People look at the Internet and think they can get substantial advice or something for free, and many times they can get good generic legal information like this website, but the biggest misconception comes with people thinking all lawyers are the same, as if they’re just a generic commodity, like buying the same camera from either Best Buy or Wal-Mart. Family law is completely different, though; sure, there are people with a base level competence to do simple things in a divorce, but an experienced lawyer can help a client avoid the minefields and silliness that happens when less experienced attorneys lead them through the divorce process. Some clients don’t realize a lawyer who says “I’ll fight for you” may really be pouring “gasoline on the fire.” Many believe they can hire any lawyer and it’ll work out, but they usually find out although the less-experienced lawyer may be cheaper, and they regret it in the long run, because of missteps made.
Is Common Law Marriage Recognized in Texas?
Texas is the original common law marriage state; it has been in our constitution for more than 150 years. The concept is very simple; it just takes an agreement be currently married and a public holding out and display of that marriage. Typically, there is a fact dispute between the allegedly married parties about those things but those are determined at a trial to determine whether or not the common law marriage exists.
Why do you find people come into your office seeking a divorce?
As for common reasons people give for filing for divorce, typically it’s based on a financial or emotional line that was crossed or a promise broken; perhaps someone promised to give up drinking or using drugs and didn’t, or they had an affair. It’s usually an emotional decision, in which they feel they have no choice.
Typically, my role at that time to the potential client is to make sure they aren’t just trading one set of problems for another and to make sure they’ve exhausted all possibilities of making the marriage what they thought on it was going to be on their wedding day – – a relationship to last into the golden years. So, I bring perspective to the table.
I’ve been doing this for a long time, so I kind of know the drill. One of the things I try to emphasize to people is they need to consult with the best, most qualified attorney they can find upfront, even if they end up not hiring that attorney; I can point people to the right path virtually every time. The proof of that is that in any given year, I have 60 percent men and 40 percent women, but the next year, it can be the opposite of that.
What are Some Misconceptions You See?
I have more consultations with people than hire me, but sometimes, people come back to me because, they realize that what I said during the consultation was smart; that they should be careful to not trade one set of problems for another. For instance, a woman may come and say her husband treats her mean, but he also makes a quarter million dollars a year, so I will ask her how she plans to replace the income she’s realizing from him and whether her estate is large enough to support her. I will also ask her about her job skills and advise her that there is limited spousal support in this state.
Often, people come in with the unrealistic view that their spouse has always given up the paycheck and was given an “allowance,” and that’s what will happen in a divorce, and it’s my job to make them understand the reality of what can happen. That’s the purpose of an initial consultation; to be able to show people what is likely to happen, not just based on the law, but also my experience dealing with the law for the past 40 years.
A bunch of websites offer free consultations, but they’re mostly young lawyers who are trying to build up; it’s not a good habit to get people thinking they can get something for nothing. In their divorce, the court won’t give them something for nothing; everything will be on the table and they’ll get their fair share, but it won’t be like getting something for nothing at all.
When people have that kind of attitude – – that everything will go as they wish – there isn’t much that I can do to help them if they aren’t willing to be trained to the reality that it has to be a deal that works for both parties. In fact, most cases settle outside of a full-blown contested trial, for two reasons; for one thing, there is enormous expense in getting prepared for trial, and second, there is also risk.
If you’re willing to put your whole life on the line in 2-4 hours to a judge who had 2 or 3 other cases before or after you and you expect them to have the knowledge that you or your lawyer has of your life and situation to be able to make the right decision, go to trial. In many cases, it’s really a crazy way to try to get cases resolved. That’s why mediation and collaborative law work so well; in those kinds of environments, people can tell their story to someone who can help them get a deal and so, with the lawyer’s assistance, about 90 percent of mediations are successful; Collaborative cases are all over the board, but they’re often successful too.
Can Someone Handle Divorce Proceedings On Their Own?
Anyone can build their own car and drive it around, or build their own house, but the analogy I use is, if you’re flying on an airline, do you want to be flying with a pilot who’s doing it for the very first time, or do you want someone flying the plane who’s experienced and knows what to do to help you? Yes, there is nothing to preclude you from being your own attorney; the Supreme Court has even promulgated forms for when there is no property or kids, and there are, do it yourself divorce kits, but those aren’t my type of clients anyway, so bless them on their way. For most people, it is foolhardy for them to not hire the best attorney at least for the initial consultations they can afford.