Divorce Over 50: Tips to Protect Yourself

Divorce Over 50 and Financial Security Issues

As we grow older, our priorities and focus can change and so can our marriage. Over 50, we are looking more closely at setting ourselves up for our retirement years. Younger couples divorcing have much more time to save for the future and have more earning years ahead.

When preparing for divorce, you and your lawyer will review all of the financial information and create an inventory of all your assets and debts. This process can seem daunting but is quite manageable when you work with an experienced divorce lawyer used to representing people and families with large estates, and complex assets and debts.

In many cases where there are business interests and investments, one of the spouses might know or have access to more information. There are plenty of ways your divorce lawyer will help you through the process of discovering all the right information to get a full picture of your finances for purposes of divorce.

Divorce Over 50

Richard T. Sutherland is an experienced complex and high-net-worth divorce lawyer Wichita County families have trusted for many years. Contact the Law Office of Richard T. Sutherland in Wichita Falls, Texas at (940) 691-2100.

Keeping the House or Letting it Go

When we work diligently to pay off our house we consider a paid-off home to be an asset to be considered in our retirement plans. Even if the home is close to being paid off, there are expenses in maintaining a home and paying the insurance and taxes. Based on our long we plan to stay in the home after the divorce, we can look at how much it is going to cost and what is best long-term.

If the house is the primary asset involved, the ability to access available cash may be an issue. For example, if one has unexpected expenses but all their money is tied up in the equity in a home, accessing that money could come at a cost.

A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst is one of several valuable professionals who can help anyone getting a divorce over 50 figure out the best among a variety of options to save money, preserve wealth, and pay for expenses into retirement years.

Anticipating Your Future Expenses

Especially for the spouse who does not manage household budgets and expenses, it can be challenging figuring out what your living expenses will be after the divorce. From basic living expenses to maintain a mortgage and property, you must be prepared for covering expenses without the income to which you may be accustomed.

Healthcare and health insurance are important expenses for people getting a divorce over 50. In addition, you may face tax consequences depending on how you settle the community estate and receive your share.

Knowing the What You Owe

Complex divorces may involve financial surprises. For example, valuable shares and assets in businesses could be encumbered by significant debts owed and other issues with capital contributions. People and families with significant assets who want to divorce over 50 in the Wichita Falls, Texas area are frequently referred to Attorney Richard T. Sutherland because he has decades of experience not only in high stakes divorce but also in complex business transactions and litigations.

When you work with Richard T. Sutherland, you can appreciate that your divorce lawyer knows how to look for the right information and knows the right procedures to find all your assets and debts before you start to make agreements about apportioning and dividing community estates.

Maintaining Proper Health Insurance Coverages

Getting a divorce over 50 can be a challenge when estimating healthcare and health insurance issues in the future and into retirement years. Ideally, before filing for a divorce, it is a good idea to get a full health and physical outlook from your doctor and any specialists you see. The more you can forecast your future needs, the better you and your “silver divorce” lawyer can help you prepare for your future. For example, if it is an option, you might negotiate an agreement in which your future healthcare needs are a focus.

Managing Retirement Accounts and Rolling Over IRAs

Retirement accounts, like other investments, are evaluated for division in a divorce. IRAs are governed under their own laws regarding funding and withdrawal. To protect retirement account assets in divorce a qualified domestic relations order is used to avoid withdrawal penalties during a post-divorce rollover. If there are pensions involved, those must be handled using proper procedures similar to IRAs.

The IRS website offers additional information: Retirement Topics – QDRO – Qualified Domestic Relations Order.

Wichita County Divorce Lawyer, Richard T. Sutherland is Available to Help with Your Divorce Over 50

Experience matters in high-net-worth divorces involving complicated assets, debts, and budgets for future living expenses into retirement years. For trusted counsel and representation upon which you can rely, please make contact online, or call the Law Office of Richard T. Sutherland in Wichita Falls, Texas at (940) 691-2100.

Wichita County Custody lawyer 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.

 

Rights and Responsibilities of Joint Managing Conservators in Texas

Rights and Responsibilities of Joint Managing Conservators in Texas

Texas courts apply a legal presumption that both parents should be appointed as joint managing conservators. Conservatorship is what most people would think of as child custody and their custodial rights as parents. In Texas, when two parents get divorced the court determines their parental rights by appointing one or both parents as joint managing conservators. Note that conservatorship appointments also take place among non-married parents in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship.

