Of all the questions I received regarding Texas family law cases, probably the most consistently asked is the final cost of a case. This is a completely understandable question. Not only do legal cases have their reputation for being expensive, but family law cases do as well. We are going through a pandemic that has seen many families in our area taken through the wringer and stressed to Max regarding finances. Planning and budgeting for costs are more important now than ever.
I think we also like to learn about the cost of things to make an affordability determination. One thing that we as consumers do not suffer from in our society is options. We have many options to take advantage of when it comes to spending on all sorts of things. Close, electronics, electricity, housing in the list goes on and on. We have many different options when it comes to spending our money on the things that we need and want. Family law cases should be no different. There are many different options to take advantage of when it comes to choosing what direction you want to take as far as a family law case is concerned.
I think the most fundamental question to ask yourself in a situation like this is whether or not you even want an attorney. Going beyond whether or not you want an attorney, you should ask yourself whether or not you need an attorney for your family law case. You are once in; your needs do not always line up. For that reason, I would ask that you seriously consider whether or not you need to have an attorney represent you in your family law case rather than whether or not you would necessarily want to hire a lawyer. Hiring a lawyer can be like going to the dentist: it may be necessary, but I doubt very much that you want to go through with the process.
Do you even need an attorney for your divorce or child custody case in Texas?
As I mentioned a moment ago, determining whether or not you even need an attorney for your family law case is the first question she needs to ask herself. Many of us have a do-it-yourself attitude where we are quite used to working on our cars in fixing things in the home without going to another person for assistance. Much of the time, this is looked on as a positive quality in a society where many people have trouble changing a lightbulb without help. We need to figure out whether going through a divorce or child custody case is anything close to doing a Fixit job at home by yourself.
The first question that I would pose to a person considering whether or not to hire an attorney for their custody or divorce case would be, what are the facts of your case. Typically, if those facts involve children or a fairly significant estate needing to divide that estate, I would almost always recommend you inquire about hiring an attorney to represent you in your family law case. They should tell you that if you are going through a child custody case, you should certainly have an attorney representing you. You are children; your ability to support them in your relationship with them is all two important considerations to consider not having representation in your case.
In a divorce scenario, you could consider going without an attorney if the facts and circumstances of your case are simple. Simple means not having any children involved in the case and having no property or debts to divide up between you and your spouse. For example, if you are a young, married person with no property with your spouse and no children, then this is a circumstance where I could see you not hiring an attorney and still being OK. Your case may take a little longer, and you may make a mistake here in there, but she could probably get away with not hiring an attorney.
However, for everybody else going through a divorce, I do not recommend you do so without counsel. We have already talked about why it's important to have an attorney if you have children involved in your case. I also want to mention that that attorney is critical when it comes to dividing up your Community property and debts. You likely have no experience dividing up the community estate and have no frame of reference for what is typical fair or equitable, especially if your spouse hires a lawyer; you should do the same.
Hiring an attorney for a family law case does not necessarily mean escalating things or making the case more contentious. Quite the opposite, contrary to popular belief, attorneys do not set about to stir up acrimony or arguing within a family law case. Keep in mind that family law attorneys are extremely busy, just like you. Therefore, the attorney is more likely to want to help you settle a case quickly and fairly rather than drag a case out needlessly. At the end of the day, the quicker and attorney can satisfactorily complete your case, the quicker they can move on and focus their attention to help another person.
All this is the same; if you are concerned with the cost of a family law case, you cannot go wrong in consulting with an attorney on a free of charge basis regarding the facts and circumstances of your case. Our attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. We make it very easy for you to learn general information about your child custody or divorce and figure out whether or not you need to hire an attorney like one with our office. Take the time to learn about what you need for your case and then decide what works best for you, your family, and your budget.
How do attorneys bill for a child custody or divorce case?
Once you determine that you need to hire an attorney for your child custody or divorce case, the next step you need to take is learning how an attorney charges for their services. Like anyone else operating a business, an attorney has expenses and costs associated with operating their business. Those costs are sometimes difficult to estimate a project because the nature of representing people in legal services is not absolute and not easily forecasted. For example, while an attorney knows how much their staff will cost them every month to pay them, there's no telling the sort of costs or work that goes into your specific divorce or child custody case.
Family law attorneys bill by the hour. This means that for every hour worked on your case by your attorney and their staff; they will bill you a certain amount of money. The attorney's hourly billing rate and that of their associate lawyers and staff should be discussed within the contract you sign when hiring that lawyer. If for some reason, it is not, I would certainly ask for a list of attorneys and staff with your lawyer's office with their corresponding hourly rate. While this is not necessarily the best indication of how your case can cost, you can do a simple multiplication table and figure out how much it would cost to represent you based on how many hours of work will go into your case.
