In yesterday’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC we introduced the topic of coming up with a game-plan for your family law case and the importance of having an attorney by your side to help you with that planning.
Once you have researched, met with and made a decision about what attorney to hire the next step is actually following through with your decision and hiring the attorney. Today’s blog post will begin by discussing what happens when you decide to hire an attorney and where your case will go from that point forward.
Deciding to hire a family law attorney
Hiring an attorney is an important milestone in the life of your family law case. If no lawsuit has yet been filed you are basically confirming to yourself that filing suit (either a child custody suit or divorce) is the best thing to do for you and your family. Things can truly become “real” for you at that point and clients have told me that reality sort of snaps into focus once you meet with an attorney to go over details of representation, their contract with you and actually paying a retainer.
This is a great time to ask any questions that you would like to know the answers to prior to signing the dotted line of a contract. Questions about communication with the attorney, attorney’s fees, the expected length of your case, particular sentences contained in the contract, etc. are all relevant and reasonable questions to ask of the attorney you plan on hiring.
Putting some money on the table
I have already referred to the word “retainer” in this blog in reference to paying your attorney to represent you. A retainer is non-refundable sum of money (a deposit) that you make in order to hire the attorney of your choice. A retainer will retain that attorney’s services for you to utilize in your case.
What does a retainer typically amount to? Well, that’s a great question for you to ask the attorney in your initial consultation. In a city as big as Houston you will find attorneys that have retainers of varying amounts. The attorney will come to an amount to charge for a retainer based on their experience and the complexity of your case. The more complex your case is the more the attorney will likely charge. If you are hiring the attorney the day before an initial hearing in your case he or she will take that into consideration and move their retainer up a notch in terms of price.
Signing a contract
Every attorney has a contract that you will be asked to sign at the same time you pay your retainer. This contract goes over our responsibility to you as a client and also provides you with information about the scope of our representation of you. Attorneys provide a copy of the contract to you so that you can read through it before signing it. This way there are no questions about what the attorney does and does not have a responsibility to do for the duration of their representation of you.
Filing legal documents, sending out notice of representation
Depending upon whether or not you will be the petitioning party (party who initiates the lawsuit) or the responding party (respondent) your attorney will file legal documents on your behalf with the court. Your opposing party and their attorney will then know who is representing you and who they should contact moving forward in your case.
Getting information from you
At this stage of your case it is probable that you will be asked to complete some paperwork that will help your attorney learn more about you and more about your case. This is, for the most part, going to be basic information about you, your children, your children’s other parent and any other persons who are relevant to your case.
If yours is a divorce case then your attorney may end up asking you to start collecting important financial documents like tax returns, paycheck stubs, business invoices and things of that nature. The reason for this is that it is likely that your spouse will request this information in a process called Discovery at a later date in your case. It is best to begin collecting and organizing this information now rather than waiting until the last minute. The more work that you can do in relation to this exercise the better off you will be. The less work that your attorney has to do for you means less that you have to pay the attorney down the road.
That said, the attorney does the heavy lifting for you
A lot of people outside of the legal world assume that a family law case is mostly lawyers yelling at each other and parties yelling at one another. This is true to an extent but for the most part a family law case is comprised of negotiation and paperwork. Fortunately if you hire an attorney he or she will be doing the lion’s share of the paperwork for you.
It is your right as the client to view any paperwork filed before it is sent on to the court. The name of the game in a family law case is working to achieve a settlement rather than heading to court for contested hearings or a trial. Your attorney should be able to work with the other side on coming together on any issues possible in order to shorten the length of your case and to achieve a resolution that you can be satisfied with.
The length of a case
Most family law cases settle before reaching a trial. Mediation is required in most courts in Texas so don’t be surprised if you find yourself in a formal negotiation with your opposing party on more than one occasion. Your attorney will attend mediation with you and will be in charge of the ongoing discussions and communicating your settlement offers and counter-offers to the mediator.
While it is wise to hire an attorney with courtroom experience it makes sense to value the ability to work with the other side and reach settlements as well. If your attorney expresses no desire to negotiate or be flexible in the offers and counter offers that are made to your opposing party I believe that you are missing a big opportunity to avoid protracted litigation and instead settle your case and move on with the rest of your life.
Completing the final orders of your case
Once your case has come to a close the final orders of your case will need to be typed out and signed by you and the opposing party. Your attorney will either be drafting these final orders or will be reviewing them and sending notes back to the opposing attorney in order so that they may negotiate and eventually agree upon the language that is included.
There are often times additional paperwork that needs to be completed like wage withholding orders, real property documents that relate to the division of the equity in a home, and things of that nature that your attorney will be able to do for you in most circumstances. Much of this is pretty intricate so it is wise to make sure that you hire an attorney that specializes in family law initially. When it comes to receiving child support on time or getting the equity out of your home that you agreed to in the divorce you do not want the paperwork to hold you back.
Questions about managing and succeeding in a family law case in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC stand ready to represent you in your family law case. If you have any questions about this process or seek clarification on the information that we wrote about today please do not hesitate to contact our office.
We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with our licensed family law attorneys. We will sit with you and answer your questions and address whatever concerns you have about your case or the process in general.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce”
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County,Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.