The law presumes that both parents should be appointed as joint managing conservators with equal parenting rights. However, the judge can make orders about specific rights and duties. The judge may also make orders regarding restricted parenting time which is called possession and access, in Texas.

In cases involving family violence, domestic violence and other factors that could affect the best interests of a child, the judge can appoint one parent as the sole managing conservator, having certain exclusive rights and responsibilities while the other parent gets periods of possession with the child. During those periods of possession, that non-primary parent still has certain rights and duties during their possession, unless otherwise restricted by the judge.

Joint managing conservators

Listen to Richard T. Sutherland’s Texas Child Custody and Conservatorship podcast to learn about the issues involved in conservatorship and the rights and duties of parents in Texas.

Please visit Wichita County divorce lawyer Richard T. Sutherland’s blog for a library of articles about all kinds of Texas divorce and family law issues.  

The Standard Rights and Duties of a Parent Appointed as a Conservator of a Child

Parents appointed as joint managing conservators possess their rights and responsibilities as parents at all times, not only when the child is physical with them, in their possession. These rights are about access to and information sharing as well as rights about decision making. Information and decisions about a child and the child’s best interests involve health, education, general welfare, medical, dental, and psychological needs and development.

However, the rights of the parent who is not appointed as a conservator, the parent who only has periods of possession, may only assert those rights when the child is present with that parent. Those rights are duties are about the care, control, protection and reasonable discipline of the child. In addition, that parent has a duty to support the child and provide clothing, food, shelter, medical, and dental care when during possession and access. They also have rights to consent for basic medical and dental care and to direct the moral and religious training of the child, when in their possession.

Both Parents Exercising Rights and Responsibilities as Joint Managing Conservators

After a divorce or suit affecting a parent-child relationship, parents must work together as co-parents, and they should be focused on the best interests of each child. Unless limited by court order, a parent appointed as a conservator of a child at all times have the named parental rights and responsibilities. Being a good co-parent means working well with the other parent by sharing information and conferring with the other on decisions affecting the child.

You might like this HuffPost article, 10 Real-Life Tips for Successful Co-Parenting

A Child’s Health, Education, and Welfare

A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the right to receive information from the other conservator of the child concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child. It can lead to problems when one conservator withholds information about health, education, and the child’s welfare. When the other parent has a right to information, sharing that information is good for the child. If there is a problem, your attorney can ask the court to intervene.

A Child’s Medical, Dental, Psychological, and Educational Records

A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the right to confer with the other parent before making a decision concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child. Discuss these decisions with the other conservator parent. Both conservators should work together to avoid conflict.

Consulting with the Child’s Physician, Dentist, or Psychologist

A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the right to access medical, dental, psychological, and educational records for the child. When access to records is denied or withheld, the conservator parent cannot exercise their parental rights and responsibilities.

Consulting with School Officials about Education, Welfare, and School Activities

A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the right to consult with the officials with information about the child’s education, welfare, and school activities. A conservator parent has the right to know how their child is doing at school and in what activities they participate, such as extramural sports.

Know what your child is up to at school. Consider tips in this article, 4 Ways to Interact with Your Kids After School.

Attending School Activities

A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has a right to attend school activities such as parent-teacher conferences, school plays, sporting events, and other events. If one conservator stands in the way of the other, preventing them from attending school activities, there can be conflict leading the parties back to court.

Being the Child’s Emergency Contact to be Notified

A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the right to designated on the school records as the person who has a right to be notified in the case of an emergency. It should be possible for both conservators to be designated as emergency contacts. Parents have the right to know if their child is involved in an emergency.

Consenting to Medical, Dental, and Surgical Treatment in Emergencies

A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has a right to consent to healthcare professionals to engage in medical, dental, and surgical treatments when there is an emergency causing an immediate danger to the health and safety of the child.

Managing a Child’s Estate Created by the Parent or Parent’s Family

A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the right to manage a child’s estate, for the reasonable needs of the child, as set forth in any agreements such as a trust. The conservator parent can make an appropriate management decision in the child’s best interests.

