Family law issues may sometimes be confusing and complex, and you may get conflicting information from the web, your friends or family or other sources. You might want to know some basic concepts about family law. Or,you may have questions about how to choose an attorney or how to contact and hire our office.
Below are some of the most common, frequently asked questions about Family Law, Divorce and hiring me or attorneys in general. For more detailed information or advice about your particular situation, call me. I will explain your options and answer your questions in understandable, everyday language.
I hope this is helpful. Let me know if you think I should add other topics.
- What if all I Want is a Few Minutes Just to Get an Idea of What Your Fees Would be Before I Know Whether I Want to Come In?
- Do You Charge for an Initial Consultation? Why? and if so, How Much?
- Do You Offer Special Rates to Veterans or Active Military and are You Familiar with Military Divorces?
- I am a Dues Paying Member of the Dallas Chapter of Fathers for Equal Rights. Does That Mean You Will Advise or Represent Me for Free?
- Do You Have Offer Payment Plans or Different Options for Payment for Legal Services?
- What are Some Ways I can Reduce My Legal Fees if I Hire an Attorney?
- What Does Joint Custody Mean?
- Should I Settle My Case Out of Court? and What is Mediation or Collaborative Law?
- I Already Have an Attorney but am Dissatisfied with Him or Her — Can I Change Attorneys During My Case?
- How are Visitation and Child Support Handled in Texas?
- The Attorney General is After Me for Back Child Support or is Trying to Increase My Child Support? Can You Help?
- Can the Other Parent or My Spouse Move My Children Out of My Area Without My Permission?
- I am Not Married to My Child’s Mother but I Signed the ‘Birth Certificate’ at the Hospital When the Child was Born. Do I Owe Child Support or Have Rights of Custody or Visitation?
- How is Property Divided in a Divorce?
- How Much Child Support Do I Have to Pay?
- How are Contested Family Law Cases Decided?
- Should I Get a Paternity Test?
- I See You Like to Represent Fathers / Men. But Do You Represent Women and Grandparents, Too?
- I Hear of People Doing Their Own Divorces. Can’t I Just Represent Myself?
- Do I Need a Board Certified Family Law Specialist?
- Should I Hire an Attorney? Why Shouldn’t I Represent Myself? Should I Just Use the Forms I can Get Online?
- Many Attorneys Don’t Seem to Want to Go to Trial. How About You? Will You be Willing to Fight for Me in Court?
- I Know You’re a Trial Lawyer. Can You Also Handle My Case if We’ve Agreed on Everything?
- How Will I Know What’s Happening with My Case?
- How Long Does It Take to Finalize a Case?
- How do I Arrange to Talk with You or Hire You?
- Can You Help Me Even if My Case is in Another State?
- I Don’t Have Time to Come See You in Person. Can I Talk with You and Retain You by Phone?
- How Should I Make the Best Use of My Consultation Time?
- How can I Contact You and Get Started?
- How Much Will My Case Cost?
- Do I Get to See a Bill?
- Do You Accept Credit Cards?
- What is Your Favorite Divorce Movie?
If all you want is a fee estimate, we will provide that at no charge with a brief, 5 minute phone or email contact.
To give you a fee estimate, I will need to know: the type of case; which county; which court, if possible; which issues are expected to be in dispute; the name of opposing counsel, if any; and any special factors about your case. With this information, I can definitely tell you what my retainer fee would be and sometimes give you an estimate of what I expect your total costs would be for the case start to finish.
Do You Charge for an Initial Consultation? Why? and if so, How Much?
Yes. We charge a flat fee of $150.00, payable at the time you schedule the appointment. You can pay by credit card over the phone or via LawPay on our Home page.
Why is there a fee charged?
Because I have learned over time that when people will commit to spending the necessary time to receive legal advice custom fitted to their situation, they:
- feel better about having been able to explain their concerns and case fully, in an unhurried atmosphere, and having received thorough and thoughtful advice;
- place more importance on and give more value to the advice they receive;
- are keep their appointments; and
- we deserve to be compensated for our time and services, just like you want to be when you perform work for people or employers in the course of your occupation.
