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5 Tips When Meeting With a Divorce Attorney at Intake

meeting with a divorce attorney

Welcome to our last post in our blog series, What to Know Before Meeting with a Divorce Attorney

For those of you just joining us, so far we’ve talked about:

The Initial Consultation and How to Use it to Get Yourself the right Divorce Attorney (our first post of the series);

How to Schedule an Intake Appointment and What Questions You Should Ask Ahead of Time (our second post of the series);

What You’ll Need to Bring with You to the Intake Appointment (our third post in the series); and

What Happens at an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney (our fourth post in the series).

Now that you’ve gotten a chance to check out our previous posts, here are 5 tips to make the most out of your intake appointment with your divorce attorney.

Tip # 1: Make Sure the Divorce Attorney Listens to and Matches Your Goals

Not all divorce attorneys are the same. 

Some divorce attorneys are more aggressive and confrontational than other divorce attorneys.

For example, although it’s required in Minnesota, some divorce attorneys don’t put much thought into alternative dispute resolution (methods, such as mediation, for negotiating with your spouse) and instead push going to trial (where the majority of legal fees and costs reside during a divorce). –> If you don’t want to go to trial and your divorce attorney enjoys going to trial and has a high percentage of divorce cases that go to trial, then maybe s/he isn’t the best fit.

Some divorce attorneys are more comfortable with a client completing case tasks that don’t require attorney oversight than other divorce attorneys.

For example, some divorce attorneys allow a client to arrange a property evaluation, such as a house appraisal with a third party, while other divorce attorneys view this as part of his/her billable services. –> If you want your divorce attorney to handle everything, than you’ll be dissatisfied with a divorce attorney who gives you a lists of tasks to complete independently, where as if you’re goal is to save money you’d be happy that you didn’t get charged for things you could do yourself. 

The point is, in order to guarantee a good fit, you need to identify ahead of time what your goals are and evaluate what kind of divorce attorney you want representing you.

Thus, it’s important to make sure that you get a divorce attorney that matches what you’re looking for and is able to meet your needs. So if you haven’t already, use the intake appointment to get to know your divorce attorney better.

meeting with a divorce attorney

 Signs that You’ve Found a Divorce Attorney that Listens to and Matches Your Goals

– Your divorce attorney takes notes when you’re talking about your goals.

– Your divorce attorney makes direct eye contact with you when you’re speaking and provides his/her undivided attention to you and your case. 

– You and your divorce attorney, together, create a plan on how to proceed with your divorce that incorporates your goals and meets your needs. 

*NOTE: If your divorce attorney hasn’t asked about your goals by the intake appointment, that’s a BIG red flag and it’d be advantageous to reconsider your decision to hire him/her.

Tip # 2: Be Prepared to Offer Personal Information

As discussed briefly in our previous post, your divorce attorney will want to collect information about a wide variety of topics that may pertain to your divorce at the intake appointment. Aside from core issues, like your property, debts, incomes, and children, often times more uncomfortable and private issues arise, like domestic abuse, drug & alcohol use, mental health issues, etc… It’s easy to feel like your being judged and that your life is under a microscope when you’re being asked such questions by an outsider. 

However, you may find it helpful to know that the client-patient relationship you have with your doctor is very similar to the relationship you share with your divorce attorney.

To illustrate, just like what you tell your doctor is private and confidential, the same goes for what you share with your divorce attorney. In addition, similar to your doctor, your divorce attorney is ethically bound to do what’s in your best interests. And lastly, just like the recommendations a doctor makes and the medical plan that s/he creates for you is based on the information you share with him/her, an attorney’s counsel and legal advice is also directly related to the information you provide him/her.

meeting with a divorce attorney

So although it’s difficult opening up to a stranger, omitting certain facts is detrimental to your case because it limits your divorce attorney’s abilities. Therefore, it’s best to be completely honest and trust that the divorce attorney is only asking you such questions so s/he has a thorough understanding of your situation. After all, your divorce attorney can’t provide the best possible counsel and legal guidance if s/he doesn’t have all the facts.

Tip # 3: Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Clarification

meeting with a divorce attorney

Some people shy away from asking questions. Don’t. Although hopefully your divorce attorney does a good job of explaining things to you, if you don’t understand something s/he said, ask for clarification. There’s no need for embarrassment. The divorce attorney does this for a living. You don’t.

Therefore, neither your divorce attorney nor yourself, for that matter, should expect you to be well-versed in family law and divorce procedures. Instead, your divorce attorney should be willing to talk with you until you not only understand, but feel comfortable and confident in the decisions being made in your divorce.  

