I thought I have seen it all when it comes to fraud being committed by paralegal companies, but this one takes the cake. Here is what happened…
I get a lot of calls where someone has hired a different divorce paralegal company (their first mistake, lol) and the company they hired either didn’t finish the job, took the money and ran or just didn’t know what they were doing.
In this case, I got a call from a guy who had been referred to another company by a co-worker. He came in because the company he used would not return his calls after more than a year had gone by. When he came in to my office, I could tell they had no idea what they were doing. Just about every document they had completed was done wrong. In fact, I have seen people trying to do their own divorce case do better than them.
They had such a bad job that we had to completely start over. So I took care of his entire case right there on the spot.
Then he calls the co-worker that had referred him to this company and tells her what happened. So she then calls and comes in a few days later. We discover the same problems with her paperwork and have to start her divorce case totally from scratch.
As I am looking at the online case summary of the documents that were filed I noticed that a fee waiver had been filed. I found this odd because she earns over $100,000 per year. I asked her about the fee waiver and she had no idea what I was talking about.
So I had to tell her that the company she had used to help her with her divorce filed a fee waiver to ask the court to waive the court fees. This is only done when you are low income or unemployed which is not the case for her. This then got me thinking. So I looked at the case summary of her co-worker and a fee waiver was also filed on his behalf as well.
She was shocked to learn that this paralegal company had forged the fee waiver. Why would they do this? Because instead of paying the court fee, which is currently $435 with the money they were paid, they kept the money and forged a fee waiver to put more money in their pocket.
To forge a fee waiver one would have to make up an expense sheet and show income, to include pay stubs to verify the income. This means that they would have had to doctor up fake pay stubs as well.
The point of the story is that there are criminals in every industry. Now, I don’t even consider these companies in my industry because they should not even be running a business. They are unlicensed, unregistered paralegal companies who are not allowed to be in business in the first place.
I have written a letter to the Court Clerks Supervisor to bring this to their attention. I don’t know if there is anything that can be done about it or if they will even care, but I would imagine that the courts would care if there is a company systematically forging fee waivers and essentially stealing from the courts.
Make sure to do your due diligence before hiring a paralegal company for your divorce. Make sure they are registered as Legal Document Assistants who are the only people who can handle your divorce in California.