To schedule a consultation, simply call or email us. We answer our phones and review our emails hourly. You will receive friendly and knowledgeable treatment.
Do You Offer Special Rates to Veterans or Active Military and are You Familiar with Military Divorces?
Yes. We have represented a large number of active, reserve, national guard and retired members of our Armed Forces. I discount my fees as my way of saying “Thank You” to all our veterans and active military who have proudly served or who continue to serve our great country.
I am a Dues Paying Member of the Dallas Chapter of Fathers for Equal Rights. Does That Mean You Will Advise or Represent Me for Free?
Sorry, but no, unfortunately it does not. I have long volunteered my time at their office, and when I am there, I meet with members for free in twenty minute sessions. However, I am in private practice, not an employee of that organization, so I charge a fee for my professional services.
Please note, however, I do offer a DISCOUNT to FER members, so give me a call!
Do You Have Offer Payment Plans or Different Options for Payment for Legal Services?
Yes! We understand that “one size does not always fit all”. Different clients have different needs, resources and budgets. No matter what your available funds or needs for legal advice or services, we have a Fee Option that will work for you. Call us for details and prices.
Jon R. Boyd. Fee Options:
Traditional Hourly Fee – This is the usual way fees are charged due to the unpredictability of a given case. Using this method, you pay for our time, whatever that ends up being. You pay a deposit, known as “retainer”, which pays in advance for a set number of hours and costs, then replenish your deposit as necessary as the case progresses. Call us for details and rates.
- You pay only for actual services and time spent, no more and no less.
- This works best for contested cases where the length and difficulty of the case is uncertain.
- This allows you to “pay as you go” to some degree in that you deposit funds as needed into the trust account based on estimates of upcoming services.
- You are provided monthly detailed billings showing the services rendered or expenses incurred in itemized, chronological fashion so you know exactly what services you are paying for.
Flat Fee Bundles – As the name suggests, you pay set or flat amounts for stages of work, starting with a Base Flat Fee (the majority of all divorces) with additional flat fees being due for additional services or phases, as needed.
Some benefits over traditional hourly billing include:
- Possibility of better outcomes as it removes the cost-based disincentive for the exchange of information with your legal team.
- More certainty and better understanding of the legal costs, since estimating hourly fees is unpredictable.
- Better decision making with the increased ability to conduct accurate cost-benefit analysis.
This option usually is best if you believe your case will be uncontested or easily resolved or if you are representing yourself. For example, if you anticipate agreement at the outset of a divorce or other matter.
Legal Advice Via Email on a very low, per month subscription basis, available in 3, 6 or 12 month terms. This is an attractive choice for those clients who:
- Want to know their legal rights but do not wish or need to undertake legal action yet.
- Have chosen to represent themselves, but have questions about the process.
- Were recently divorced and want to have an attorney answer those questions as they arise about what certain paragraphs in their orders mean and the like.
Self-Representation Assistance on a Flat Fee or Hourly Basis
As more and more people are seeking to represent themselves or seeking to modify forms and old documents they find from friends or online, we are seeing an increased number of people who are sacrificing their legal rights by submitting flawed legal orders to the Court without first having an attorney at least review it for them. Many clients often are losing major legal rights to children and property. If you choose to represent yourself because you do not think you can afford legal services, or you don’t necessarily need “full representation” but want to have an attorney prepare your legal pleadings or orders based on the terms you work out with the opposing party, this method ensures you get what you understand the agreement to be and that you comply with all the Court’s formal requirements. We also will appear with you to prove up your divorce in Court when you are ready, if you choose. Call or come see us for pricing info.
We have children, have had our own family law cases, and understand personally and professionally what you are going through. Contact us today at (817) 338-4500. We can help.
What are Some Ways I can Reduce My Legal Fees if I Hire an Attorney?