Tip # 4: Make Sure You Understand What the Next Steps Are 

As mentioned in our previous post, at the end of the intake appointment with your divorce attorney, s/he should clearly explain what the next steps are in your divorce case. It’s essential that you know what the divorce attorney needs from you and what s/he will be doing to proceed with your divorce. 

meeting with a divorce attorney

In fact, it’s important that you not only understand what the next steps are after the intake appointment, but throughout your divorce case. There will be times in your divorce, when your divorce attorney won’t be able to proceed until s/he hears back from you or gets something signed by you, etc…so it’s important that you’re always on the same page. When there’s a disconnect in communication and responsiveness between the two of you, it prolongs the divorce process.

Tip # 5: Take a Proactive Stance with Your Divorce (Starting at the Intake Appointment)

There should never be a time when you feel like your divorce attorney has lost focus of your goals. If you find yourself in this situation, regardless of whether it’s after the intake appointment or later on, let your divorce attorney know immediately. The more you discuss your goals and expectations with your divorce attorney, the more likely you’ll be satisfied with the end result. 

meeting with a divorce attorney

  • You can satisfy tip #4 and #5 by requesting that at the end of each conversation or meeting with your divorce attorney, that s/he summarizes the key points and the next steps in your case for both him/her and yourself. This way you can be confident that you’re divorce attorney is working towards your goals and you ensure that you always know what’s happening with your divorce case.

Thanks for checking out our series, What To Know Before Meeting With A Divorce Attorney. Hopefully you’ve gotten a better idea of what to expect, you feel more prepared talking to an attorney, and you’re able to find a divorce attorney that’s right for you! 

Love To Hear From You…

Besides knowing what to expect, what else would make meeting with a divorce attorney easier? 

Chime in below ~

What Happens At Intake With A Divorce Attorney

What Happens At Intake With A Divorce Attorney

Intake with a Divorce Attorney

Welcome to our fourth blog post in the series, What to Know Before Meeting with a Divorce Attorney.

Our first post regarded what you can expect from a consultation and how to use the consultation to get the right divorce attorney for you and your divorce

Next, our second post regarded how to schedule an intake appointment with a divorce attorney by providing you with a checklist of things you’ll want to ask and do before you meet. Save yourself some hassle and get the checklist now.

Following along with intake preparation, our third post focused on what you should bring with you to the intake appointment. Review the list from this article with your divorce attorney ahead of time to determine if there is anything else s/he would like to add.  

Which brings us to today, What Happens At An Intake Appointment With A Divorce Attorney? So let’s talk about the actual intake appointment itself. Again, not all divorce and family law firms are the same, but we’ll give you a general idea of what happens so you can feel prepared.  

Basic Agenda for an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney

Ideally, you can expect these five things to occur during an intake appointment with a divorce attorney:

1. Establishing a Relationship:

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the intake appointment, is that it’s your first opportunity to establish your relationship with your divorce attorney. It’s essential that you feel comfortable talking to your divorce attorney and that you can confide in him/her. We’ll go into more detail next week about the client-attorney relationship.

In addition, if possible, take a moment to introduce yourself to any other additional staff you’ll be working with, such as a paralegal, before leaving the intake appointment. Although paralegals can’t provide any legal advice or guidance, you save money by working directly with the paralegal on case matters such as scheduled court appearances, correspondences, and filings. 

intake with a divorce attorney

2. Completing the Engagement Letter & Fee Agreement (Contract):

The divorce attorney you meet with might refer to this as the client retention contract, the engagement letter, the representation and fee agreement, etc… Regardless of what the contract is called, it’s important that you’re able to review it with your divorce attorney, ask any questions you may have, and receive a personal copy for your records.  

The contract sets forth the parameters of the client-attorney relationship, legal fees and service payments, client and attorney responsibilities, and other additional information regarding representation and firm policies. Although the contract can be intimidating at first due to it’s length, it’s reassuring to have everything in writing and clear expectations from the start. If the divorce attorney doesn’t have a contract, his/her contract is extremely vague and short, or s/he is unwilling to sign a contract with you, this is a BIG red flag and consider looking for a different divorce attorney. 

intake with a divorce attorney

*REMEMBER: It’s important that you understand the contract before signing it. If there is anything you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask the divorce attorney. S/he should be more than willing to explain and answer any and all questions. In addition, if a concern or question regarding representation and/or legal services isn’t addressed in the contract, bring it up and consider adding it to the contract before signing. 

3. Depositing the Retainer: 

Work on your case will start and you’ll officially have representation when you and your divorce attorney have both signed and dated the contract, and you’ve provided the retainer. Since we’ve discussed the retainer throughout this series (see links in the first paragraphs of this article for past posts), we won’t go into more detail here.

