If you are considering a divorce from your spouse then you've probably also thought about whether or not you need an attorney to represent you in your case. This is probably the most essential question for you to ask yourself in the period leading up to a divorce case. There are many different factors for you to consider when determining whether or not you need an attorney for your divorce case. Whether you have children, whether you have a substantial community estate, whether yours is a high net worth divorce and a host of other factors will help you determine whether or not you need an attorney.
While it is not common, there is a possibility that you may find that attorneys are hesitant or unable to represent you in a divorce. As competitive as the field of family law in Texas is, you will likely not struggle to find an attorney who is willing to represent you. However, there may be some circumstances at play in your case and in Your profile that cause some attorneys to hesitate to want to represent you. Let's discuss why an attorney may not be willing to represent you in a divorce.
One issue that I could see an attorney having some hesitation in regards to representing you would be your inability to pay what he or she charges for representation. I think a lot of people have the misunderstanding that attorneys are always able to represent a client no matter their ability to pay attorneys fees. Make no mistake, you are not obligated to have an attorney in your divorce case and you can get a divorce without representation. By the same token, unless your parental rights are subject to termination in the divorce a divorce court will not provide you with a lawyer unless you show a proven financial need.
Unless you are destitute, receiving food stamps or other government assistance, or find an attorney who is willing to take your case on a pro bono basis you will likely need to pay for your attorney's services. If you know that cost in finances will be an issue for you and your divorce then you should make this known to the attorney in consultation with him or her. The lawyer can be very clear with you on their expectations for billing and attorney fees.
Many attorneys are extremely flexible on how they can be paid for any services rendered on your behalf. Attorneys offer financing through their office, through credit cards, and through other means that have developed in the past few years. While I am not necessarily recommending that you incur debt to hire an attorney for your divorce I realized that this is the reality that may be facing you during this time in your life. As a result, you should consider what you can do from a financial perspective but also we need to be upfront with an attorney about any problems or issues you may have paid him or her.
Next, a fairly straightforward reason why an attorney may not be able to represent you in a divorce is if your spouse has already contacted that attorney to consult with him or her about your case. Although a free of charge consultation with our office does not establish an attorney-client relationship it does require to an extent for you to share personal information that you would share with an attorney. As a result, if your spouse were to already come in and share information with us about your life we would be ethically unable to then represent you in a divorce case.
It wouldn't be anything personal against you but an attorney who has already met with your spouse and spoken with her about your case would be unable to represent you, as well. This sort of thing does not happen all that often especially considering how many family law attorneys exist in Southeast Texas. However, if you live in a rural area or there are fewer attorneys to choose from it may be that a lawyer is unable to represent you due to your spouse already have met with him or her.
Another reason why an attorney may be unwilling or unable to represent you in your divorces do to the factors and circumstances that the attorney anticipates facing while being your lawyer. No two divorce cases are the same. By this, I mean that your case will require a different level of representation than any other divorce case out there. As a result, you need to find a good match for you and your family with an attorney.
For instance, some attorneys are just beginning their practice and have not yet handled complex or very contentious divorce cases. Our law office, with our combined decades of family law and divorce experience, is equipped to handle almost any divorce scenario out there. However, not every attorney or law practice is in this position. As a result, an attorney who does not believe that he or she can provide you with the level of legal care that you need may choose to be upfront and honest with you about being unable to represent you in your divorce.
By the same token, an attorney may be unwilling to represent you because the facts and circumstances of your case are not complex enough for him or her to offer representation. Keep in mind that some family law attorneys practice in heavily contentious, complex, or high net worth environments when it comes to divorce. These are seasoned family law attorneys who are equipped and ready to represent those people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances one way or another. If your case is a more traditional, common divorce where none of these sorts of circumstances are relevant then the attorney may not be willing to take your case.
The final reason that I would like to discuss with you today as to why an attorney may be unwilling or unable to represent you in a divorce is simply due to your location relative to theirs. Although we live in the age of digital communication and video access the simple reality is that many family law attorneys prefer to be geographically close to their clients and the court that the attorney will be practicing in on behalf of that client. As this pandemic hopefully comes to an end sooner rather than later we are looking at the likelihood that many in-person activities will resume such as courtroom hearings and things of that nature.
As we have already discussed, although being able to pay your attorney is important it is also important for your attorney to have the opportunity to spend enough time working not only on your case but on their other cases. From a logistical standpoint, it can be difficult to commit a great deal of time to drive back and forth between Houston and Victoria, for example, that's not to say that our law office wouldn't be willing to represent you if you live in Victoria but in a highly complex case that may require a great deal of travel back and forth in between the cities some lawyers may be unwilling to commit to that extent.
What to do if you cannot find an attorney to represent you?
