HELP! I NEED A LAWYER!

Helpful Tips and Finding and Hiring a Lawyer: A Richard T. Sutherland Podcast

In this podcast with attorney Richard Sutherland in Wichita Falls, Texas answers the questions most people ask about how to go about finding a lawyer. This blog article serves as a summary of key points. Anyone who needs a lawyer should listen to this podcast and learn the questions and answers about the process of finding a lawyer, meeting with them for a consultation and about elements of the attorney-client relationship.

Listen to Richard T. Sutherland’s Podcast About How to Find and Hire a Lawyer
HELP! I NEED A LAWYER! Helpful Tips in Finding and Hiring a Lawyer
HELP! I NEED A LAWYER! Helpful Tips in Finding and Hiring a Lawyer

Common Questions and Issues in Finding and Hiring a Lawyer for Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, and Modifications.

If you needed to hire a lawyer, how would you go about it?

Financial professionals such as CPAs are also good sources to finding lawyers. They might give you a referral to call a lawyer they know, like and trust. If the lawyer, you call works in a different area of law practice they can make a recommendation and give you the name and number for a lawyer who can help you.

What if no one you know has hired a lawyer or they didn’t like the person they hired?  

One way to find a lawyer is to ask family and friends if they know any lawyers and find out what their thoughts were about the person they hired.

Many people search the Internet and find an attorney in Google search results. If you are looking for a lawyer in a specific practice area you can search that way, for example, “divorce lawyer Wichita County” or more specifically for divorce, child support, child custody or adoption.

You can also use some attorney specific sites such as Lawyers.com or Martindale Avvo where you can find attorneys who are rated by their peers. For example, an AV rated lawyer is deemed to have the highest legal ability and ethical qualifications. Simply search in the filed of law you need a lawyer and where.

What if the attorney I found doesn’t have any recommendations by former clients or has been given poor recommendations, should I avoid that lawyer?

Unfortunately, poor online reviews of lawyers may be a result of a disgruntled client who failed to achieve what may have been a completely unrealistic goal. Worse, it may be a review by the spouse of the lawyer’s client who didn’t like the result and blames his or her spouse’s lawyer for the outcome. Worse yet, the negative review may be placed by the other lawyer.

Note that a lawyer cannot use their client’s name for a review without the client’s express permissions since the lawyer is ethically required to keep the client’s identity confidential.

Are all initial consultations free?

No, all initial consultations are not free and there are reasons why. A lawyer’s advice, as another famous attorney, Abraham Lincoln once observed, is their stock and trade. Giving their trade away for free makes no sense. Lawyer’s advice has value. In a consultation, when the client gives the lawyer confidential information, the lawyer is disqualified from representing anyone ese in their case. So, if the husband has a consultation, lawyer is disqualified from talking to the wife because of the attorney client privilege with the husband.

Unfortunately, there is a common practice by some lawyers, encouraging clients to go and speak with other lawyers to disqualify them from being hired by the other party to the divorce. Some call this an “X out.” So, if husband hires a lawyer and is worried the other lawyers in town might represent wife, they might encourage husband to go talk to the competition law firms so they can’t represent his wife.

Consultations have value. Some lawyers provide a minimum period of free advice such as 30 minutes or less for consultation and other lawyers agree they won’t charge a fee unless the person doesn’t hire them. If the lawyer is hired, the consultation will be charged since the lawyer obtained information necessary to represent the client.

How do I know whether I am going to be charged?

Ask the lawyer when you make the consultation appointment.

I don’t think it’s fair for the lawyer to charge me when all I did was ask him questions.

Lawyers provide legal advice, most often in the form of answers to questions. As you expect to pay a doctor for their advice, you should appreciate paying a lawyer for theirs as well.

What should I expect when I meet a new lawyer?

Prepare a list of questions. You should be comfortable talking to the lawyer about your questions and receiving their response and advice. The lawyer may describe the substance and procedure involved in their situation. If you do not understand, always ask for clarification.

There are no guarantees about the outcome of any case, and you should beware of anyone who claims they can guarantee an outcome. Your lawyer should explain fee and billing practices, so you understand what to expect when you receive a bill for attorney’s fees and costs.

What is a retainer?

A retainer is an amount of money determined by the lawyer as a deposit against costs and fees. There is no a standard retainer and every lawyer may determine their retainer agreement with a client. Filing fees, such as the $630.00 filing fee in Wichita County for a restraining order case, can be paid from the retainer.

