Asked 8 months ago - Los Angeles, CAFlag
I am in the process of a divorce. I can handle all the paperwork myself I just need someone to go to court with me because my husbands lawyer is a shark. Can someone give me a heads up on how this process works. If the lawyer I hire only handles the court part of my case however does he or she know what to ask for the day we are in court. Does he/she spend some time before our court date reading on up on what has happened so far?
Also, anyone have a ball park figure on how much something like this costs? Do I just pay an hourly rate? What if I'm only in court 2-3 hours?
You recognize the problem with unbundled legal services. I believe most attorneys would not trust a client to prepare the “paperwork” for an appearance they were going to make if they had a choice. The paperwork, in most cases and particularly in family law, is very important. So, yes. An attorney would have to prepare for the appearance and would charge for the time to do that or for the time to prepare the paperwork in the first instance.
With respect to court appearances most attorneys have minimum time charges. For example, my minimum charge is 4 hours which usually corresponds to a morning or afternoon appearance. Full day charges would be 8-12 hours of time depending on whether further preparation is required. It would be customary, whether or not you are being charged for bundled or unbundled legal services, to make a fee deposit upon the attorney’s engagement.
If you can find a lawyer that would just handle court appearances for you, any good lawyer would require time to prepare as well as the court appearance. He or she could not just show up for court. You would pay their hourly rate for the court time as well as the preparation time. Depending on the issue, preparation time could be one hour or ten hours. I would think most lawyers would hesitate to do this. If you prepare the papers wrong, the lawyer may not be able to represent you adequately and most lawyers would not want to take that risk.
Many people who cannot afford to retain an experienced family law attorney on a full service basis opt for what is called "limited scope representation." The advantage to this approach is that the attorney will only charge an hourly rate for work done on your case (i.e., preparation for, and appearance at, the court hearing). The disadvantage is that you do not necessarily get the benefit of full-service representation, which is always best if you can afford it.
Might I suggest that you hire an attorney on a consulting basis, to help you draft the paperwork as well as make the appearance for you? If you make mistakes in your pleadings or have not drafted a well thought out declaration or Points and Authorities, you are diminishing the attorney's ability to advocate for you at the time of the hearing. Thus, you'd just be wasting your money hiring a attorney just to stand next to you in court.
One of the most important things you are paying for when you retain counsel is their intellectual ability to strategize your case. Even though you know the facts of your case best, it is always best to couple that with legal knowledge and the experience of counsel.
Even if you hire an attorney for the court appearance, you must be prepared to pay for the time it takes to review the pleadings filed. No competent attorney would dare risk going into court unprepared--it is not worth it since one of the most important things we have as attorneys is our professional reputation with the judges and other members of the bar.
The other thing I forgot to mention is that you may be entitled to attorney's fees if there is a disparity in the relative income of the parties. If your husband has an attorney, then you should too. The law provides for the higher wage earner to pay a contribution of your attorney's fees if certain requirements are met. While you may need to come up with an initial retainer for your attorney, the court may grant you attorney's fees to level the playing field, so to speak.
I am including links below which you may find helpful. Good luck to you.
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