How do I choose a San Diego family law attorney?
Choosing the right family law attorney is extremely important because your attorney will be responsible for ensuring a client’s rights are protected while giving sound legal advice through the difficult process of family law.
There are five things to remember when choosing a family law attorney:
- The attorney must practice family law and family law only.
- The attorney must have a good reputation within the legal community. Check online to determine if the attorney has been disciplined by the State Bar and has a good reputation among their peers.
- The client must trust and feel comfortable with their attorney, which is set at the initial consultation.
- The attorney must be courteous, respectful and receptive to the clients goals while remaining objective and provide sound legal advice.
- The attorney must never provide guarantees regarding the outcome of a particular case so as to provide reasonable expectations for the client.
What is a retainer?
An advanced fee retainer is a deposit a client pays in advance to reserve the Firm’s time and to pay internal costs required for the litigation. The amount of the retainer depends on the costs, complexity of the case and time involved with litigation. A retainer usually ranges in price between $1,000.00 and $25,000.00 depending on the type of retainer and the litigation involved with the representation.
Cost retainer is used to pay costs such as filing fees, service of process, copying charges, postage, depositions, etc., and usually range between $500.00 and $5000.00 depending on the amount of costs associated with the litigation.
Once any type of retainer is exhausted, the Firm provides a detailed itemized monthly billing statement to all clients whereby clients have the option of paying their bill each month or renewing the exhausted retainers. Upon the setting of trial or evidentiary hearing, clients are required to pay all outstanding fees and renew their retainers for preparation of trial. Upon conclusion of a case and based upon a good payment history, the Firm may offer those client’s with affordable payment plans.
What is a flat fee?
Flat fees are offered for reviewing and/or preparing documents, pleadings or agreements, uncontested divorces, summary dissolution, or the scope of the representation is limited to a specific legal issue such as child custody, visitation, support or drafting a marriage settlement agreement. Flat fees range from $500.00 to $10,000.00 depending on the services to be provided.
What are the differences between a dissolution, legal separation, and annulment?
A dissolution of marriage (divorce) is the total dissolving of a parties’ marriage or domestic partnership. Issues such as custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, division of property, and attorney’s fees are decided by way of settlement agreement or a judge. At the end of a divorce the parties are returned to a single status and may remarry or enter into a domestic partnership.
A legal separation is very similar to a dissolution but the parties remain married or domestic partners and may not legally remarry or enter another domestic partnership. Issues such as custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, division of property and attorney’s fees are decided in either by way of settlement agreement or a judge. There are a few reasons to obtain a legal separation such a religious or cultural reasons or because neither party has been a resident of California for at least six months prior to filing.
An annulment is a judgment declaring the parties were never legally married or in a domestic partnership. The only ways to annul a marriage or domestic partnership include a bigamous marriage or domestic partnership, an incestuous marriage or domestic partnership, being under the age of 18 at the time of marriage or domestic partnership, a prior exiting marriage or domestic partnership of either party, unsound mind of the party or parties, fraud, incapacity or force. After a judgment of annulment is entered, the parties are put back as if they were never married or domestic partners.
How is child support calculated?
Child support is calculated using a Statewide Guideline Formula that is used by all family law attorneys and judges. Once the court makes a finding of a Guideline Child Support, the amount may not be increased or decreased without a very good reason such as a change in incomes or the parenting time with the children. The formula uses information such as the time the parents have with the children, the gross (pre-tax) income of the parties, the tax filing status of the parties and qualified tax deductions.
How is spousal support calculated?
Spousal support is the highest litigated issue in family law because it is based upon several factors and the order is completely up to the judge unless the issue is agreed upon by the parties. Some of the many factors used in calculating spousal support include the marital standard of living, marketable skills of the parties, duration of marriage, need for support, ability to pay support, criminal convictions, and/or documented domestic violence.
What is paternity?
Paternity is the legal acknowledgment of the parental relationship between the non-birthing parent and a child. Usually, a child born to the spouse during a marriage or domestic partnership is presumed to be the other spouse’s child but the presumption can be rebutted. Paternity assigns to the non-birthing parent complete rights, duties and obligations as to the child.
Will I have to pay child support for a child that is not mine?
Maybe. If the court finds that a person has held a child out as their own and that it would be in the best interest of the child to receive child support from that person, the Court can order that person to pay child support for a child that is not biologically theirs.