FAQs - Part 2
There are “standard guidelines” for child support based presumptively on a percentage of the obligor’s net income. “Net resources” generally is defined as all gross income (which is defined broadly and includes virtually all income, including, for example, overtime and part-time jobs) less the permitted tax deductions indicated in the Attorney General’s published tax chart and the cost of the child’s health insurance coverage. The percentage depends on the number of children, both before the court and otherwise. Note, however, there are exceptions or certain special circumstances where the support may be more or less than the percentage guidelines. Call me if you have a question, and I’ll explain further.
How are Contested Family Law Cases Decided?
Much in family law cases is left to the individual discretion of each judge. This again is a reason to hire an experienced attorney. The way the Court is managed, the time and manner in which cases are set and heard, and most importantly the decisions which are made, are all largely within the judge’s personal discretion. Texas Family law provides guiding principles for the judge to use when making the decision, but the decision is still within the judge’s discretion. For example,primary custody of children is to be generally decided based on “the best interest of the child.” What does that mean and how does that apply to you? It will depend on numerous factors present in the facts of your particular case. Therefore, in order for me to give you a valid opinion on this issue, it is necessary for me to consult with you at length about the facts of your particular case. I need to have an understanding of the positive and negative aspects of the case in order to give you a legal opinion of the viability of your position on this issue.
Property division in divorces is to be made by a judge simply “as the Court deems just and right.” What that means to you can vary. Again, the ‘facts’ of your case as presented by your attorney will determine the outcome.
How a judge interprets and applies these legal standards or tests in a given case is entirely up to the judge. Applying these guiding principles to the particular facts of each case, the judges make these critical decisions. Which facts are presented and how they are presented, therefore, become crucial.
Should I Get a Paternity Test?
Absolutely. The trend in Texas is that even if you are found later to not be the child’s biological father, the court will not reverse the child support order. It’s better to be 100% positive up front. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. However, Texas Family Code section 161.005 was added to the law recently to FINALLY allow a man who is not the actual biological father who has been ordered to pay child support to TERMINATE his rights and his child support obligation under certain circumstances! This can be a life saver, call me if this if you want to know whether this can help you.
I See You Like to Represent Fathers / Men. But Do You Represent Women and Grandparents, Too?
Yes. I represent many women and grandparents. While I am most often sought out by men, many women and grandparents contact me by referral or after seeing my website. I provide the same level of zeal and expertise on every case, regardless of my client’s gender. See my Client Testimonials and actual Case Results pages for examples of cases in which I have represented women.
I Hear of People Doing Their Own Divorces. Can’t I Just Represent Myself?
“May” you do it? Yes, you are permitted by law to do so.
“Should” you do it, though? As you might imagine, my answer is a resounding “NO”! Would you hop up on an operating table and perform your own surgery after reading about it on the Web? I hope not. Trust me– if you are 19 years old, with no children and no property, then sure, give it a whirl. No harm done, usually. Everyone else, though, should hire an attorney. Just do it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to go back in and try to repair someone’s screwed up divorce decree or other order. You’ll either pay an attorney now or pay an attorney more later. Now is better — for us both 🙂
Do I Need a Board Certified Family Law Specialist?
Rarely, in my honest opinion. Board Certification originated as the State Bar’s attempt limit attorney advertising, not necessarily as a service to the public. Since then, the Courts have loosened lawyer advertising limitations but the certification program remains. Under the rules of the State Bar, licensed attorneys may choose whether they wish to limit his or her practice to a specific area of law with or without seeking “board certification.” I have chosen to limit my practice to family law, but have not sought board certification for various reasons.
I know some attorneys still choose certification. I respect them for the time and effort they put into obtaining certification. However, does that necessarily make them better attorneys? Perhaps, but not necessarily. I’ve successfully handled a large number of family law cases, many against board certified lawyers, and I attend the same continuing legal education seminars as do board certified specialists. I am very experienced and provide excellent representation. And so do some certified attorneys.
On the other hand, while there are excellent board certified attorneys, I have had cases against more than a few certified family law specialists whom I frankly did not feel were particularly effective attorneys, despite their creating more work and charging higher fees. Many attorneys who seek Certification do so because it’s necessary to move up in their firm or because they are more interested in the academic or social side of the law. In sum, board certification can sometimes be, but is not necessarily, a guarantee of better legal representation, but it will almost always be a guarantee of higher fees.
