Monday, December 5, 2016

How Does a Retainer Fee Work?

Family law attorneys who go to court require an initial retainer fee usually somewhere between $3,000 and $50,000 before they will do any work. Once we receive an initial retainer, that money is deposited into an attorney-client trust account that can be monitored or audited by the State Bar of California. In fact, the interest paid on the funds in that trust account automatically go to the State Bar.

As we attorneys work on your court case, we get paid for our time out of that trust account. When the retainer is close to being depleted, the retainer fee must be replenished. The clients replenish the retainer as many times as it takes to complete the court case (typically court appearances for temporary orders, conducting discovery and trial). Some clients replenish their retainers monthly or more often if their case is being heavily litigated. Remember, court appearances are costly for both sides.

But know that if the case is settled and there is an unearned credit balance at the conclusion of the case (after the judgment is signed by the judge), that credit balance must be refunded to the client or it can remain in the trust account to go toward post-judgment issues or modifications.

If you instead choose to proceed with your divorce amicably, retainer fees vary at substantially lower rates than if your case goes to court. Mediation and collaborative divorce cases are substantial money savers.

For more information, call Jimmy or Leslie Howell at 626-351-1200 for a free initial consultation.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Can't Afford Mediation Because You're Paying Attorney's Fees?

I've heard it said that couples cannot afford to pay for a private mediator because their attorney's fees are so high and that's their first priority. What????

In fact, in many cases that we've handled, an entire mediated divorce may cost the same as the initial retainer fee for one attorney (not to mention avoiding the costs for a second attorney and all of the many times necessary to replenish each attorney's retainer).

If both spouses commit to participate in good faith to settle their case in mediation or the collaborative process, and you choose true peacemaking attorneys (rather than litigating attorneys), you can likely save tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars without a single court appearance.

Find out more at an initial consultation: 626-351-1200.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Different Kinds of Mediation

There are a couple of different kinds of mediation you may hear about in the family law court:

1. DSO: (Free) Daily Settlement Officers are volunteer lawyers who come to the courthouse and your judge may send you to that person to try to settle your case on the day of your hearing after one or both of you have already filed court papers potentially filled with allegations about the other spouse.

2. Conciliation Court: (Free) Mandatory mediation at the courthouse by a therapist which is required before the judge can talk to you about a request that either parent has made regarding custody or visitation. These mediators are only allowed to help with custody and visitation (and not child support or any other issues).

3. Private Mediation: (Costs vary) At any time before or during your child custody, legal separation or divorce matter, couples can hire one neutral lawyer (or a non-lawyer) to help resolve all of the issues and concerns, including spousal support, property division, child custody and child support. From our experience, a mediated settlement prior to ever asking for a hearing date almost always costs a fraction of the cost of each spouse hiring an attorney to make court appearances for temporary orders and a trial. In fact, in many cases an entire mediation may cost the same as the initial retainer fee for one single court attorney.

For more information, call Jimmy to schedule an initial consultation which will be given by Leslie Howell: 626-351-1200.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Spouses Mediating Without Attorneys

When we mediate divorce cases at Amicable Divorce Services, almost all of our clients choose to mediate without paying their lawyers to be present at the mediation. You have the option to have your attorneys present or mediate without lawyers. Leslie Howell is an attorney who serves as a neutral mediator without choosing sides.

However, Leslie does work to ensure that there is a balance of power so that one spouse does not force the issue with the other spouse. This is a voluntary process after all.

We do strongly advise spouses to each hire her or his own peacemaking, consulting lawyer to go over the agreement with them before signing it. This doesn't require that you hire a court attorney who charges a $3,500 (or more) retainer fee. It is relatively inexpensive to sit down with a family law lawyer to go over your agreement for an hour or two for a simple agreement, or it may take longer if your case is more complex.

Call Jimmy to schedule an initial consultation: 626-351-1200.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Did You Mediate Before You or Your Attorney Asked for a Hearing Date?

Ask your attorney to schedule a private mediation for your case prior to filing court papers. This could likely save you tens of thousands of dollars for unnecessary court appearances. The priority is to settle your case first before filing the first papers that inflame your spouse who will then want to get even by filing inflammatory papers against you. Once the first accusatory papers are filed, Pandora's box is open and your case will likely be much more expensive than if you settle your case in the beginning.

However, if it is an urgent matter, the papers may need to be filed right away.

By the way, trying to settle your case doesn't always mean that you will reach an agreement. Settlement is not always possible when someone is being unreasonable. But you won't know whether the other side is going to be reasonable or not unless you try mediation or the collaborative process first.

The State Bar of California suggests this as well when they describe some divorce options .

Amicable Divorce Services: 626-351-1200.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Clarification on Financial Forms

I always mention that, no matter what process you choose for your divorce, both spouses need to complete their financial disclosure forms. Yes it is true that only one form from each spouse must be filed at the courthouse. However, just because there is only one form that gets filed with the court, that doesn't mean that a spouse can forego completing the other mandatory forms. In California, both spouses are required to complete and exchange Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure packets.

A spreadsheet will not do. A list of living expenses won't do. An inventory will not replace the forms either. You MUST complete the forms and attach the required attachments in order to obtain a binding divorce judgment. Otherwise, your judgment can be set aside and you may be forced to start all over again.

At ADS, we help our clients through the process of mandatory "full disclosure." Call for an initial consultation: 626-351-1200.

Monday, October 10, 2016

HBO's New Series "Divorce"

If you watched HBO's new series "Divorce" that debuted last night, you can see how NOT to move forward in a divorce. If it goes the way the husband said, the children will be destroyed, as well as whatever assets the family has. Wife made some significant mistakes but her idea of divorcing amicably was, at least, the right way to think about it.

Sometimes it's best to let the dust settle before starting your divorce. Whether you're going to start your divorce right away or wait a while, come and learn the options you have to get through it with the least amount of destruction.

Call Amicable Divorce Services at 626-351-1200 to schedule your free initial consultation.