As the lawyer works on your case and tracks their time, they apply the hours they work against an hourly rate and bill your retainer. The retainer may need replenishment as the case continues. No lawyer or client knows how long a case will take or what it may cost since there are so many things that can happen.

What is a non-refundable retainer?

Non-refundable retainers are fees paid in advance to secure a lawyer’s services and compensate them for the loss of opportunity to accept other employment. Listen to this podcast and learn why the better rule for practice for family law attorneys is to avoid having non-refundable retainers, for reasons including ethics and professional conduct rules.  

I don’t really have a lot of money to hire an attorney, could he represent me on a contingent fee basis?

No, contingent fees are not allowed in divorce and family law matters. It is prohibited. Richard T. Sutherland explains the unique conflict and conflict of interest between a lawyer and client if contingent fees were to be allowed in family law matters such as custody and adoption.

Can my attorney refuse to release my file to me if I haven’t completely paid him?

No, they cannot hold your file hostage for payment. Doing so may result in damage or prejudice to your rights, prohibited by Texas rules of conduct for lawyers.

I want my mother, father, sister, brother, best friend or someone to come with me when I first consult with an attorney, is that permissible?

Yes, it is common. First the attorney must explain the attorney-client privilege, that it belongs to the client, not the attorney. Richard T. Sutherland routinely explains attorney-client privilege issues and situations to clients who can make an informed decision whether to allow another to be present during their consultation and why they may be exposed to potential danger. Listen to him explain on the podcast.

Are all conversations between an attorney and a client legally protected?

No. If the client were to tell the lawyer that the client intends to engage in criminal behavior after leaving the lawyer’s office, the lawyer is required to report to law enforcement the client’s intent to commit a crime.

There are other times a lawyer must report the abuse or neglect of a child or indecency with a child. Also, changes in testimony can result in the client withdrawing from the case in open court if the client has told the attorney about some act or event and when testifying in court and denying the act or event occurred.

What if I want to change attorneys? How do I do that?

Write your attorney a letter letting him or her know he or she is discharged immediately as your attorney. If you hired someone new, as the new attorney to prepare a motion to substitute counsel and an order of substitution and to send the motion and order to your former attorney for signature. Your former attorney should be given a reasonable amount of time to copy your file before returning original documents to you which must include his notes.

Do I even need an Attorney? Can’t I just get some forms from the Internet and represent myself?

You are not required to have an attorney in Texas. If your case is going to court, you should be familiar not only with the Texas Family Code but also with the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure and the Texas Rules of Evidence. There is not a separate set of rules and procedures for people who represent themselves and no one at the courthouse can give you legal advice.

In this podcast, Richard T. Sutherland explains in detail the pitfalls of trying to do your own divorce using information and forms you find on the Internet.

If you say “Help! I need a lawyer!”, call The Law Office of Richard T. Sutherland at (940) 691-2100.

Located in Wichita Falls, Richard T. Sutherland is an experienced divorce and family lawyer for divorce, child custody, adoption and other marriage and divorce matters. Contact him from the website or call the office at (940) 691-2100. Richard T. Sutherland represents people and families in Wichita County, Archer County, Baylor County, Clay County, Foard County, Hardeman County, Jack County, Montague County, Wise County, Young County and Wilbarger Counties in North Texas and has accepted cases in other areas West, North-Central and in South Texas.

High-Stakes Divorce in Wichita Falls, Texas

What Do We Mean When Talking About High-Stakes Divorce in Wichita Falls, Texas?

A high-stakes divorce, child custody or family law matter is one requiring experienced, aggressive and detailed legal counsel and representation. In Wichita Falls, families with high-conflict and high-net-worth concerns are best represented by a divorce and child custody lawyer who thinks outside the box and uses years of experience to their advantage. Maintaining privacy and dignity in divorce and custody cases is also important when sensitive issues become the focus of negotiation and litigation.

The issues involved in a high-stakes divorce can be issues of money as well as custody and parenting. Every custody case is unique as is every family. While determining child support can be straight forward, making decisions in the best interest of the child is not always so easy.

Especially when there are unique family circumstances and dynamics involved, high-conflict custody cases require a seasoned family law attorney with the experience to successfully strategize and navigate a challenging case. A well-experienced divorce and family law attorney, Richard T. Sutherland, is an asset in a serious custody case and high-stakes divorce in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Use this link for podcast summaries for a variety of divorce and family law topics explained by Richard T. Sutherland in Wichita Falls, Texas.

