Sliding Fee Scale No
Legal services related to family creation - adoption, second parent adoption, surrogacy, egg and sperm donation, etc.
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My husband and I conceived our first child via IVF through a known donor. In order to ensure that we were completely legally protected, we solicited estimates from attorneys who do second parent adoptions during the late second trimester. Once the baby was born and we had his birth certificate in hand, we contacted Meg Ledebuhr as she had given us a flat fee estimate that seemed pretty straight forward. Her flat fee of $900 included: the cost of her time, the filing fee, the fee for the guardian ad litem, and putative father registry.
When we solicited the estimate, we gave the following relevant information: we used a known donor, we conceived via IVF (which requires a fertility center, as it is a fairly invasive medical process), we had a legal agreement stating intentions for donor to give up his rights, that my husband will have presumed paternity (and will therefore be listed on the birth certificate).
Once we had the baby and contacted her again, she proceeded to ask several questions we had answered in our initial email to her (such as: "How was the child conceived? Was it at home or in a clinic?") and then, after about a week of email exchanges that usually consisted of 1-2 simple questions (all of which would be easier for her to find out and not waste her time if she had, for example, an intake form that would gather this information), she supplied us with a new estimate in which the $900 only covered her time and related court costs, but we would have to pay out of pocket for the guardian ad litem ($365) and the putative father registry ($65) - which is a significant cost increase.
When I questioned her about this and provided her with the original estimate, she was rude about it and told us that our case was more complicated because 1) our known donor was in KY (which we knew we may have to pay for either him to come up or for him to give consent in KY, something that shouldn't have required any extra work on her part because she would have to get his consent either way since we originally told her we had a known donor - none of that required much more work on her part) and 2) because while we knew (and were clear) that the donation was given at the fertility clinic and given directly to the staff (because that is how IVF works, y'all, there is no 'at home' in this party), we (personally, as non-lawyers) didn't know if that satisfied the requirement that meant we didn't have to acquire the donor's consent (as that is actual her job, as a lawyer, to know whether or not that satisfied those particular legal requirements - that seems like basic second parent adoption for LGBTQ families knowledge that we shouldn't have to pay her to research).
I have a few issues with this:
1. He either has to give consent or he doesn't have to give consent. Our particular case cannot be extra complicated because getting his consent is complicated AND his lack of need to give consent is complicated.
2. If the case was extra complicated and would require more of her time, I actually would have been willing to pay more. But she never gave me a quote for her extra time, she just removed some previously included fees from her initial estimate. That is shady.
3. When you change your initial estimate WITHOUT explaining why it changed (she didn't explain when she gave the new estimate, she just gave it to us), you can't be pissy when somebody questions why you are now charging them more money. Especially when you do it all shady like.
It is my guess that she either didn't look at the initial estimate and/or forgot she gave us an initial estimate and they had changed their policy on how those fees were included - and then got defensive when I called her on it. Frankly, when you quote a flat fee, you should probably have all the information from the get go (again, an intake form would be *super* helpful for this), because then you are in charge of managing your time for that flat fee, not your clients.