Additionally, family law attorneys require an upfront payment known as a retainer. You can look at a retainer sort of as a down payment on a home or any other product. The retainer retains that attorney services for you for the duration of your case. From there, you will pay periodically to your attorney to cover the hourly expenses in curd representing you. You can talk to your attorney about how frequently you will need to replenish your account with money to perform work on your case.
Keep in mind that your attorney will charge you the route case to make sure there is money in your account for work to be done. Think of it as making deposits at the bank. You need to deposit your paychecks at the bank so that one cash is needed; you can go to an ATM, stick in your debit card and have money come out. When your attorney goes to the ATM to take out money for your case for work to be done drafting documents, performing settlement negotiations, or any other service, there needs to be money in the bank account for the debit card to work. For this reason, attorneys don't like your account to be near 0 at any point.
Many attorneys are flexible on how often and how much you pay them throughout your case. A lot of how you pay the attorney depends on your preference inability. If you prefer to make a large upfront payment toward your attorney regarding your case, then you may be able to minimize the amount of money he paid to the attorney down the line. On the other hand, if you are unable to come up with a large retainer at the beginning of your case, then you may be expected to pay smaller amounts of money more frequently throughout the case to make sure that work can be performed to the degree it has to for your specific facts and circumstances.
Many attorneys require a separate retainer should your case make it to a trial. It is nearly impossible to tell whether or not a child custody or divorce case will require a trial at the beginning. As such, you and your lawyer will play that by ear and can determine down the line whether or not a separate retainer will be needed for a trial. Let's spend some time discussing why separate trial retainers are oftentimes required by attorneys based on the specific circumstances of your case.
Preparing for going to a trial in a child custody or divorce case
preparing for the trial is a crucial step in your case should it become necessary. The vast majority of child custody and divorce cases in Texas are settled before a trial becomes necessary. This is a good thing. Not only are trials difficult from an emotional and relational perspective, but they take up a great deal of time and money. It is not an exaggeration to say that the majority of the money spent in your divorce or child custody case could be spent on preparing and proceeding with a trial or final hearing.
The costs of your child custody or divorce case may have been fairly reasonable to that point, but when a trial comes up on the calendar, so much work is needed to prepare for the case and spend time in the trial itself that the costs can quickly skyrocket. Keep in mind that many hours at a time will be spent by your attorney, both with their staff and with you personally preparing for trial. Also, you will be spending at least one day with your attorney in court while being billed for the pleasure of having them with you. Having a family law attorney's undivided attention can be pretty costly.
For this reason, I highly recommend you take whatever measures you can to work towards settling your child custody or divorce case if at all possible. Not only will doing so likely cost you less money, but he will be able to arrive at a result that is more equitable and well suited for your family than going to a trial or final hearing. Keep in mind that The judge in your child custody or divorce case will not know you all that well even after a trial that lasts one or two days. On the other hand, you and your opposing party will know your circumstances far better, even if you don't necessarily see eye to eye on every specific issue.
Your divorce case may be fairly straightforward and require relatively little work. In that case, your attorney only needs to charge you for time spent drafting your original petition for divorce as well as your final decree of divorce in addition to time spent in a random hearing or mediation session. Otherwise, very little time may be spent with opposing counsel or on the phone with you going over various issues.
Hiring a family law attorney is a short-term investment into your long-term future.
To close out today's blog post, I want to point out that hiring an attorney should be something you give a lot of thought to. Nobody wants to be in a situation where they have to hire an attorney for a child custody or divorce case. The purpose of writing today's blog post was not to paint an overly rosy picture of family law or to make you completely comfortable hiring a lawyer. The fact is but even if hiring an attorney is the best thing for you, it almost certainly will not be the most enjoyable experience of your life.
However, sometimes in life, we need to make decisions that feel comfortable and do not necessarily make us the happiest person in the world but are for the best in our long-term futures. Especially if you have young children and are going through a family law case, you seriously need to consider hiring an attorney to ensure that your relationship with your children is maintained after your divorce or child custody case comes to a close. Unfortunately, I have seen firsthand what a child custody or divorce case can do to an apparent relationship with their children.
Rather than go through that process with your own family, I recommend doing your research and then reaching out to an experienced family law attorney in order so that you may learn more about the process of a family law case, the law itself, how your circumstances interact with those two issues as well as the costs of hiring a lawyer. I am confident that if you go through these steps and maintain a positive attitude that the result of your family law case can be a favorable one.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post; please do not hesitate to contact the LawOffice of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and the service provided to our clients by our attorneys and staff.