Are you going through a divorce right now? If so then you probably have seen how difficult, time-consuming, and expensive the case can be. With so much at stake in your divorce, how can you be sure that you are making the best decisions for yourself? If you are represented by an experienced divorce attorney, then you can rest a bit easier knowing that your case is being worked on by a person who has seen a great deal in their time as a divorce lawyer by helping other people set goals and accomplish them in the context of a divorce.
Are attorneys expensive?
The idea of hiring an attorney for any purpose may be enough to make you feel queasy. For one, attorneys are expensive. Or at least we are thought to be expensive. Of course, "expensive" is a subjective term. What's expensive to me may not be expensive to you and vice versa. So, when you think of an attorney you may consider them to be out of your price range. You may even have an opinion that people like "me" don't hire lawyers. Or people, where I come from, don't hire lawyers. First of all, don't sell yourself short. Second, here’s why you may be incorrect about your assumptions regarding the cost of hiring an attorney.
Yes, you can find an attorney who costs an arm and a leg (maybe both, depending on how expensive the lawyer's rent is). All you need to do is drive to the fancy parts of town and see where the lawyers have their office space to see just how expensive a lawyer can be. It makes sense that those attorneys will charge more than the lawyer who has a reasonable, attractive yet affordable office space (sort of like the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan). An attorney that you plan on hiring should be able to offer you an explanation for their fees and a run-down of their costs.
For instance, if you set up a free-of-charge consultation with the attorneys here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we will sit down with you and go through our fees. Family law attorneys bill by the hour. That means that we will charge you a set rate per hour of work done on your case. Therefore, the more work that needs to be performed on your case the most expensive your case will be. Sort of like a “parts and labor” type situation that you see at your local automotive or mechanic’s shop.
Keep in mind that in your divorce case there are times when there will be a lot of work that needs to be done and other times when very little work needs to be performed. That's just the nature of a divorce case. Even still our office will make sure that you have money in your account so that if work needs to be done at the drop of a hat it can get done at a moment's notice. At the beginning of a divorce case, you will pay a retainer fee which retains our services for you and your family. An additional retainer may be necessary towards the end of a divorce if your case needs to go to trial, for example.
Ask questions of an attorney before you pay him or her some money to represent you. Is a portion of your fees refundable if they are not exhausted by the end of a divorce? Do not pay a sizeable amount of money to someone for a service unless you completely understand why the money is being spent and for what purpose. Attorneys sometimes think that because we understand the fees and how the money side of a case works that automatically we will understand as well. That's an assumption that is not always true. Don't ask more questions of a waiter before you order dinner than you do of a lawyer before you pay him or her some money to represent you in a divorce. It doesn't make sense and is not a good example of wise spending.
How much do you know about family law?
This is a legitimate question that you need to ask yourself as you prepare for your divorce. A divorce is like anything else that you do in life: it is a process and there are rules associated with that process. With so much at stake in your divorce you need to consider whether you know enough- or anything- about the world of family law. First, of all why would you ever need to know the rules about amending your petition before trial or at what age a child must be able to sit with the judge and talk to him or her about conservatorship? You're not an attorney or a judge. You have your line of work, and an attorney has theirs. It just so happens that you need help to guide you through something important where an attorney can help you.
There are those people who assume that because they have no kids and very little property at stake that they can represent themselves in a divorce. The thought process goes that even if something bad were to happen in the case that it would not make much of a difference because it's hard to damage your finances when they aren't in great shape, to begin with. This is true to an extent. Those of you who have a great amount of property have more to lose than those of you who have very little in the way of property.
However, that does not mean that everyone should presume that they can proceed with a divorce without an attorney. If you have children under the age of 18 or a decent-sized community estate, then you need to consider hiring an attorney for your divorce. This does not mean that your divorce is going to be a knockdown, drag-out fight but it does mean that it could be that way. Having an attorney by your side means that you will have some guidance when it comes to the difficult aspects of a family law case including how to manage negotiations, what documents to file, and when and how to avoid delays in your case.
In a family law case, a delay means losing money as well as time. Time spent focusing on your divorce is a net negative for your finances. Instead of being able to focus on work, your family, or anything else the divorce takes center stage whether you like it or not. As a result, you should want to handle your divorce, do what you need to obtain a good result for you and your children, and then move on to something else. The longer you stay involved with the divorce the more money you end up losing and the more sanity ends up being lost, as well. Do not think that just because you are not paying for an attorney you can afford to dilly-dally with your divorce. A divorce still means that you are focused on something that is undeniably important but is negative for you when it comes to your finances. For a person who may have chosen to not hire a lawyer due to concerns with finances, this is not a smart move to make.