The Standard Rights and Duties of the Non-Primary Parent During Periods of Possession

The conservator with periods of possession and access with the child can exercise certain rights and meet duties to the child. These rights and duties apply during the times that the non-primary parent is with the child during the set periods of possession and access. First, they have the duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child. While with the child they also have the duty to support the child with clothing, food, shelter, medical, and dental care. In providing for the child’s needs and best interests, the conservator parent during periods of possession has the right to consent for medical and dental care not involving serious invasive procedures. As well that parent can direct the child’s moral and religious training.

What Happens When Conservator Parents Exceed or Interfere with the Rights and Responsibilities of Joint Managing Conservators?

While co-parenting and exercising parental rights and duties, even the best efforts of good joint managing conservators can lead to enforcements and suits for modifications of the Court’s order regarding conservatorship, and possession and access. For example, when one party remarries there can be new conflict about decisions involving the child. Decisions about schooling, vaccinations, religious choices, and more, can lead to a trip back to court.

An experienced Texas divorce lawyer can help parents in conflict. Resolving problems with parental rights and duties is possible outside of court. Mediation is one alternative dispute resolution option other than filing an enforcement or modification suit. When mediation doesn’t work, and when the best interests of the child are at issue and in jeopardy, you need a tough and aggressive lawyer to negotiate and litigate your enforcement or modification suit.

Richard T. Sutherland is a Wichita County Divorce Lawyer for Children’s Issues and the Rights and Responsibilities of Joint Managing Conservators (940) 691-2100

Wichita Falls Family Law Attorney 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. Contact us today for a consultation.

Richard T. Sutherland can advise and represent parents with issues regarding the rights and responsibilities of joint managing conservators including new divorces, suits affecting the parent-child relationships among non-married parents, as well as the enforcement and modification suits.

Taking the Sting Out of Divorce

Taking the Sting Out of Divorce

A Divorce is a Significant Life Event 

What are the first five words that come to your mind when you hear the word divorce? Most of us think first of our own divorce if we had one. We think about our family and friends’ divorces. Maybe we remember being worried about divorce and what would happen to the kids, family, and friends. Any way you cut it, a divorce actively dissolves a nuclear family in two.

Taking the sting out of divorce

Richard T. Sutherland is an experienced Texas divorce lawyer who meets good people at one of their worst times in life. He knows that people feel victimized, failed, angry and uncertain of their future.

Listen to Richard T. Sutherland explain a variety of topics in the podcast section of our website.

Often a newly divorcing couple say they are going to agree to work together to split property and child-raising responsibilities. But for various reasons, things that start peacefully can blow up into intense arguments and battles. Anyone going through major life stress can react differently than normal.

There are several ways to approach a divorce and child custody or child support case so that you are prepared for what may happen. Remember that the anticipation of the next step is often worse than taking it.

Tips for Taking the Sting Out of Divorce:

1. Being Mentally Prepared 

Like every family is different, so is every divorce case. Being mentally prepared for divorce requires being ready for whatever may happen. For example, your husband or wife might have told you the retirement accounts were worth significantly more. Are you prepared for finding out during the discovery process that they have been pulling money out without your knowledge?

When we look at our expectations in life and divorce, hypothetical questions may come up. Taking the sting out of divorce means being mentally prepared for whatever happens, even if it is shocking. In another example, how do you handle someone who was a mutual friend who is siding with your ex in a custody battle?

Because we recommend hiring the best divorce lawyer, we also suggest preparing to handle some challenging information, decisions, and attitudes from your ex that might shock you. Taking the sting out of a divorce can require armor at times. Know that before you know it, the divorce will be completed and life does continue, with you in the driver’s seat.

2. Hiring the Best Divorce Lawyer 

How do you know whether you need the best divorce lawyer you can find? Do you need to be of wealth and means with complex child custody issues? Certainly not. The experience of the best divorce lawyer you can find matters regardless of how complicated your divorce is.

A good divorce lawyer knows how to navigate challenging aspects of the divorce process and litigation. Meanwhile, a younger and more inexperienced attorney might get beat up in court more often which costs you more money. You want the best divorce lawyer who can win for you the first time at bat.

It is important to hire an experienced lawyer whose law practice is devoted to divorce and family law cases, as opposed to a general practice lawyer. The Texas Family Code is a challenging body of divorce and family laws and it takes many years of experience in and out of the courtroom to be effective for a client.

You might enjoy our blog article focused on high-net-worth divorces in Texas.