We suggest you interview with us and see for yourself whether we can handle your case. Choose wisely.
Should I Hire an Attorney? Why Shouldn’t I Represent Myself? Should I Just Use the Forms I can Get Online?
I strongly advise against representing yourself. Whether you hire my firm or another firm, hire a good attorney to represent you. Family law is a highly complex field of law encompassing many fields of law- family law, procedure, evidence, real estate, torts and others. The Family Code itself has grown to hundreds of pages. Then, there are also appellate court decisions which further interpret and clarify the law set forth in the Family Code. Trial work requires an extensive knowledge of the rules of procedure and rules of evidence. The issues being decided, whether division of property or deciding of custody, visitation, and child support, are of great importance and have lasting, if not lifelong, implications for you, your spouse and your children. You should get advice on WHAT you should agree upon. Then you should get advice on MAKING SURE THE DECREE IS PROPERLY WORDED. It is very difficult to juggle all the information and resources in your case while simultaneously making tactical or strategic legal decisions and absorbing law which takes lawyers many years to learn. Also, the courts do not like pro se litigants and will be highly suspicious of and impatient toward you. Finally, because going through divorce or custody litigation is so deeply personal your emotional involvement will make it extremely difficult to represent yourself objectively in a case. Having an experienced attorney guide you through this emotional and complex journey is indispensable. I have been there, personally as well as professionally. You owe it to yourself and your child to get help.
Many Attorneys Don’t Seem to Want to Go to Trial. How About You? Will You be Willing to Fight for Me in Court?
Yes, absolutely I will. Many family law attorneys do not enjoy trial work and will only handle cases they can settle. In fact, there is a movement going on now among family law attorneys called “Collaborative Law,” which expressly limits the parties’ rights to go to court and is designed to resolve the case by settlement only.
However, while settlement has it’s place and should be an option, I believe our judicial system is predicated on the right of citizens to present disagreements and disputes to a neutral third party in a civilized manner and have the dispute resolved. There are simply times when even reasonable people cannot agree, much less people embroiled in all the emotions of broken relationships and concern over their children. I believe in your right to trial. I believe in some cases you should go to trial. That doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. You are entitled to your day in court, if that is what you want. And, I enjoy trial work. so I am more than happy to try your case for you.
I Know You’re a Trial Lawyer. Can You Also Handle My Case if We’ve Agreed on Everything?
Yes. Although my emphasis is on contested cases, I also can and do handle settle cases and am hired on many uncontested cases. Most if not all contested cases proceed to Mediation, too.
How Will I Know What’s Happening with My Case?
We pride ourselves on keeping our clients promptly informed about their case. We do that in several ways: first, we promptly scan and email you every pleading, order, motion, discovery item and letter of significance which we send out or which we receive; second, I have staff on call in the office daily to take your calls and if they cannot answer your question, they are able to reach me by text or email even when I’m out of the office in court or elsewhere; third, you may make in- office or telephone appointments with me at any time you want to discuss your matter; and last, we give you the links to help you follow your case online. It is very important to us that you have the peace of mind knowing about your case developments on a timely basis.
How Long Does It Take to Finalize a Case?
It depends. Agreed cases can be processed quickly. For divorces, Texas law requires a minimum waiting period of at least sixty (60) days from the date a petition is filed before the divorce may become final. Other cases generally do not have a set waiting period. Contested cases, however, will take much longer to finalize by settlement or trial. As a rough rule of thumb, depending on the county, the judge, and other factors, cases usually take in the range of three to twelve months to conclude. Some take even longer.
How do I Arrange to Talk with You or Hire You?
Call Jon R. Boyd. at (817) 338-4500 to schedule an appointment for an in person or phone appointment with me. My staff will be happy to make an appointment for you. Or you may contact me via email at email@example.com. I am usually available to speak or meet with you the same day you call, but at least almost always within 24 to 48 hours.
Can You Help Me Even if My Case is in Another State?
I often get calls or emails from people who live outside Texas wanting to know if I can help them. If you live outside Texas, but your case is to be determined IN TEXAS, then, yes, I can help you. However, if your case is to be determined IN ANOTHER STATE, I cannot help you. I recommend you consult with an attorney in the locality of where your case will be heard.
If you are not sure which state is the appropriate forum, call me and I’ll help you find out. Generally, if the case has not been filed or heard in Texas before and no party or a child lives in Texas, I will not be able to help you.
