1. I need some legal assistance with a family law matter. Where do I begin?
We find that, when most people are confronted with a family law issue, there is an immediate focus on the substantive issues (i.e., learning the law, rights regarding various issues, etc.). Not that education regarding one's rights is not important, but, for many family law cases, the first step of one's education should be learning about what process would be best for the client and, in fact, the family. Therefore, much of the time, there is really a two-step educational process: First, one should become educated with the various methods available to resolve family law concerns. And, second, one should become educated as various rights in family law in order to make informed decisions.
Step #1: Education as to What Processes are Available
Broadly speaking, there are two methods to resolve issues: (1) out-of-court (also called "non-adversarial") resolution ending in an agreement reached by the parties or (2) in-court (also called "adversarial") resolution ending with a decision made by a judge after the parties argued his/her side in court. Out-of-court methods include family law mediation and collaborative law. You should learn about how the various non-adversarial and adversarial methods work and determine which process you feel is the most comfortable for you.
Step #2: Education to Make Informed Decisions
Once a process has been chosen, the next step is to learn about the law and your rights in order to make informed decisions. How you learn and who you learn from depends on the process chosen. For example, in mediation, a family law attorney mediator can provide both parties with applicable law so they can make informed decisions. In litigation, each party's attorney (assuming they both have one) will educate his or her own client as to various rights. Unfortunately, one should keep in mind that the law is oftentimes grey or the judge is given a wide lattitude of discretion, so it can be difficult, if not impossible, to predict how a court will rule.
2. How much time and money will my case cost? Do you offer flat rates?
This question is understandably at the forefront of many potential client's minds. Unfortunately, it is also one of the questions that cannot be answered because the factors that largely determine the length of time--which directly influences costs--are out of the attorney or mediator's control.
Some of the factors include: 1) The cooperation level of the parties in resolving the issues; 2) The cooperation and lawyering style of the attorneys; 3) How much the parties want to investigate and analyze various aspects of the case to become more informed to make proper decisions; 4) The amount of detail the parties desire with the outcome of the case; and 5) The complexity of the facts of the case (examples of more complex cases are cases involving children, self-employed individuals, real property ownership and multiple retirement accounts).
Since there is no way for us to predict the future, and the factors mentioned above are entirely out of our control, for office policy reasons and ethical considerations, we cannot indicate how long or how much money your case will cost. And it is for this reason that we typically do not offer flat rate services.
For an in-depth discussion on this item and many other items for consideration when facing a family law issue, we suggest you purchase the book titled "Preparing for a Family Law Case."
3. I would like to handle my family law case on my own. Is this advisable?
Typically, it is never advisable to handle your own family law matter, for a few reasons. First, the substance and rules of family law are treacherously complex. Second, even though parties may mean well, there oftentimes is an art of articulation that attorneys have learned through experience that a lay person just won't have. And third, objectivity oftentimes is not available to a party since it is the party's own case and emotions tend to get in the way. Therefore, if one can afford an attorney, a family law attorney's assistance is always advisable. For those that have a limited budget, Mediation tends to be a great non-adversarial mode where the parties are able to work together and Litigation Partial Service may be a good mode for a litigation case.
4. Do you charge for an initial consultation? If so, why?
Yes, unless it is a mediation consultation. However, the first hour of an initial consultation is typically done at a great discount. The discount for web meetings and teleconferences is even greater than in-person meetings...call for details. There is a charge for consultations since we are confident that we provide invaluable information during an initial consultation. It has been our experience that potential clients leave the initial consultation feeling that they have been taken care of, that their questions have been answered, that they now have a direction and that the fear they initially came to us with has been minimized.
Initial mediation consultations are typically FREE.See our Mediation page for more details.