Learn more: What is a Retainer and How Do They Work in Family Law Cases.

intake with a divorce attorney

4. Discussing Your Divorce & Providing Legal Guidance:

Most divorce attorneys will collect information about you, your family and your spouse at the intake appointment. It’s not uncommon for the divorce attorney to ask you a wide-range of questions during the intake appointment. Although it can feel invasive, it gives the divorce attorney an overview and helps him/her spot possible issues that may arise in your case. We’ll talk more about this in our post next week. 

intake with a divorce attorney

At this time, you can also bring up any other issues not yet discussed and seek legal advice on any pressing concerns or family matters. In addition, if you’ve been served with divorce papers or have any other previous court orders, your divorce attorney will review such documents with you at this time. If you’re unable to bring these documents to the intake appointment for whatever reason, it’s essential that you and your divorce attorney still discuss such matters and that a plan is set in motion to get these documents as soon as possible.

5. Developing a Plan & Next Steps in Case: 

At the end of your intake appointment, based on your goals, situation, and preferences, you and your divorce attorney should develop a plan for moving forward with your divorce. Before leaving the intake appointment, the divorce attorney should clearly explain what s/he will be doing and what s/he will be needing from you.  

intake with a divorce attorney

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what happens at an intake appointment with a divorce attorney. Now, check out our 5 tips when meeting with a divorce attorney at intake

Preparing for an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney

Preparing for an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney

appointment with a divorce attorney

Welcome to the third post in our blog series, What to Know Before Meeting with a Divorce Attorney.

In our first post, we discussed what to expect during a consultation and how to use the consultation to find the best divorce attorney for you.

Next, in our second post, we talked about scheduling an intake appointment with a divorce attorney and what things you’ll want to ask, in case you forgot during the consultation or simply can’t recall after talking with a few divorce attorneys. The article includes a handy checklist for you!

Today’s post is about preparing for an intake appointment with a divorce attorney by giving you a few pointers on what you’ll want to bring with you when you meet with him/her. 

What To Bring to an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney

1. Current Court Documents:

This refers to any and all court documents you’ve received before your intake appointment with a divorce attorney. For example, if you’ve been served by your spouse or s/he has filed for a divorce in Minnesota, you should have received two documents known as, the Petition and Summons.

It’s essential that you bring these documents (such as, the Petition and Summons) to avoid missing the deadline to contest your divorce and thus, forfeit your right to express your opinion regarding significant aspects of your divorce (such as, property division, child custody and child support).

appointment with a divorce attorney

To illustrate, in Minnesota you only have 30 days to respond after you’ve been served and your reply must be properly formatted into a legal document called, the Answer, which typically also includes one’s Counter-Petition

For more information about the initial steps in a divorce in Minnesota and the legal documents mentioned above (such as, the Petition, Summons, Counter-Petition, Answer, etc…) read: How Do You Get a Divorce in Minnesota.

2. Previous Court Documents:

It’s also helpful for you to bring any other court documents from previous divorce and/or family law cases that you were involved in (if any) before this divorce.

appointment with a divorce attorney

For example, if applicable, you want to bring the following documents listed below:

  • Court documents from any/all previous divorces, such as the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgement and Judgement and Decree. The judgement and decree is the final court document that is signed by the judge, establishes the divorce between the couple, and spells out the duties and responsibilities of each party regarding such matters as, property and asset division, child custody and child support.  
  • Other family law related court documents, such as Orders For Protection, Recognition of Parentage (ROP’s), Child Support and/or Child Custody Modification Arrangements, etc.

3. Financial Documents and Other Important Documents: 

If you have any original financial documents such as, you and/or your spouse’s paystubs, 401k statements, pension plans, tax returns, etc… it’s in your best interest to start collecting these immediately so that you can give them to your divorce attorney.

appointment with a divorce attorney

Although we don’t require original financial documents right away, some law offices like to collect these documents immediately. As mentioned in our previous post, it’s best if you find out exactly what documents your divorce attorney will require from you at the intake appointment by asking during the consultation or when you’re scheduling the intake appointment.

* NOTE: Please be assured that although most divorce attorneys will ask for such financial documents, if you don’t have access to some/any of these financial documents, your divorce attorney should help you get access. In Minnesota, both parties are required to disclose any and all information to one another, but here’s what you should do if you believe your spouse is hiding assets from you

4. Retainer Payment:

Most divorce and family law firms require some form of an initial retainer before working on your case. You can think of the retainer as an initial, good-faith deposit that demonstrates you’re ability to hire a divorce attorney and that you’ll use to pay for his/her legal services. It’s expected that you’ll bring the retainer to the intake appointment when you meet with your divorce attorney. As mentioned in our previous post, you should use the consultation to request information about retainer amounts, payment methods, and fee agreements.

