After you have decided to end your marriage, there are several difficult questions that need to be addressed including whether to hire an attorney.
The first step is to call your local family law attorney and schedule an initial consultation. The phone call is generally at no charge and is conducted by support staff and in some instances the attorney. During the phone call, you may be required to answer some preliminary questions about yourself, your spouse and your children including information about where you live, work and the length of your marriage. Most importantly during this first contact, a conflict check will be conducted to ensure your spouse has not previously consulted with the attorney. If your spouse has consulted with the attorney, then the attorney has already established a relationship with that person and is not available to meet with you.
After this information is obtained, an initial consultation will be scheduled either in person or virtually depending on pandemic protocols. Generally, the initial consultation is an hour and you will be requested to provide additional background about your situation by completing forms or producing documents. It is recommended that you come prepared with a list of questions to make your meeting most productive. Finally, this is also your opportunity to ask questions of your future attorney including the nature of your working relationship.
Potential clients often ask during the initial consultation how much will it cost to be divorced. It is difficult to answer this question with any specificity as each case has a unique path towards resolution. The more complex the issues or higher conflict between the parties, the more time and fees it may take to resolve the problems. But it is important to understand the billing process and clients are encouraged to ask about hourly rates, time intervals that will be charged, and the scope of employment or what the attorney is going to do. There are also costs associated with litigation including court costs or filing fees, service of process and fees related to discovery such as depositions and subpoenas. Understanding the billing process will help the client create a budget and retain control over their costs.
If you do not retain counsel at the conclusion of your initial consultation, the attorney will have no obligation to represent you. But if you decide to engage in the services of counsel, you will be presented with a written engagement letter setting forth the terms of your relationship including the billing process and requested to pay an initial retainer. The retainer amount depends entirely upon what the lawyer wants to charge to secure payment for her fees. After you execute the engagement letter and pay the retainer, the funds are deposited into a “trust account” until work is performed in your case. You will receive monthly billing statements thereafter so you can review the services performed and ask questions about your billing statements as they arise to avoid problems.
Shannon R. Loeser, Esq.
Certified Family Law Specialist
28202 Cabot Road, Suite 520
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Tel: (949) 392-5050