It’s important to consider the different types of divorce when evaluating how much it will and should cost. Given the mounting costs of legal fees in our litigious society, many people struggle with coming up with a large retainer for a divorce lawyer. The retainer, or initial deposit, may be several thousand dollars. On the other hand, most are afraid of going it alone, typically when there are complex property or child custody issues involved.

The good news is that there is a cheaper way. It is called “unbundled” representation. Unbundled representation is essentially a way for consumers to purchase legal advice a la carte. In response to increasing demand, most good family law firms now offer this service. In fact, the Colorado Supreme Court, in its formal ethical opinions for lawyers, expressly approves this “pay as you go” approach. Most experts agree that allowing clients to purchase legal advice as needed will promote the access to justice.

So, for those folks who are comfortable with trying to navigate the court system on their own, an unbundled lawyer can be very helpful. She can draft documents, review self-prepared legal documents, and help prepare clients to represent themselves at hearings. Most lawyers will bill by the hour for the specific time that the unbundled client uses. This means that the consumer, and not the lawyer, has ultimate control over the legal fees.

However, a word of caution – unbundled representation is not for everyone. For those with high-conflict or very complex cases, it may be wiser to fully retain an attorney. And, consumers should keep in mind that unbundled lawyers will not typically negotiate on a party’s behalf or physically appear in court with the client.

But, ultimately, unbundled representation is a great resource, and interested consumers should carefully research of all the options to determine what best suits their needs. After all, the choice of a lawyer, and the level of that lawyer’s involvement during a family law dispute may be one of the most crucial decisions that the consumer makes.