The Law Office of Jon R. Boyd Answers Your Frequently Asked Questions
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
The Law Office of Jon R. Boyd. Fee Options:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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 972-381-2727. We can help.
What are some ways I can reduce my legal fees if I hire an attorney?
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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?
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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?
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?
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?
(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?
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?
Can the other parent or my spouse move my children out of my area without my permission?
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?
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?
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.
How much child support do I have to pay?
How are contested family law cases decided?
Property division in divorces is to be made by a judge simply “as the Court deems just and right.” What that means to you can vary. Again, the ‘facts’ of your case as presented by your attorney will determine the outcome.
How a judge interprets and applies these legal standards or tests in a given case is entirely up to the judge. Applying these guiding principles to the particular facts of each case, the judges make these critical decisions. Which facts are presented and how they are presented, therefore, become crucial.
Should I get a paternity test?
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?
“Should” you do it, though? As you might imagine, my answer is a resounding “NO”! Would you hop up on an operating table and perform your own surgery after reading about it on the Web? I hope not. Trust me– if you are 19 years old, with no children and no property, then sure, give it a whirl. No harm done, usually. Everyone else, though, should hire an attorney. Just do it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to go back in and try to repair someone’s screwed up divorce decree or other order. You’ll either pay an attorney now or pay an attorney more later. Now is better — for us both
Do I need a Board Certified Family Law Specialist?
I know some attorneys still choose certification. I respect them for the time and effort they put into obtaining certification. However, does that necessarily make them better attorneys? Perhaps, but not necessarily. I’ve successfully handled a large number of family law cases, many against board certified lawyers, and I attend the same continuing legal education seminars as do board certified specialists. I am very experienced and provide excellent representation. And so do some certified attorneys.
On the other hand, while there are excellent board certified attorneys, I have had cases against more than a few certified family law specialists whom I frankly did not feel were particularly effective attorneys, despite their creating more work and charging higher fees. Many attorneys who seek Certification do so because it’s necessary to move up in their firm or because they are more interested in the academic or social side of the law. In sum, board certification can sometimes be, but is not necessarily, a guarantee of better legal representation, but it will almost always be a guarantee of higher fees.
We suggest you interview with us and see for yourself whether we can handle your case. Choose wisely.
Should I hire an attorney? Why shouldn’t I represent myself? Should I just use the forms I can get Online?
Many attorneys don’t seem to want to go to trial. How about you? Will you be willing to fight for me in Court?
However, while settlement has it’s place and should be an option, I believe our judicial system is predicated on the right of citizens to present disagreements and disputes to a neutral third party in a civilized manner and have the dispute resolved. There are simply times when even reasonable people cannot agree, much less people embroiled in all the emotions of broken relationships and concern over their children. I believe in your right to trial. I believe in some cases you should go to trial. That doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. You are entitled to your day in court, if that is what you want. And, I enjoy trial work. so I am more than happy to try your case for you.
I know you’re a trial lawyer. Can you also handle my case if we’ve agreed on everything?
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?
If you are not sure which state is the appropriate forum, call me and I’ll help you find out. Generally, if the case has not been filed or heard in Texas before and no party or a child lives in Texas, I will not be able to help you.
I don’t have time to come see you in person. Can I talk with you and retain you by phone?
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?
I charge a flat fee of $2,500 plus costs for an agreed or default divorce or other family law case in DFW counties. This will include a pre-set bundle of services, such as court time, document preparation, conference time, etc. If the case becomes contested, I offer flat fees for certain segments of the case, e.g., for hearings, mediations, depositions, etc. (See me for details. Please note: $2,500.00 is below most competitors’ prices at this time.)
If you choose to pay an hourly fee, the total will depend. Just as each person is unique, each case is different. Although your case may involve issues we have handled many times before, the actual fees and costs from case to case will vary, depending on numerous factors such as the type of case, the nature and complexity of disputed issues involved, the locale, the quality or tendencies of opposing counsel, the judge’s style of court management, the type and number of witnesses involved in your matter, your personal needs, etc.
Additionally, there often will be court costs, process fees, social study and mental health professional fees, court reporter costs, etc. Once we have had a chance to discuss your case with you, we will usually be able to provide you with an estimate of fees and costs you may have in your matter. To give you an idea, though, you should generally plan on an agreed matter costing a minimum of $3,000.00 and most contested cases usually ranging from $5,000 to $30,000, with some seriously contested or complex cases resulting in a lengthy proceedings and contested final trial costing much more. Some cases have cost over $100,000.00, for example.
I know this is a lot of money. But consider what is at stake: your child’s well being, safety and future and your own well being and future. Hopefully there will only be one time in your life you have an issue of this magnitude. Treat it with the seriousness it deserves and commit to the process.
Also, know that our fees are very competitive with and often less than many, if not most, other attorneys of similar abilities. If your legal issue is important to you and your child, treat it importantly. Be willing to invest the time and money to obtain the result you and your child deserve. Hopefully it will be a “once in a lifetime” type expense, similar to a serious medical emergency.
Do I get to see a bill?
Do you accept credit cards?
What is your favorite divorce movie?
The answer definitely is “INTOLERABLE CRUELTY” with George Clooney, etc., directed by the Coen Bros. Absolutely hilarious (and uncomfortably accurate) lampooning of divorce lawyers, their clients and our judicial system! Let me know what you think.