High-Stakes Divorce in Wichita Falls
For High-Stakes Divorce in Wichita Falls, Texas, Call Richard T. Sutherland (940) 691-2100

Complex Income and Assets in High-Stakes Divorce and Custody Cases

When you divorce in Texas the assets acquired during the marriage are community property to be divided based on what is just and equitable. There are many factors affecting property distribution and how property is characterized as community property or separate property which was owned or claimed by one spouse before the marriage or was acquired by gift, devise or descent.

Meanwhile, separate property, not subject to division in a Texas divorce also includes a spouse’s recovery from a personal injury award, except for recovery for loss of earning. Determining what is separate property and what is community property can be complex and involve serious conflict and is certainly considered a high-Stakes divorce. Listen to our podcast, Community and Separate Property in Texas for additional details.

Issues involving complicated income and assets also affect how income and net resources are determined for purposes of child support and for spousal maintenance if it applies. Many people have variable income, own business and have other unique income. It is important to use an experienced high-stakes divorce attorney who knows how to address unique income and assets.

Business Ownership, Shareholder Agreements and Liability Challenges

There are many family businesses in North and Northwest Texas where large families share ownership of shares in a business and have business assets and liabilities to consider when getting divorced. There can be premarital agreements, postnuptial agreements with duties and obligations affecting the party in a divorce or related family law action involving money.

Consider the setting where your soon to be former spouse is a seated member of a board of trustees for the family business in which you and your spouse both own shares. Buying out your spouse and negotiating their exit from the board can challenging.

The more complicated things are the more there is to win or lose. The experienced high-stakes family lawyer has seen a few challenges in their years of practice and has an important grasp on what it takes to make sure they have all the facts, use the best business professionals and anticipate tax strategies people may have, all to avoid negative consequences of important decisions.  

You may also enjoy this Forbes article, 5 Crucial Steps to Make Your Divorce Less Painful.

A High-Stakes Custody Lawyer in Wichita Falls Who Does Not Back Down Easily

Children only get one chance to grow up right and be ready for a successful transition to early adulthood and their best interests must always come first. Issues regarding children involve parents having rights and duties to make decisions for them, and determine where they reside, go to school and church and more. Medical and mental health issues can also be issues of conflict between parents who do not agree. When parents cannot or will not come to a unique settlement agreement on custody issues, these decisions will be made in Court. Judges prefer parties to come to their own agreements, and while one might not like the other parent’s offer, the judge or jury decisions could be less appealing.

Richard T. Sutherland explains Texas child custody and conservatorship

In Texas we call custody, conservatorship and visitation refers to periods of possession or access to the child. While many co-parents are appointed as joint managing conservators, cases involving family violence and child abuse affect conservatorship and can result in one parent being named sole managing conservator and the other a possessory conservator. These are high-stakes child custody issues.

The determination of which person or parent has the right to exclusively determine the primary residence of a child is a contested issue that is the center of many custody trials before a judge and/or a jury. A trial on this issue alone can involve several witnesses, experts and evidence.

For Every Divorce, Modification, Enforcement or Custody Matter, Be Ready for Conflict and Surprises

When a couple decides to divorce, or the divorce become inevitable, they may start the process with the intention of being agreeable on several divorce and custody issues. As cases are ongoing during the process of exchanging discovery and participating in a temporary orders hearing, things can break down.

When agreements break down and conflict grows, it is important to have the advice, counsel and representation of a divorce lawyer with strategy experience. When it gets to the point two people cannot agree on the color of the sky, they rely on their lawyer to help them through the process and help them know their bottom line.

When there is so much to lose, getting it done right is important. When children are involved, their best interests must be the top priority in Wichita Falls family law.

Call Richard T. Sutherland at (940) 691-2100 for your consultation for high-stakes divorce in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Richard T. Sutherland represents people and families in Wichita County, Archer County, Baylor County, Clay County, Foard County, Hardeman County, Jack County, Montague County, Wise County, Young County and Wilbarger Counties in North Texas and has accepted cases in other areas West, North-Central and in South Texas.

Divorce, Modifications and Enforcement Cases in 2019

Why People File Divorce, Modifications and Enforcement Cases after the New Year

Families look forward to the holidays and couples in challenging marriages and co-parenting situations hope for the best. While being optimistic that the holidays will bring out the best in people, too often they are reminded why they are having conflict in their marriage or with the other parent of their children.

Because Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are so important to children, many parents who know their marriage is on rocky ground, chose to put conflict aside. Many people who were thinking about a divorce, child custody modification or case for the enforcement of court orders are ready to move forward after the holidays and when the kids are back in school.