3. Remaining Calm and Collected when Communicating with Your Soon to be Ex 

When in doubt, let your ex freak out. A great plan for taking the sting out of divorce is never letting your ex see you sweat. Don’t let them know you are upset. Think of your best poker face and when to wear it. Whether you are communicating with your soon to be former spouse about kids, money, mediation or trial, you cannot let them assert dominance over you.

By remaining calm and collected, you do not let the other person push you around and control how you feel. Be prepared for them to call you names or tell friends or family that you are being cold. Once the dust settles you should be proud you didn’t get pushed around.

4. Organizing Information for Your Divorce Lawyer 

Being organized is great for taking the sting out of divorce. Every divorce is different and every family has different information about money, property, and children. Whether you are the one with the files and access to accounts, the more organized you keep everything, the easier your divorce lawyer can help you. Law offices are busy and lawyers have plenty of deadlines on their different cases. The less time your divorce lawyer and staff must spend organizing your information, the more time they have to represent you and work on the results you want.

5. Mediating Agreeable Property and Children’s Issues 

If you are preparing for mediation, understand the process of getting to the bottom line. If you asked for the RV in the divorce but your ex really wants it, are you prepared to go to war over the RV? If you don’t really care about the RV but want to receive your fair share of its value, mediation might be a place where that can be accomplished without spending time and money figuring that out in court when there are bigger issues at stake. The goal of mediation for property and custody issues is to identify the really important issues that matter the most to you, the ones you are ready to fight for.

6. Representing Well in Court 

Even though you may not feel your best, you can put your best foot forward with a smile on your face. It is helpful when a judge finds you pleasant and not particularly memorable. On the other hand, judges are more likely to remember the people who were overbearing and difficult.

Taking the sting out of divorce means understanding that the judge has seen and heard just about everything already and your situation is not particularly compelling to them. The better everyone lets the process work as it is designed, the better everyone fairs.

7. Creating Your Own New Life After Divorce 

After biting your tongue at the right time and wearing a smile while battling over hot button issues you may need a vacation! When you return, it’s time to start your new life as you want it. If you have children you are going to be a co-parent like some others you may know. If that is the case, remember that at some point everyone’s children turn into adults and graduate from high school to move on in their own lives.

While you are co-parenting, you have the opportunity to do it your way because it is your own life. Of course, you must adhere to the court’s orders and custody arrangement, but at least you won’t be married to that person anymore.

Richard T. Sutherland is an Experienced Texas Divorce Lawyer in Wichita County, Available at (940) 691-2100.

In Wichita Falls, Texas, divorce attorney Richard T. Sutherland is known for his experience in being a compassionate yet aggressive lawyer, especially in the tough cases with complex property and family-owned business interests. When you need to get things done right the first and only time, call Richard T. Sutherland.

Contact Richard T. Sutherland 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. When taking the sting out of divorce matters, call Richard T. Sutherland.

Handling an Angry Ex During a Divorce

Why We Anticipate an Angry Ex During a Divorce

Divorce and child custody cases are very emotional. In even the most amicable divorces, people are upset and might be feeling regret, fear, hurt, and anger. As some people refer to their soon to be former spouse as their “ex” before the divorce is final, we certainly understand that the other party in the divorce has turned from lover to likely enemy. Is there a good way to prepare for divorce without becoming overcome with emotion and turning into the angry ex during a divorce?

Even when divorce starts out somewhat agreeably, things happen and people’s attitudes can change quickly. For example, assume that the husband and wife agree to split the money and properly fairly until someone finds out that their spouse had been lying for years about how much or little money there really was. Now someone is mad and no longer agreeable.

People all need their own time and place to work through the stress of major life events like a divorce or child custody case. Even if the other person eventually becomes a good co-parent and someone with whom you can have a positive relationship, there are best ways to handle an angry ex.

Considering divorce? Consult with Wichita Falls family law attorney, Richard T. Sutherland. Call (940) 691-2100 for a consultation today.

Angry Ex During a Divorce
Nobody Prefers an Angry Ex During a Divorce

Empathizing with an Angry Soon to be Ex-Spouse

How would you feel if the shoe were on the other foot? Maybe your husband or wife cheated on you. You cannot imagine cheating on them, but you can imagine how guilty they must feel. Even if they don’t show their emotions, you know your spouse as well as anyone. If you and your husband or wife are in the middle of a divorce, there may be twists and turns with everyone’s emotions and likely you both want to get through the divorce in one piece.

