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An efficient, collaborative solution to divorce for both parties working together.     

Why choose Divorce Solutions with a flat fee?

When speaking with new clients seeking a divorce, their first question is often “How much is this going to cost?” The answer depends on whom the spouse is using for an attorney. In potentially difficult cases concerning child custody, spousal support (alimony), division of pensions, question of income with self employed businesses, or non marital property, to name a few, the approach of the opposing attorney will determine the cost, both in monetary and emotional terms.

Advocacy is what most divorce lawyers see as their job and objective. This is a process of arguing for your client position in the best available light. Advocacy does not work to resolve divorces. It only causes more cost, more pain, more time and more long term damage.

A divorce client is often wounded and vulnerable. As a result, their expectations are clouded by the emotions of blame, rejection and well-meaning but sometimes misdirected advice from others as to what they deserve. This can lead to unrealistic expectations. It is difficult to tell a client what they don’t want to hear, and even harder when they have the ability, with a retainer, to buy advocacy that fuels unrealistic expectations. Overly zealous advocacy is not good for anyone other than the lawyer who stands to profit most by conflict.

Most cases do not go to trial, but the ones that do often fall victim to this advocacy process and unrealistic expectations, fueled by billable hours. Even the cases that are settled after mediations, judicial settlement conferences and by other means, waste a lot of the time, money and emotion. With few exceptions, divorced clients trying to support two households on the same pool of income do not have this money to spare. More importantly, this flawed system of advocacy in divorces creates unneeded and unhealthy acrimony for years to come.

The solution? Remove harmful advocacy with a Flat Rate Divorce.

Flat Rate Divorce

Flat Rate Divorce is a new concept developed to lower costs, save time, minimize conflict and recognize the value and role of collaboration and compassion in a difficult process. It may not be for everyone as it does not support unrealistic expectations or encourage conflict. It is designed to make it easier for couples to accept change, manage the process and reach a timely agreement that helps the parties move forward with their lives

The usual divorce can take over a year and leave in its wake damaged finances, frustration, hard feelings, bruised egos and,if children are involved, anxious children. A Flat Rate Divorce can take less than half the time, cost a lot less and is designed to minimize conflict for the couple and any children.

There are three stages of the Flat Rate Divorce process:

I.Initial Intake and Evaluation;

II. Conflict Resolution Meeting(s)  

III. An Arbitrated Decision .


Stage 1: Initial intake and evaluation

Prior to the first meeting clients complete questionnaires describing assets and initial concepts of co-parenting, if children are involved. There is a contractual agreement with the firm, which will explain the process and waive certain rights to separate counsel. You will also agree to be legally bound by the process (if it goes to Stage III, explained below).

Prior to the first meeting, the attorney will have a short personal intake session with each party separately, by phone, by Skype or in person.

The first joint meeting with the attorney will determine the areas of conflict and agreement. If all issues can be resolved at this level, then a settlement agreement with all supporting documents will be prepared and the case scheduled in court for an uncontested hearing. Maine law requires a minimum 60 days from filing for the entry of divorce.

Stage 2: Conflict Resolution meeting

If after the first meeting, there are still areas of disagreement, a second meeting is scheduled (with the same attorney). Each party is asked to present, in confidence, a description of their position in advance of the meeting. The attorney may ask for some additional documentation from one or both parties.

At the second meeting the attorney will work to facilitate a resolution between the parties. This is still a process in which each side must agree to the final resolution. This second meeting may last for up to four hours. If agreement is reached, then all paperwork will be prepared and filed with the Court. If no resolution is reached, the parties may seek another session, or proceed to the next stage. There is also an option to bring in a mediator in the additional session.

Stage 3: Arbitrated Decision

Any unresolved issues from the Conflict Resolution meeting will move forward to resolution in a session with a different attorney, who will hear each side and render a decision that will be binding on the parties. Prior to the session, there will be a motion made to the court to have this case assigned to this attorney by what is called a reference, which legally binds the parties to the decision.

The attorney who had previously worked with the parties in the process will help each side prepare the materials necessary for the arbitration, but will not advocate for either side nor attend the session. Efforts will be made to have only the statements of the parties presented in the session, with any witnesses’ statements made in writing, if possible. Evidence, such as appraised values, is submitted in written form. The decision will be entered with the court, with all other required paperwork.

Child Custody Cases: There are several alternatives if the parties are contesting custody of children, or what in Maine is called “primary physical residence.” All other issues concerning shared parental rights and responsibilities and child support can get fully resolved through this process, but if after the Conflict Resolution meeting the parties are still in disagreement over primary residence, then in all likelihood a guardian ad litem would need to be appointed by the court. The case would then be decided in the Arbitrated Decision meeting or be resolved by the District Court. The cost of the guardian ad litem is not included in the Flat Rate fee.