5. Do you charge a retainer? If so, how much is it?
If you are "retaining" the firm, then an Initial Retainer is charged. In addition, we also implement a "Renewable Retainer." By way of an example, if the Initial Retainer is $5,000 and the Renewable Retainer is $2,500, we would need $5,000 (plus the retention documentation) to begin working on your case. If the $5,000 gets reduced below $2,500 after working on your case and/or paying various costs, then we would need the amount necessary to replenish your trust account amount back to $2,500. Depending on the services contracted with us, there may be additional retainers, such as a trial retainer. The retainers are quoted at the end of a consultation with the attorney (and not beforehand) since the retainer amounts depend on several factors, including the complexity of the case and the type of service chosen (i.e., "full service," "partial service," mediation, collaborative law process, etc.).
If we are not "retained" (i.e., "consult only"), there is no retainer since you simply pay at the time of each consultation.
6. Right now I'm in the "looking" phase of hiring a family law attorney. Regarding pricing, what types of things should I be looking for in a prospective attorney?
Some attorneys may offer a "free" consultation or a highly discounted initial consultation, which sound nice at first. However, you should look at the total package in retaining an attorney, including their "normal" or "standard" hourly rates and what the initial retainer quote will be. For example, with all else remaining equal, let's say Attorney A charges an initial consultation rate of $200 for the first hour, and Attorney A's "normal" hourly rate is $350 per hour; Attorney B provides a free 45 minute consultation, and Attorney B's "normal" hourly rate is $450 per hour. While one would save money at the intial consultation stage, over the course of time, there is a good chance a client will pay more with Attorney B over the long run. For example, if both attorneys worked 10 hours for their respective clients, Attorney B's client will be billed $1,000 more than Attorney A's client, which surpassed the $200 "saved" in having the initial consultation with Attorney B.
7. Do you offer "pro bono" (i.e., free) or "low bono" services?
We do not offer pro bono or low bono services.
8. Do you accept installment payments (i.e., a payment plan)?
We do not accept payment plans, but we do accept all major credit cards...and your credit card company will likely accept partial payments over time.
9. Why do you charge more for an in-person initial consultation versus an initial consultation done via web meeting or telephone?
Unlike most family law firms in the area, Ginter Family law offers unprecedented convenience by offering web meetings. These are positive features that help to set Ginter Family Law apart from other family law and mediation firms. These benefits, however, do not come without their own price: With in-person meetings, Ginter Family Law incurs additional administrative and other costs that are not associated with web meetings or teleconferences. Here are some of our costs: First, Ginter Family Law must book and pay for the physical meeting space for your specific appointment. Second, the consultee is not the only one that benefits from web meetings...we benefit too because we also do not need to travel. Third, our attorney/mediator specifically travels to each location specifically for your appointment. Therefore, if a consultee does not show up to a particular appointment, there is no way to recoup the fees lost. It is our belief that our in-person consultation rates are on par or lower than market rates, and our web meeting/phone consultation rates are lower than market rates.
10. Why do you have a mailing center? Can you accept mail and/or deliveries at your physical meeting location?
Ginter Family Law is different than most, if not all, family law and mediation firms in the greater Sacramento region in that we provide an unprecended level of convenience by offering family law attorney and family law mediation web meetings. Since Mr. Ginter travels to multiple locations, we chose to have one centralized location for all mail and hand-deliveries. Since we chose to have a centralized mailing location, you are not able to mail or hand-deliver documents or packages to our physical meeting location. There are advantages for utilizing a mailing center. For example, unlike a standard law office that is typically open during the day Monday through Friday, our mailing center (a UPS Store located at 2701 Del Paso Rd., Ste. 130-275, Sacramento, CA 95835) is open seven days a week, and with extended hours, providing yet another level of convenience to our clients. Additionally, our mailing center has a notary on site. Obviously, the staff at our mailing center cannot assist you with your case or with questions related to our office since they do not work for us. The mailing center staff is primarily there to simply receive mail and deliveries on our behalf. If you intend to hand-deliver documents to our mailing center, you must enclose the documents in a fully addressedand sealed envelope. The mailing center is conveniently located only seconds from the Del Paso exit on I-5 in North Natomas (i.e., North Sacramento).