Especially when there are children involved, remember that an angry ex is someone with shared custody and visitation with your children. Remember empathy, your ability to understand another and their feelings. By focusing on empathy for your ex, you may be able to de-escalate anger.

Communicating with an Angry Ex During a Divorce

You know what pushes one another’s buttons. Don’t do it during a divorce or child custody case. How you chose to communicate can set the tone for how you and your soon to be ex can communicate after the divorce. When your kids are involved, you should want to be able to communicate effectively.

Do not bring up the bad things that happened to you both during your marriage that led up to the divorce. Avoid talking about the new boyfriend or girlfriend you don’t like, it is not going to help anything. Effective communication with an angry ex can be done in writing and limited to what is necessary, such as visitation exchanges and reimbursement for medical expenses, for example.

Our Family Wizard software was specifically designed for co-parents who may not be communicating well one on one. Using this great program you can save information, send messages and much more.

Boundaries Define Your New Relationship with an Angry Ex

Your ex cannot tell you what to do anymore. Set clear boundaries they cannot cross. Let them know, politely if possible, when something is no longer their business, such as your love life. Unless you have a court order to exchange information, you are no longer obligated to share information with someone who is no longer your husband or wife.

Narcissist-types may be good at getting under your skin by commenting on and inserting their opinions on you and everything you do. The smart ones do it by telling things or suggesting them to the children, with the hope they will tell you what they said. Avoid these traps and if necessary, remind your angry ex that there are boundaries they may not cross.

Keep Kids Out of It: Not Acknowledging an Angry Ex During a Divorce

In many divorces with child custody issues, the court orders mothers and fathers to not talk disparagingly about the other in front of the kids. A divorce is stressful on children too and it is important to remind them that both parents love them and they are safe.

Even though you might be playing it cool, your angry ex might act poorly towards you, especially in front of the children. By not taking the bait and responding to taunting, you are showing your children restraint and maturity. Remember empathy and imagine that your angry ex is going to regret their behavior when things get closer to normal.

In-Laws and Angry Exes in Divorces

Not only are you getting a divorce from your soon to be ex, but also their family. All those in-laws you may love or not, are no longer related to you by operation of marriage. However, it is becoming more common to maintain relationships with people you have grown to know, like and trust. It is good for your kids to keep positive relationships with aunts, uncles, and cousins.

But, during the divorce, people may be sensitive and it can be a good idea to keep some safe distance. Especially if you are dealing with an angry ex, there may be negative talk going around the extended family about you and what happened to the marriage. Again, empathy, communication, and boundaries are good things to think about during a divorce or custody case. And if you once had good relationships with in-laws, you certainly may keep them in your life if and when appropriate.

Social Media Pitfalls and Angry Exes

People handle the end of relationships in different ways. A soon to be ex-husband or wife might take to social media to show the world how good they are looking, or they post to appear to hurt and need attention. First and foremost, follow your divorce lawyer’s advice on how to with social media during divorce. Second, be aware that people will be watching you during a divorce.

While people may be legitimately curious about what you are going through and how you are doing, keeping the divorce out of other people’s day is a good idea. Not posting about the divorce on social media is appropriate. Letting people know privately is better.

Meanwhile, your angry ex may be posting pictures of their new love and proclaiming how happy they say they are. Let them do that while you keep it classy and keep the divorce private.

Mental Health Professionals Are a Great Resource when You Have an Angry Ex During a Divorce

Good mental health is important. When a divorce and child custody case is pending, you may be experiencing stress and anxiety. Talk to a mental health professional who can help you feel better about yourself. They may be able to talk about how to deal with an angry ex.

Children also benefit from talking to a mental health professional who can help them understand their feelings and how they fit in with everything going on around them. The underlying feeling of safety and security are important to children. Especially if you have an angry ex who is acting out during a divorce, your kids may really benefit from talking to a safe neutral professional.

You may appreciate this article: The Roles of Mental Health Professionals in Divorce.

Richard T. Sutherland is a Divorce Lawyer Experienced with Angry Exes in Divorce and Child Custody Cases in Texas

Years of experience with all kinds of people and personalities is valuable. In his divorce law practice, attorney Richard T. Sutherland is able to stay steps ahead of your angry ex during a divorce. Knowing what another may be doing makes it easier to anticipate their next moves. Because every divorce is unique, the strategy can be adjusted to accomplish your goals.

Contact Richard T. Sutherland 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.

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.