Again, I do not expect this to be the reality for you as you begin the process of looking for an attorney to represent you. You will likely be able to find an attorney that fits your case, your personality, and your budget. However, I would like to share with you my thoughts on how you can proceed successfully with your divorce if you are not able to find an attorney who is willing or able to represent you.
When it comes to appearing in the courtroom you will probably find that your visits there are fewer and farther in between that you might have anticipated. At some point in your case, you may have to appear in court and as a result, I would recommend that you learn some basic rules for the courtroom and some basic tips on how to conduct yourself in front of a judge. Some of these are pretty straightforward but some of them are tips you may not have known about so I would like to share them with you at this time.
This sort of goes without saying but I would recommend that you always dress appropriately when going to court. The keyword here is “appropriately.” what you think is appropriate and what I think is appropriate may be different. In my opinion, appropriate for a man is wearing pants with a collared shirt at a bare minimum. Wearing a jacket and a tie into the courtroom is always a good look for a gentleman when approaching the judge or simply having to be in an atmosphere like a courthouse.
Likewise, if you are a woman then you should consider wearing a dress, blouse, skirt or pants as well as a jacket. From my experience as a husband and attorney it is my opinion that women have a wider range of options available to them when it comes to clothes that can be worn out and about in the world. For that reason, I would shy away from wearing spoiling that reveals too much skin or is too bright in color. Remember that you want the judge to be focused on the facts and circumstances of your case as well as your arguments rather than on your clothing or appearance.
Even if you were just going to drop off paperwork or make a quick appearance before the judge you should never wear shorts, short skirts, T-shirts, sandals, or have on distracting makeup, jewelry, or perfume. I am not recommending that you place your focus on doing your job which if you don't have an attorney is representing yourself in your interests in the divorce case. Do not lose track of what is important in your case by attempting to focus too heavily on how you look rather than how you conduct yourself.
When it comes to addressing the judge there can be a fine line between being too casual and being too stiff in formalism. At a bare minimum, you are required to act respectfully and cordially in the courtroom. I have seen people get too comfortable in court and even take phone calls or eat within the courtroom. These are actions that not only are inappropriate but could wind up with you facing consequences from the judge. 4 your case is heard before the judge it is typical for a judge to have their bailiff read aloud the court's rules as far as cell phone usage, eating, drinking and other personal behaviors. As a general rule, you should expect not to be able to use your cell phone in court or to be able to eat and drink. Attorneys are usually permitted to use their phones in the courtroom so do not look to an attorney and necessarily mimic their behavior in that regard.
Probably the most frequently asked question that I encounter from persons who have never really been inside of a courtroom is how to address the judge. The tried and true method for referencing a judge is to call him or her “your honor.” you will never go wrong when it comes to calling the judge your honor. However, I have also never seen a judge get bent out of shape if you were to refer to him or her as Sir or ma'am. Most judges are adept at figuring out whether or not they are being disrespected too. As long as your tone and demeanor are respectful you can usually call him whatever you would like.
One thing that I find people have more of a problem with than they may realize is when it comes to interrupting people. You will find ample opportunity to want to interrupt others in the courtroom. The reason for this is that typically, a hearing or court appearance will be spent with one side presenting their version of a story and the other side presenting their version. Your spouse or their attorney may spend some time going through a rendition of events that differ from how you recall them or remember them. However, that does not give you the right to interrupt him or her while they are speaking.
When it is your turn to speak you should carefully consider the words that you use. Speaking too casually or even using profanity is never appropriate. Providing short, to the point and honest testimony is what you should aim for. Remember that you are under oath and any untruths or lies that you tell can potentially be used against you by your spouse or even the judge. As a result, come up you need to be completely honest when you give testimony.
The other thing that I would keep in mind as you approach a courtroom appearance in your divorce is that it is perfectly normal to feel uneasy or nervous. Not only is your divorce a big deal but you are also operating in someone else's comfort zone and not your own. You may have never set foot inside a courtroom and have no experience at all when it comes to addressing a judge or making legal arguments. You may not have asked to put yourself in a position where you don't have an attorney but if you find yourself in court in your divorce and you don't have a lawyer you need to make the best of your circumstances.
One thing that I may recommend you do if you don't have an attorney would be to go online and simply watch how attorneys conduct themselves when speaking to a judge in videos. A simple bit of Internet research could show you just how attorneys address the court and conduct themselves in a hearing or trial scenario. This does not mean that you will be able to do the same as the attorney would have which you can at least conduct yourself respectfully inappropriately in front of the judge. This can go a long way towards helping you build up credibility in front of the court which helps you and your family along the way.
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 consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your circumstances would interact with the law in your divorce or child custody case. Thank you for your interest in our law practice and we hope that you will join us again tomorrow as we continue to share unique and relevant content about Texas family law.