People are staying together in South Florida. But not because they want to.
Miami Herald: With the economy sputtering, South Florida couples are staying together more or attempting do-it-yourself divorces rather than paying pricey divorce lawyers.
As a result, local divorce lawyers say they are facing their slowest period ever, and are discounting rates, offering sliding payment scales and military discounts and accepting credit cards. One said her business is down 35 per cent from last year.
The article goes on to note that people report staying together because one spouse has health insurance or they own a home together that is now a liability, rather than an asset. Some just cannot afford an attorney to represent them in a divorce.
What caught our eye is this paying-for-legal-services-via-credit-card idea. We complain as much as the next person when the dry cleaners or, really, anyone, does not take cards. It isn’t convenient.
But seeing as how legal fees can get quite expensive, it just feels strange — like this should be one of those cases where people are protected from buying what they cannot afford. We like to think (though we realise this is up for debate) that lawyers do not want to take cases their clients cannot afford to bring, but if the bill is being paid via credit card every month, one would not necessarily know if that’s the case.
So, we looked into the ethics of lawyers accepting credit cards. It turns out, as of 2000, it’s ABA approved (pdf), as long, of course, as use comports with all other ethics rules.
Lawyers choosing to accept credit cards due to clients’ economic hardships, as the Miami Herald article indicates attorneys are, obviously raises a question of if access to a divorce, or any legal service, should require people to resort to credit risks to obtain legal services.
There is often a gap between those people eligible for pro bono services and those who can afford quality representation, or any representation.
The option of representing yourself in a divorce always exists, but any lawyer who has taken on a pro bono divorce case knows, it’s really not as simple as just saying “I Don’t.” When you are not trained in the area, properly achieving a legal break-up is a whole lot more than filling in the blanks on a model form.
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