which ranges from about $5 to $20 extra depending on the form of payment. The total court filing fee can range from around $440 to $455. This fee is paid directly to the court, but in cases that I handle, this is usually done electronically. If your income is low, you might qualify for a waiver of the court filing fee. Review California Judicial Council form FW-001 for more information. There may be additional fees as noted below. There are situations where a divorce might cost less. One example is where a person started a case and is having a hard time finishing it. This often happens where papers are rejected by the Court Clerk for a number of reasons. Another example would be a case where the parties were married for a very short period of time, do not have children together, have very limited assets and debts (before, during or after the marriage), are in complete agreement and are willing to come to my office together to sign forms.
Some cases that involve division of a retirement pension require more fees and additional court filing fees. In some cases you might have to hire an attorney to prepare documents to divide a pension. I can only prepare documents to divide a retirement pension if the company provides their requirements with sample forms. There is an additional fee to prepare a real property deed. This commonly occurs in a divorce case where one party transfers ownership to the other as part of a divorce settlement. There may be additional fees if you are filing a motion for immediate child custody, visitation or support. This usually involves additional court filing fees as well. There is usually an additional fee to have the other party served with papers unless that party comes to my office to be served or will accept the papers by mail. If you need to hire a professional process server in Monterey County, I recommend Laurie Urquidi, owner of As Quick As A Wink Process Server. Her website is: www.asquickasawinkprocessserver.com
In some cases my fee may be lower. If you have already started your case, and you just want me to finish it for you, my fee would be lower depending on the amount of work still remaining and any problems that need to be fixed. In cases like this, I would need to review the court file to determine what needs to be done. Keep in mind that a divorce must be finalized within five years after it was first filed, or the court may file a motion to dismiss it. The parties can agree to extend this time by signing and filing a form.
I also assist with modifications of child custody, visitation and child support. In cases where the parties were never married and have minor children together and want to establish custody, visitation and support orders, I can assist with that as well. In some limited situations, I can assist with contested family law cases, but my services are limited. This commonly occurs where a party is served with a summons, and the opposing party is represented by an attorney. People commonly hire me to prepare routine documents like responses and Declarations of Disclosure. This is often done in the meantime while the party seeks to retain an attorney. All of the above situations vary, so please call me to discuss the fees.
I have been preparing real estate deeds for many years. Title companies usually handle these when there is an escrow involved. If there is no escrow, title companies usually will not prepare a deed. I routinely prepare deeds such as transferring property into or out of a living trust, adding or removing a spouse, Transfer On Death Deed (where the property owner is one person and wishes to avoid probate by designating a beneficiary to assume ownership upon the owner's death without adding that person to the deed as a co-owner). Please note that changing title to real property can involve serious legal and tax issues. If you are unsure of the legal and/or tax issues involved, you should consult an attorney and/or a tax professional.
My fee for preparing a real property deed is $275. The County Recorder fees are separate. That fee can range from $40 to over $125 if the grantee does not live in the property. I handle the recording of the deed with the Monterey County Recorder in Salinas. For deeds recorded in other counties, I mail them unless the client hires a courier service.
I also work on probate, estates, wills and legal guardianship of minor children. Fees vary. Contact me for more information about services and fees.
If you are a landlord seeking to evict a tenant, you have two choices in seeking professional assistance. You can hire an attorney, or you can hire an Unlawful Detainer Assistant. An Unlawful Detainer Assistant is not an attorney. They are authorized by California law to prepare and file eviction paperwork with the court. If you would like to hire an Unlawful Detainer Assistant, I recommend Laurie Urquidi. Her website is: www.asquickasawinkevictionservice.com She is also a process server as noted above and can handle serving the eviction notices and court papers.
There are misconceptions about what I do as compared to an attorney. People mistakenly believe that I can do what an attorney does but at a lower cost. California law restricts what I do to the preparation and filing of forms at your specific direction. Since my services are limited, my fees are lower. While I have handled thousands of cases since 1991, these largely involve routine matters where the outcome is already known, and the person involved in the case knows what he/she needs done. Just like you would go to a doctor if you have a health issue, you should consult an attorney if you need legal advice and/or representation in court. If you and your spouse are not in agreement, but you think that you might be able to come to an agreement without court, you might consider an attorney who specializes in divorce mediation. If you cannot afford an attorney or a Legal Document Assistant, you can do your own paperwork. There are self-help law books that are worth consulting for assistance. Many people with routine divorces hire me for the same reason they hire someone to prepare their tax return. While they could do it themselves, it is often a matter of the time involved. In that case, people feel that it is worth paying money to get it done faster.
Michael J. Mendenhall, registered Legal Document Assistant. Monterey County Registration no. LDA3. Current registration expires 1/25/2024.