Perhaps you have hired a lawyer for your family law case, preferably us. Now, how do you control some of your legal costs? At Jon R. Boyd., we strive to find and suggest ways for clients to contain their legal costs. Here are some tips:
Before you meet or talk with your attorney or paralegal, be sure to make and present a list of all your questions at one time. Do not call or email your attorney with each individual question that comes to mind. Keep a list handy and write down questions for your attorney. When you are otherwise meeting with your attorney or have several questions, then bring them up so that they can all be addressed together.
Relay your case information to your attorney in writing (including email). Attorneys are consummate note takers and lawsuits involve a great number of facts. Information conveyed to attorneys over the telephone and verbally at meetings will be taken down by the attorney, which notes are subject to misunderstanding and inaccuracies. By providing information to your attorney in writing, the information is conveyed and maintained in your own words following which your attorney can present follow up questions for clarification. Also, realize that all of us read faster than we can take notes, so sending written information saves your lawyer time and you money.
Organize information requested by your attorney. Your attorney will require substantial information and documentation. This information will have to be organized so that your attorney can review, learn, and understand the facts that support and may harm your case. At the outset of your case, you will likely understand your life, your finances, and your family better than your attorney. Time you spend organizing information needed for your case is less time your attorney and his staff will have to spend and consequently less attorney’s fees. If you have $1,000.00 to spend on a project, would you rather spend it on your attorney organizing a jumbled box of documents in preparation for a hearing or on learning the facts set out in the organized box of documents and crafting legal arguments based thereon that will serve your position?
Do not hide information from your attorney. Nothing hurts a case more than a surprise at trial or during negotiations. Your job is not to please your attorney or seek their approval. Your attorney has been hired to support you and your desires. But at the same time, never trust an attorney that refuses to criticize your bad conduct and tell you when your actions harm your case. Demand that your attorney tell you the good and bad of your case, including that such negative statements are meant to protect and facilitate the accomplishment of your desired outcome.
Respond to tasks delegated to you by your attorney and staff promptly and completely. If your attorney or the paralegal has asked for something, there is a reason for it. The sooner the attorney’s office has the information, the quicker it can be used to help you and the less it will cost you.
Talk to and use paralegal or staff whenever possible – it never ceases to amaze me how many people withhold information from paralegals to tell only me. Attorney-client confidentiality extends to the entire office staff. The paralegal working on your case knows the facts of your case and can provide an invaluable asset — all at a reduced hourly billing rate than the attorney. Demand that any lawyer you hire use paralegals to reduce your overall fees and put more minds on your case. You will be glad you did.
Use therapists, not your lawyer, for therapy. We will do our best to offer support and guidance to you, and family law attorneys deal on a daily basis with the emotional issues confronting their clients, but few are as well trained to provide you with emotional support as trained, professional counselors or therapists. Counselors and mental health professional generally charge less than attorneys, have more specialized knowledge, and may accept medical insurance. These professionals can work in conjunction with attorneys (thereby possibly protecting the communications) and may be able to assist the legal team in best meeting the mutual client’s goals. Family law matters by definition involve highly emotional, psychological, and related issues. By using the assistance of professionals to recognize and address these issues, the attorney can best represent the client’s interests and that of their family.
Keep the prospect of settlement open. I know divorces and family law litigation can be frustrating, make people angry, and the like. But usually you will save money, not to mention headaches and stress, by settling your case. That often means both parties have to compromise to some extent. Bear in mind– I will not try to make you settle, it’s entirely up to you. My job is to develop and explain your options, givc you the pro’s and con’s of each option, then answer any questions you may have. If you want to settle, I will not block it. If you do not want to settle and prefer to go to trial, I’m all for it. Again, up to you. But settling will generally be less expensive, if that’ s your main concern.
What Does Joint Custody Mean?
First let me say that I happen to strongly believe, personally and professionally, in co-parenting and sharing the child equally if at all possible and my practice is devoted to those who want to be actively involved in their child’s life.