Drafting documents isn’t much fun
Are you a fan of writing? I’m going to guess that you aren’t. Even if you are a fan, I bet you aren’t a big fan of writing documents related to family law. Your attorney will be able to help guide you by drafting all documents in your case. However, this does not mean that you will allow your attorney to draft the documents and you will never see them again. Rather, it is your divorce case and your responsibility to help make sure that the documents accurately reflect your circumstances. For example, if you are looking over an attorney’s draft for final orders in your case you should look at the mediated settlement agreement before deciding to approve what you read. Just because your attorney drafted them does not mean that they are perfect. Attorneys are far from perfect- just ask my wife!
Hiring an attorney means that you will have someone in your corner who knows how to draft documents and how to fit them into a specific format. Court orders are not just something you can slap down in a few minutes and submit to a judge for their signature. Rather, they must follow a specific template and follow certain guidelines. Attorneys have knowledge and experience in knowing how to draft those orders so a judge will sign their names to them. Importantly, an attorney also has computer programs and software that will allow him or her to draft these documents more efficiently than you would be able to. Imagine drafting a 45-page final decree of divorce without a template! That could take you days to complete.
Bear in mind that what comes out of a divorce are the final orders. In a divorce, those final orders are found in a final decree of divorce. The final decree of divorce contains all orders regarding your case- from child custody to community property division. Those orders must be unambiguous. If you draft orders that are not clear, then your soon-to-be ex-spouse has a built-in excuse as to why the orders were not followed. You need a clear-cut order because to enforce the order means your ex-spouse must have been able to understand what was expected of him or her. A confusing and poorly written order is not enforceable. To avoid a situation where your final orders are not worth the paper that they are printed on you need to be able to effectively draft them.
Fortunately for you, the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan offer limited-scope engagements where we will represent you in a divorce only regarding the drafting of documents. For example, if you and your spouse are going through a divorce but you do not want to hire an attorney that is ok. However, if you want an attorney to help you draft documents then that is where we can come in and help you in that specific regard. You and your spouse could have attended mediation through your county domestic relations order and received a mediated settlement agreement. An attorney from our office can draft a final decree of divorce based on that mediated settlement agreement. You can have your cake and eat it too, regarding hiring an attorney. You may not need to pay the money for a full-fledged attorney-client relationship but we can draft your documents for you and send you on your way.
Finally, consider that any time that you need to spend on drafting documents is time away from your family and other pursuits. Many people who go through a divorce want to be able to spend the time that they need to on the divorce but no more. That is fine. Having an attorney gives you a partner for the divorce so that you do not need to shoulder all the burden of the case. That's not to say that you can put the case on autopilot and just coast until it's over. What it does mean is that your attorney can draft documents and allow you to play quality control on them.
Getting it right the first time
Some of the current clients of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are folks who began their divorce without an attorney. A simple divorce was what they had and could be handled without having to work with an attorney. The case may have started fine but eventually, it got to the point where the case was less manageable than they had thought. Eventually, they were stuck in a situation where it was increasingly likely that they would either need to hire a lawyer or get stuck with major mistakes in the case. Or, some roadblock developed (like not being able to serve their spouse with a divorce petition) where the case would be stuck in the mud but for the intervention of an experienced family law attorney.
Once you hire an attorney who is experienced in family law you can at least know in advance that the attorney has gone through the divorce process multiple times from start to finish. If this is your first divorce an attorney who practices family law would have gone through the divorce process infinitely more times than you have period that is not a small advantage for a party with an attorney. rather, this is a rather consequential advantage for someone to have in a divorce case. Paying an attorney to represent you in the divorce is making a short-term investment into your long-term future. The last thing that you want to do is find yourself in a position where small mistakes that are made in the divorce process can harm your family significantly.
For example, what if you find yourself in a situation where you are not able to successfully serve your spouse with notice of the divorce? This could be a situation where you either delay your case until you can locate your spouse, or you improperly move forward without showing the court that your spouse has either been served or requesting first that an alternative method of service be allowed. Whatever the situation maybe you can be more confident that a practicing family law attorney will be able to know what steps to take rather than you as a person who has never gone through a divorce.
A divorce is not something that you want to delay indefinitely. By remaining married to your spouse there are certain liabilities that you incur. For instance, your spouse can take out debt without telling you it potentially put that into the community estate. Community debts need to be divided in the divorce. This is not to say that you are guaranteed of having to pay a portion of this debt in your divorce, but it is possible. You can avoid putting yourself in this type of position by hiring an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney from the beginning of your case.
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan thank you for spending time with us today and for reading about this important subject. Our attorneys are proud of the work that we do daily on behalf of our clients. We hope that you better understand the advantages of hiring an experienced attorney for your case and are more confident in deciding about representation at this stage.
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 Law Office 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 as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.