I Don’t Have Time to Come See You in Person. Can I Talk with You and Retain You by Phone?
Yes. I have many clients who, because of distance, work schedules, and even the high cost of driving, cannot make it in to see me in person. I can consult and work with you by phone, email and fax if you need or prefer.
How Should I Make the Best Use of My Consultation Time?
Most people think in terms of starting from the beginning and working their way forward in time until they get to the present. However, in the context of seeking legal advice, that is not the most efficient use of your time. Instead, I strongly suggest you first present me with what you consider to be the present issue or problem at hand, followed by a summary of the facts you feel are most pertinent to that issue. I will follow up by asking you questions to fill in what other contextual or other factual information I need. I will know better than you which facts are most relevant to the issue. Once we have identified the issue, and I have the facts necessary to advise you on that issue, I will then provide you with the law applicable to your case, discuss your options and alternatives with the pro’s and con’s of each course of action, advise you of possible tactics and strategy, and give you recommendations for what action you may and should take. I will answer any questions you may have. I will also explain my fees to you in a clear and concise manner and give you an estimate of the fees and expenses you may incur in your matter if you decide to hire me.
How can I Contact You and Get Started?
The best way to contact my office and have me get started on your case is for you to call our office staff at (817) 338-4500 to make an appointment. You may also fax or e-mail our office, but I will have to speak with you in person or via telephone in order to consult with you, give you legal advice or undertake legal representation. I cannot give legal advice by fax or e-mail unless and until after you have retained me to represent you and have established an attorney/client relationship.
How Much Will My Case Cost?
There are a few ways we charge fees: hourly and a flat fee for a single consultation, series of consultations, or a bundle of services, plus the other options for do it yourselfers, see above.
I charge a flat fee of $2,500 plus costs for an agreed or default divorce or other family law case in DFW counties. This will include a pre-set bundle of services, such as court time, document preparation, conference time, etc. If the case becomes contested, I offer flat fees for certain segments of the case, e.g., for hearings, mediations, depositions, etc. (See me for details. Please note: $2,500.00 is below most competitors’ prices at this time.)
If you choose to pay an hourly fee, the total will depend. Just as each person is unique, each case is different. Although your case may involve issues we have handled many times before, the actual fees and costs from case to case will vary, depending on numerous factors such as the type of case, the nature and complexity of disputed issues involved, the locale, the quality or tendencies of opposing counsel, the judge’s style of court management, the type and number of witnesses involved in your matter, your personal needs, etc.
Additionally, there often will be court costs, process fees, social study and mental health professional fees, court reporter costs, etc. Once we have had a chance to discuss your case with you, we will usually be able to provide you with an estimate of fees and costs you may have in your matter. To give you an idea, though, you should generally plan on an agreed matter costing a minimum of $3,000.00 and most contested cases usually ranging from $5,000 to $30,000, with some seriously contested or complex cases resulting in a lengthy proceedings and contested final trial costing much more. Some cases have cost over $100,000.00, for example.
I know this is a lot of money. But consider what is at stake: your child’s well being, safety and future and your own well being and future. Hopefully there will only be one time in your life you have an issue of this magnitude. Treat it with the seriousness it deserves and commit to the process.
Also, know that our fees are very competitive with and often less than many, if not most, other attorneys of similar abilities. If your legal issue is important to you and your child, treat it importantly. Be willing to invest the time and money to obtain the result you and your child deserve. Hopefully it will be a “once in a lifetime” type expense, similar to a serious medical emergency.
Do I Get to See a Bill?
Absolutely. If you hire me, we will sign a written memorandum showing our agreement regarding your fees and charges. We then keep meticulous time and expense records and record these weekly on a software program which tracks and shows the fees and charges in itemized, chronological manner. You are provided bills throughout your case and a cumulative, final bill at the end of the case. There is never any charge for you to ask questions about your bill and we are happy to answer any questions you may have.
Do You Accept Credit Cards?
Yes, we accept all major credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express. We also accept Debit cards, personal or cashiers checks and cash.
What is Your Favorite Divorce Movie?
OK, I know you probably didn’t expect to see that question, did you? Just seeing if you made it this far! 🙂
The answer definitely is “INTOLERABLE CRUELTY” with George Clooney, etc., directed by the Coen Bros. Absolutely hilarious (and uncomfortably accurate) lampooning of divorce lawyers, their clients and our judicial system! Let me know what you think.