Stage 1
If the matter is resolved at this stage the total fee is $2,500 plus court filing fees.

Stage 2
If the matter is resolved within the first session of this stage, the total fee is $3,500           plus court filing fees.

Stage 3
If the matter is resolved with an arbitrated decision, the total fee is $7,000 plus court filing fees.

Extra Costs:

Extra session at Stage II:  $500 per session, $750 if a separate mediator is involved.

If there is a division of any pension or retirement plan requiring a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, there shall be an additional fee of $350 for the filing and preparation of this document.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will the process take?
If the parties choose to file the Complaint at the initiation of the process, it could take as little as 60-75 days to get resolved. All efforts will be made to expedite and shorten the times between sessions in accordance to the parties’ collective needs and desires. An average time frame would be 4-6 months.

How are the parties legally bound by the process?
Participation in Stages I and II are by the mutual agreement of the parties. Either party is free to remove themselves from the process at any time. Once the parties enter Stage III,, the decision of the arbitrator is legally binding, as would be a decision by the Courts. The parties will also be waiving any rights to appeal this decision.

Are the parties able to seek independent legal advice?
Yes. This is a collaborative process where the attorney is seeking to find a resolution, but is not going to give either party legal advice. Parties may have the initial representation and waiver of conflict Agreement with Shepard & Read reviewed by their own attorney. If a resolution is reached, and a settlement agreement prepared, either party would be free to have that agreement reviewed by separate counsel.

If the parties can’t get all their issues resolved, what are the advantages of an arbitrated decision over having a district court decide the case?
An arbitrated decision by an experienced divorce attorney has the advantages of ;

  1. Time
  2. Cost
  3. Quality of the Decision
  4. Reduced Stress


1. Time:

For many people life gets put on hold until the divorce is finalized. It will take at least year and most times a lot longer, to get a final divorce hearing in district court.

  • Trials are typically scheduled on what is called a “trailing docket” meaning that your case can be called to potentially go to trial several times in a given month. It could take several times being on the trial lsit before the case is heard. Meanwhile your attorney has to be prepared and you are left hanging as to whether it will happen or not. This bost costly and stressful.
  • After the trial, it can takes weeks and sometimes months for the court to issue a written decision, which can be challenged by motions for reconsideration or an appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. This is why it can take years to receive a divorce in Maine.
  • With an arbitrated decision, you have total control over the timing of the process and the decision is final.


  • By the time you get to trial in a contested divorce in district court, you would have already gone through at least one mediation, the process of discovery, and a judicial settlement conference.
  • Discovery alone could cost each party the $7000 fee for the Flat Rate Divorce.  Discovery is the ability for each attorney to require the other party to answer every written question that can be fathomed up, and produce every conceivable document from the other party that could be “possibly” relevant. This process sends parties chasing down old bank and credit card statements as well as disclosing emails and text messages.
  • In the discovery process each side can be brought into a deposition by the opposing attorney to practice the grilling session for cross-examination at trial. So before you are even at the courtroom steps the parties are typically into fees that are in the tens of thousands of dollars, and that is before a day(s) in court where the combined hourly rates will typically exceed $500 an hour.

3.Quality of the Decision:

  • Most District Court judges in Maine are good quality jurists, but not all of them.
  • You have no control as to who hears your case, and no divorce attorneys would deny that the differences between how judges decide cases are considerable.
  • More importantly, there is no family court in Maine. The judges that first get appointed in district court may know nothing about divorce law. There are many former prosecutors that are serving as district court judges that have to learn from square one about divorces. But even as they work up the learning curve, they lack the knowledge of the profession that comes from years of representing both sides of a divorce, and understanding the impacts that these decisions have on divorce clients.
  •  A district court judge also spends only a small portion of their time on divorces, as their daily workload typically consists of criminal cases, protection from abuse and harassment, child protective proceedings, evictions and debt collection.Some simply do not like divorces.
  • An arbitrated decision in a Flat Rate Divorce is done by a specialist in family law with a better working knowledge of the issues, and a better sense of what is fair and reasonable, then what you will find in most decisions by a district court judge.

4.Reduced Stress:

  • In an attempt to get a client to consider settlement, I have often stated that if you go into a courtroom, and be cross examined, and have your spouse cross examined, there will be things that are said that will never leave your memory. It is a life altering experience with no winners.
  • The goal of a Flat Rate Divorce is not only cost efficiency but de-escalation of the stress and hard feelings . Our goal is to complete a divorce in a way that causes the least amount of harm to an already strained relationship.






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