In Texas, there is a rebuttable presumption in a divorce or other original suit for custody that the parents be appointed as “joint managing conservators.” “Joint managing conservatorship” has two basic components: the first is allocation of the parental rights and powers, meaning deciding which parent or whether both parents get to make various parenting decisions regarding the upbringing of the child, such as educational, medical and religious decisions. The second component is dividing the actual physical possession of the child between the parties, which includes the physical care and supervision of the child on a day-to-day basis. Please note that, under Texas case law, that presumption does not apply in modifications or other certain instances. The other alternative is for the primary custodian to be called a “Sole Managing Conservator” and the visiting parent to be called a “Possessory Conservator”.
Joint managing conservatorship is often misunderstood. It unfortunately does not necessarily mean that the court divides custody/possession of the children literally equally, with no child support being paid. Usually, although I don’t agree with this, the court decides that one parent has “primary” possession of the child and has the right to establish the child’s residence while the other parent has visitation rights and is ordered to pay child support. Other parental decision making powers are allocated. See Texas Family Code section 153.132, for example.
While “joint custody” does not automatically mean exactly equal possession of the child with neither side paying child support will be awarded by the Court, this equal custody arrangement can and often does occur in settlement of contested custody cases. Also, if you go to trial, the judge can and sometimes does order that kind of arrangement if the court finds both parents live in close proximity to each other, can cooperate, have both been closely involved in the child’s life and neither has any bad facts about them. Some judges will do this, others won’t. This is where having a lawyer experienced enough to know the judge’s inclinations is important.
Texas courts make custody decisions on the legal and physical custody of a child based on the child’s “best interests,” which includes the scrutiny of all the pertinent facts and circumstances in the case.
Should I Settle My Case Out of Court? and What is Mediation or Collaborative Law?
Settlement should remain an option. But, it is not the only option and often times not the best option. You and your attorney must evaluate your case, compare what is being offered to what you think you could achieve in court, and factor in the costs of trial, the emotional considerations and everything else. If you decide you want to settle, mediation is the usual and best method of getting the case settled. It is a controlled settlement conference. The parties and their attorneys go to the mediator’s office and try to negotiate a settlement with the assistance of a mediator. If a settlement is not reached, the mediator only may report that the case did not settle. If an agreement is reached, it is written and signed. After it is signed, it is generally considered to be irrevocable. (Most other agreements, even those in writing, are revocable.)
Will you go to mediation? Very likely. Many family law judges require the parties to attend mediation before the case will be permitted to proceed to trial. Even when it is not required, the parties will usually attend mediation because it is typically the best vehicle for settlement and the most binding type of agreement the parties can make. Whether you settle, what terms you should settle for, and how the settlement agreement is worded, all require the skill and guidance of an experienced attorney. It can be expensive, but has a high rate of success.
Collaborative Law is an alternative dispute resolution technique developed in Minnesota in the early 90’s and has gained popularity in Texas. However, it is usually only used by more monied clients because it is quite expensive process involved in all the parties and attorneys trying to work together to reach a settlement. The kicker is, however, the Process requires that, in the absence of settlement, the original collaborative lawyers must resign from the case and the parties must each hire another lawyer to proceed to court! I have received the collaborative model training and am able to represent you in the collaborative process if you fee this best suits your needs.
I Already Have an Attorney but am Dissatisfied with Him or Her — Can I Change Attorneys During My Case?
Yes, you are permitted to change attorneys. It is not uncommon for clients to change attorneys during family law cases. I am called upon quite often to come into a case after a client has started with another attorney. If you are dissatisfied with your present counsel or don’t feel like he or she is properly representing you and you have decided to change attorneys, feel free to call. However, use caution. Try not to wait too long and change right before trial. Also, don’t change too often.
(PLEASE NOTE: This is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this is intended or should be construed as a solicitation of a specific attorney’s client.)
How are Visitation and Child Support Handled in Texas?
There are presumptive guidelines for visitation and support, which constitute general rules for the courts to follow. There is a visitation schedule known as the Standard Possession Order, which sets forth the presumptive minimum amount of time for a person named as a joint managing conservator. There are variations, however, in the schedule- make sure you get what is known as “extended” or “expanded” Standard Possession at minimum.
Likewise, there are somewhat standardized child support guidelines so that, generally, child support is rebuttably presumed to be set as a percentage of the obligor’s net income. The percentages vary by the number of children before the court and can be reduced by the number of other children the Obligor has.
It is important to know, however, that there are certain instances where the “presumed” guidelines may or should not be applied. By agreement or court order, the actual visitation or support ordered can deviate from the guidelines under certain circumstances. Examples of reasons to deviate from the percentage child support are supporting children in college, having special or extraordinary medical or other expenses, having to pay travel costs to visit the children, and others.
This is where having competent legal representation can be crucial. Call me for more information.
The Attorney General is After Me for Back Child Support or is Trying to Increase My Child Support? Can You Help?
Yes. I handle “IV-D” Attorney General cases, both in Child Support Review Conferences and in Court proceedings, in all counties. I am very experienced in these matters.
Can the Other Parent or My Spouse Move My Children Out of My Area Without My Permission?
In the absence of a court order restricting the residence of the children to a certain area, yes! That’s why it is usually very important to obtain a geographical restriction on your child’s residence in court. If you request, most courts will order that the other party cannot move your children away from you without the court’s later permission or your written agreement. In other counties, however, some judges feel differently and are not inclined to restrict the child’s residence.
Typically in the DFW area counties, most courts will restrict the residence of the child to the county in which the divorce occurs, plus any county contiguous (i.e., adjacent) to the county of the divorce. However, there are other creative ways to draw the boundaries: sometimes only in the same county as the divorce; sometimes it is a city or group of cities; sometimes it is a school district or group of districts; sometimes it is drawn by highways or roads. Whichever bests suits the needs of the child and the parties can usually be described in the Decree.
This is usually a Judge decided issue. However, you also have the right to put the issue to a jury if you suspect or fear the judge will not rule in your favor. The jury’s verdict is binding on the judge, so even if the Judge were inclined to rule one way, the decision of the jury overrides the judge. I have tried this issue to juries a number of times (and haven’t lost yet). This is one of my favorite areas of law.
Please see me for more information.
I am Not Married to My Child’s Mother but I Signed the ‘Birth Certificate’ at the Hospital When the Child was Born. Do I Owe Child Support or Have Rights of Custody or Visitation?
It will depend on whether you signed a document called “Acknowledgement of Paternity”. Signing that document makes you the legal father of the child, the same as if you were married to the child’s mother, giving you the same legal rights to seek custody or visitation and obliging you to support the child financially.
If you did NOT sign the AOP, you still may file a suit in court to establish your legal rights to the child. Or, even if you don’t, the mother may do so and may also ask the Attorney General of Texas to file against you for child support. You have the right to require genetic testing to make sure the child is really yours. You should request the testing unless you are absolutely certain you are the biological father!
There is also a time limitation on certain paternity actions which may apply in your case. Please call me for more information and let me assist you.
How is Property Divided in a Divorce?
Texas is a community property state. The judge in a divorce case has the discretion to divide the community property in a manner that the judge deems “just and right.” This usually means that the Judge starts out with the presumption that the community estate will be divided equally. However, in certain cases, depending on certain factors such as fault in the break up of the marriage or disparity in earning capacity of the parties, the judge, in his or her discretion, may divide the property in a disproportionate manner.
Also, the Court may not take away a spouse’s separate property and award it to the other spouse. Separate property consists generally of property owned or acquired by a party before the marriage and property received during the marriage by gift or inheritance.
The rules concerning characterization, valuation and division of property are actually quite complex and are the product of many years of case law as opposed to being set out in the Texas Family Code. This is why you really need to have an excellent attorney on your side.