Divorce Modifications and Enforcements
For Divorce, Modifications and Enforcement Cases, Call Attorney Richard T. Sutherland in Wichita Falls, Texas at (940) 691-2100.

Family Violence and Protective Orders

Family violence, drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse and spousal abuse are serious matters. People who don’t leave dangerous marriages and relationships put themselves and their children at increased risk.

The first move when getting out of harm can be a protective order. Your divorce lawyer can help you obtain a protective order on an emergency basis when warranted. If the other party, the respondent, violates the terms of the protective order, they can be arrested and jailed. Protective orders are serious business and should only be used when necessary to protect family members from the threat of or continued harm.

What to Look for When Searching for a Divorce and Family Lawyer

When divorce is inevitable, and the marriage is broken, it is important to be well-prepared. It is important to hire a divorce lawyer focused on divorce and family law issues, an experienced trial attorney with the experience and strategy to produce results.

Whether the matter is a new divorce, modification or enforcement suit, an experienced family law attorney will create a unique strategy in the best interests of the family and children involved. Richard T. Sutherland is a seasoned Wichita Falls divorce lawyer with a career of leadership among divorce and family lawyers in Texas.

Our website offers a growing library of blog articles and podcasts. Listen to attorney Richard T. Sutherland and learn the elements of a variety of divorce, custody and family law topics in Texas.

First Steps When Filing for Divorce in Wichita Falls

There are resources online including the content on this website to help people learn about divorce and what to expect. When someone knows they are ready to start the process and file, they must be ready to move forward. Hiring a divorce lawyer they can trust is important.

Divorce attorneys like Richard T. Sutherland appreciate that divorces can be difficult and emotional. They are accustomed to seeing good people going through rough situations.

It is important to be organized and give your divorce lawyer the information they need to create the best negotiation and litigation strategy to help you and your family.

Being Prepared for Custody Modification Cases

Custody modifications are original suits filed to change the terms and conditions of a court’s temporary or final orders regarding conservatorship and possession or access to a child. When modifications are filed within one year of the last order regarding conservatorship or possession or access, there are several factors that can be alleged to demonstrate that it is in the best interests of a child to make a modification to the custody orders.

In cases including family violence and child abuse, the court may presume a material and substantial change in circumstances required to modify the rights and duties of persons or parents having conservatorship and possession or access to the child. For example, an order naming both parents as joint conservators can change to one parent being the sole conservator. The terms and conditions of possession and access can also be restructured.  

Exclusive rights to determine the residence of the child may also be modified based on grounds and factors for modifications including the above, as well as economic situations, such as a new job requiring a parent to relocate.

Enforcing Possession or Child Support Orders

As children grow older their needs change. As parents pursue new relationships, dynamics change. Sometimes what worked well for years becomes a conflict. When possession schedules become a problem and conflict increases it can become necessary to file an enforcement suit, seeking the court’s intervention in high conflict situations. The court can find people in contempt. They court can also order additional periods of possession or access to make up for an interference with possession or access.

Failure to pay child support also leads to enforcement cases. When a child support obligor changes jobs, loses a job or has a change in employment generally, child support payments can be interrupted. Issues with child support payments and arrearages can be resolved out of court, or a new enforcement case can be filed with the court and served on the non-compliant child support obligor.

Richard T. Sutherland is a Wichita Falls Divorce and Family Lawyer for Divorce, Modifications and Enforcement Cases

In the new year and after the dust has settled, or at any time of year, things can change for people and their families and a divorce, modification or enforcement case is necessary. Richard T. Sutherland is a well-experienced divorce and family lawyer in Wichita Falls, Texas and he has a career’s worth of experience negotiating and litigating cases requiring everything from out of court agreements to significant trials before a judge or jury. He is licensed to practice law in Texas, not Oklahoma.

For a consultation for divorce, custody modification or enforcement of possession or child support, contact us online or call the Law Office of Richard T. Sutherland in Wichita Falls, Texas at (940) 691-2100.

Richard T. Sutherland represents people and families in Wichita County, Archer County, Baylor County, Clay County, Foard County, Hardeman County, Jack County, Montague County, Wise County, Young County and Wilbarger Counties in North Texas and has accepted cases in other areas West, North-Central and in South Texas.

Enforcing Child Support in Texas

Enforcing Child Support in Texas
Enforcing Child Support in Texas. Need help? Call Attorney Richard T. Sutherland in Wichita Falls by dialing (940) 691-2100.

