Saturday, June 21, 2008

Reviewing Online Cohabitation Agreements

Today I am writing about two online sources for cohabitation agreements. Law Depot and both have cohabitation agreements you can fill out online. My short answer is that neither substitutes for an attorney but should work quite well for a draft to take to an attorney.

I will admit that I cannot compete on price with Law Depots or For Law Depot's prices follow this link. shows a price of $25.95.

Since saving attorney fees is an important issue for these sites, let us take a slight detour into the subject of attorney fees, has the following on its site about what an attorney would charge:

An attorney would charge $568.12 to draft this form*
and that asterisk goes to this footnote:
According to the 2007 Altman Weil Survey of Law Firm Economics, the average attorney rate is $252.50 per hour.
First, I suggest you check the actual rates in the area you are in and also if the lawyer does this work on an hourly or a flat rate basis. Altman Weil generally surveys the big firms (I never got any survey from them). See also What are Lawyer's Fees in Madison County, Indiana?.

Secondly, if my calculations are correct, calculates 2.249 hours is the time necessary for drafting its rough draft agreement. I would call that a rather long time for a rough draft - unless the lawyer created it from scratch every time. Which highly unlikely in this age of computers. That is why I charge a flat rate for most of my cohabitation agreements. If the lawyer, you talk to is on an hourly rate - ask how much time the agreement will take. Hourly rate + time needed = total cost.

Starting with Law Depot's program, let us take as good a look at the product as possible.

I see two reasons for not using this particular service:
  1. The service presumes that both parties have used a lawyer in helping draft the agreement:
  2. Flexibility - unless your situation fits within the parameters of their boilerplate language, then you will need to write it to fit and so that it will work. Writing to work is what lawyers do. has two problems also.
  1. It shares with Law Depot, the language that both had attorneys who had a hand in drafting the agreement.

  2. However, I find the following more of a problem for Indiana cases. I do not see Indiana law allowing for a cohabitation agreement the authority to change a person's surname. There is a statute on point here.

I think of the two, I like better for the parts I see even though it appears as being the more cruder of the two. Combining the two gets a much better agreement. Understand that there were limitations imposed by both sites unless I wanted to pay for the product. I was not able to see all of its provisions with Law Depot and also limits access to all provisions. Also, mind that the law is not an exact science but more of an art. Some of this discussion, maybe a lot of discussions about law by lawyers, is the same as discussing which sculpture of David is better - Raphael's or Michelangelo's.

What both forms do accomplish is making you think about what you want in the agreement. Frankly, that will cut down on lawyer time immensely. For those who want to cut out a lawyer at all costs, these will not work. They cannot work because the agreements themselves presume consultation by both parties with their own lawyers. Use them to draft an agreement to take to the lawyers. I think both parties will find a much happier outcome.

No comments: