The case intake procedures for divorce and family law generally begins with an email or a phone call from a prospective client. If the inquiry begins with a phone call, our legal assistant will collect a fair amount of information from the caller. Even when the inquiry begins with an email or a contact form from our website or blog, we will typically need more information for the free initial case review. Once our legal assistants have collected this information, the information will be submitted for review by one of our attorneys.
Like our intake procedures in our other practice areas, a divorce and family law intake process begins with a free initial case review. If, upon reviewing the information provided to us, we determine that it is a case with which we can assist the client, we will provide a very brief phone consultation to explain the process and the costs. This phone consultation is meant to educate the client on the process and costs. It is not to discuss every aspect of the case. Again, it is meant to be a brief conversation with the sole purpose of allowing the client to know if he or she should move forward with our firm and the costs of doing so.
Unlike other areas of the law, such as personal injury, medical malpractice and employment law, where the evaluation process is very strict with many cases turned down because of the financial burden it will place on our firm, divorce and family law is generally focused more on the financial burden that will be placed on the client. Divorce and family law cases can be the most stressful, emotional and expensive cases for clients. The costs and stress are determined in large part by the actions of the parties. High conflict cases, especially those involving child custody, can get extraordinarily expensive. Throw in other issues such as domestic violence, discovery disputes, and general hostility between the parties, and a divorce case can be financially catastrophic to both parties.
Our lawyers charge by the hour in family law cases. If there is a high level of conflict between the parties, the case will likely require a substantial amount of attorney time, which will make the case very expensive. If the parties can work together to resolve their conflicts and the case moves smoothly, the costs will reflect that. Keep in mind that the costs and stress can be driven up by one unreasonable party with the other suffering the financial burden of such behavior. Attorneys have very little control over the other party other than filing motions and getting the bad behavior before the court. Unfortunately, attorney fees and costs are rarely awarded in divorce and family law cases even when one party is clearly being unreasonable or even dishonest.
In short, the evaluation process for a family law case is as much about whether we can assist the prospective client as it is about whether the client can afford the kind of divorce that he or she has ahead. Only the parties can know that and, consequently, the cases can get far more expensive than originally anticipated by our lawyers. Plain and simple, we charge by the hour. Though we do our best to keep costs down, the number of attorney hours ultimately expended on the case is determined by the parties and circumstances.