Establishing Child Support and Enforcing the Order

When parents divorce and have children, the court will determine and order monthly child support. Child support is also ordered when the parties are not married but paternity is established. Child support is usually set by state statute based on the net resource income of the parent ordered to pay support. The customary practice once child support is determined is to prepare a child support withholding order which is sent to the employer of the child support payer so that the child support money is withheld for distribution to the parent receiving the child support on behalf of the child.

Please listen to our Wichita Falls Family Law Podcast episode: Child Support Calculations in Texas. Attorney Richard T. Sutherland continues building a library of podcast interview content to help parents understand Texas divorce and family law issues including child support.                                                                                                                              

Enforcing a child support order is necessary when the parent responsible for paying, stops making payments. There could be several reasons child support is not being paid. The child support payor might have lost their job or there was a change in employment that caused the withholding process to fail.

Why Would a Parent Stop Paying Child Support?

There are many reasons a parent would stop paying child support. They may think they are above the law. They might believe that the other parent has enough money and does not need support. They might also believe that their personal needs are more important than complying with the court’s order to pay child support.

In high-net-worth divorces the income of the party ordered to pay might exceed the maximum guideline amount of child support to be ordered. To learn more, read our article about High-Net-Worth Divorce.

The parent with significant resources who may not need regular employment cannot simply refuse to work and use their voluntary unemployment as an excuse not to pay their child support obligation.

Parents Not Paying Child Support Say They Are Not Working

When a parent responsible for paying child support loses their job there is no paycheck from which to deduct child support payments. Too often there are people who either elect not to get a new job, or they hide where they are working from the other parent and their attorney who may be trying to enforce the child support order. There are also situations where a parent responsible for paying child support is working for cash that is not reported or withheld from pay.

Refusing to work is not a justifiable excuse to not pay child support. Where the parent can work and is not otherwise physically or mentally impaired, they must seek work to pay support.

Enforcing Child Support in Court

The court ordering the payment of child support retains jurisdiction to summon the non-paying parent to answer as to why they should not be held in contempt of court. There could be a simple reason that support was not being paid, such as an issue with the wage withholding order.

State of Texas Enforcing Child Support

Another way to enforce a child support order is to rely on the State of Texas Attorney General to enforce the support order through it’s Child Support Division (CSD). The CSD uses state resources to collect child support. The state has a long list of options it can use to collect unpaid support, including working with other states is the parent ordered to pay has moved outside of Texas.

Contempt Proceedings for Enforcing Child Support

A contempt proceeding can be initiated, seeking to find the child support obligor in contempt of court for failure to pay child support as ordered. Any other failures to comply with court orders can be including in the contempt proceeding.

The party failing to pay child support can be summoned to appear in court and address the judge, explaining why they are not in compliance with the child support order and why they are not making payments. Judges have discretion in penalizing a parent for failure to pay support and for refusal to comply with the court’s order.

The Court Can Put a Parent in Jail for Not Paying Child Support

If the court finds a parent in contempt of court for failure to pay child support, the judge has several options:

  1. Order the party in contempt to be jailed in the county jail for up to six months for every violation of the court’s orders;
  2. Order the party in contempt to pay a fine up to $500 for each violation of the court’s orders;
  3. Order the party in contempt to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees and court costs; or
  4. Place the party in contempt on community supervision and require them to comply with all the terms of a community supervision order.

There are additional remedies to recover unpaid child support including placing liens on personal property and real estate and foreclosing on the lien. The parent seeking unpaid support can also obtain a money judgment and wage withholding order to be sent to an employer.

In Texas, child support amounts more than 3 months past due can trigger a driver license suspension by the State of Texas. Professional licenses may also be suspended, as well as fishing and hunting licenses when child support is not paid.

About Richard T. Sutherland, Attorney at Law for Enforcing Child Support in Texas

Richard T. Sutherland is an experienced divorce and family law attorney in Wichita Falls, Texas with over 40 years of experience. Mr. Sutherland negotiates and litigates divorce, custody and child support matters. Call the Law Office of Richard T. Sutherland if you need help enforcing child support in Texas. Contact the firm online or call (940) 691-2100 to schedule a consultation and learn your rights and options.

Richard T. Sutherland represents people and families in Wichita County, Archer County, Baylor County, Clay County, Foard County, Hardeman County, Jack County, Montague County, Wise County, Young County and Wilbarger Counties in North Texas and has accepted cases in other areas West, North-Central and in South Texas.