Family law is a direct pay type of legal service. Accident victims or individuals with an injury claim often sign a contingency fee agreement with a personal injury or medical malpractice lawyer – no money is due up front and the lawyer takes his cut, plus cost, from whatever relief the plaintiff (the person doing the suing) may be awarded, and then the client receives the remainder of the money to compensate for the damages. Well, family law does not work that way. After an initial consultation with the family lawyer, where the dimensions of the case are discussed: like whether or not to file for divorce; seek child support; deal with child custody arrangements; or how to handle an alcoholic or drug addicted person. The other party may be in jail or prison. And sometimes domestic violence is involved. Oh, and in some cases, you have to deal with in-laws and grandparents. No case is like any other and often things cross state, even international, borders. You may have income tax issues or be dealing with a very sick child. A family law matter often touches your whole life. On top of all this, you may feel physically, mentally and emotionally drained. That is why you can benefit from an experienced and caring family law attorney, and that does require an ability to pay the bill.
After the initial consultation, if you decide to hire the family law attorney, you agree on what services are covered, sign a contract and fee agreement, pay a retainer that is deposited into a special trust fund especially for your account and then work begins. TWO UNANSWERED QUESTIONS IN DIVORCE: (1) How long will it take? and (2) How much will it cost? These questions cannot be answered because each case is unique. Be prepared to sign a contract and fee agreement that requires you to keep a running balance of at least $1,000 in your trust fund. Money is transferred out of your trust fund into the lawyer’s business account when it is earned and statements are provided to you. ANOTHER QUESTION: How is payment made? Cash, check, money order, or credit card. CAN SOMEONE ELSE PAY MY BILL? Yes. Most clients pay their own bill or find a way to finance it. A relative or friend can pay your bill, or part of it, but this does not mean that they have access to the confidential informtion between you and the lawyer. If you are a union member, you may be able to receive financial asstance from the union for your legal bills. IF YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO HIRE A LAWYER, call your local county bar association that may be able to refer you to community legal service agencies that provide legal services at a reduced or no-charge basis for qualified individuals.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do Not Be Alone. Legal issues dealing with divorce, children, money and property are often overwhelming. If you feel a sense of hopelessness or are at a point where you do not know what to do, please reach out to someone, like a mental health professional, spiritual advisor, or an attorney. And do not be afraid to shop around until you find the right professional who is a good match for you. DO NOT BE ALONE.