Read: What’s a Retainer and What Should Be Included in the Retainer Fee Agreement.

appointment with a divorce attorney

One last thing about the retainer payment, if someone other than yourself will be paying on your behalf, it’s best that you inform your divorce attorney of this ahead of time (such as, during the consultation or when you’re scheduling the intake appointment). Some divorce and family law firms will only take checks from a third party. Some divorce and family law firms require the third party to appear in person to confirm identity and to obtain permission; while other divorce and family law firms will take a third party’s credit card number over the phone. The point is, if a third party will be paying the retainer, you’ll want to know if there are any additional procedures that are required ahead of time to ensure you’re prepared for the intake appointment.    

5. Driver’s License and/or State Identification Card:

appointment with a divorce attorney

Your driver’s license and/or state identification card will be used by the divorce attorney to confirm your identity at the intake appointment. Identity confirmation is a very important practice because it ensures your safety and confidentiality by preventing someone from obtaining private information about you and your case by pretending to be you. In addition, if you’re paying the initial retainer with your credit card, your driver’s license or state identification card will prove that you own the account. Lastly, if you’re working with a small law firm or solo practitioner for your divorce, you most likely won’t need to show your I.D. card again to the divorce attorney after the initial intake appointment. 

6. A Guest, such as a Friend or Family Member:

appointment with a divorce attorney

We’ve added a guest to the list of things to bring to an intake appointment with a divorce attorney not because you necessarily should or shouldn’t bring someone with you, but because it’s something that you should decide before the  intake appointment with the divorce attorney. In addition, it’s something that you should discuss with the divorce attorney either during the consultation or when you’re scheduling an intake appointment. Before you decide, know the pros and cons of bringing someone with you to an intake appointment with a divorce attorney.

Hopefully you’ve gotten a better idea of what to talk about with a divorce attorney during a consultation and when scheduling an intake appointment, and what you’ll want to bring with you to the intake appointment through this blog series, What to Know Before Meeting with Your Divorce Attorney.

Now here’s what happens at intake with a divorce attorney so you’re better prepared and 5 tips when meeting with your divorce attorney for the first time

 

Scheduling an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney

Scheduling an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney – What to Know and How to Do It

This is our second post in our blog series, What to Know Before Meeting with a Divorce Attorney.

It’s common to feel uncomfortable when you’re meeting with your divorce attorney for the first time. After all, it’s normal to feel a little awkward when you’re in an unfamiliar situation and you can’t rely on previous experience to help you prepare.

So that’s what this blog series is all about – uncovering the unknowns and giving you a better idea of what lies ahead so that you’re not left guessing.

In our first post, we discussed what to expect from a consultation with a divorce attorney and how to use the consultation to find the divorce attorney that’s right for you. 

intake appointment

Today’s blog post is dedicated to what you should do next after you’ve selected a divorce attorney – schedule the intake appointment. In addition, we made a checklist at the end so you know what to ask when you’re scheduling your intake appointment with a divorce attorney.

Schedule an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney

Once you’ve decided to retain an attorney for your divorce, you’ll want to set up an intake appointment with the divorce attorney as soon as possible. This may seem obvious. In fact, you may be wondering why we even brought this up. However, it’s one of those things that’s easier said than done.

For a lot of people, calling to schedule an intake appointment to retain a divorce attorney means the start to the end of a marriage. Even if you haven’t been happy for a long time or have been talking about getting a divorce, it’s the completing of this step that often makes it “more real” for people and with that realization can come a flood of unwanted emotions and unanswered questions. At this point, it’s very easy to become paralyzed with fear and worry.

However, if you’re past the contemplation stage and you’re absolutely sure that you want a divorce, allowing yourself the chance to meet your divorce attorney can help with some of those unanswered questions and fears and, provide some support.

Schedule an In-Person Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney 

Personally, we recommend meeting with a divorce attorney in person at his/her office for the intake appointment. This allows you the chance to meet face-to-face and get to know the divorce attorney who’ll be representing you and anyone else (such as, a legal assistant or paralegal) who’ll be working with you throughout your divorce. 

Intake Appointment

The only time we don’t meet in person is when the firm has been retained by an individual who lives far away, has mobility concerns or time constraints, and therefore, prefers to have the intake meeting over the phone or by using video software like Skype or FaceTime.

Intake Appointment Scheduling Checklist

1. If you’d prefer not to meet at the office or if it’s difficult for you to meet in person with the divorce attorney, determine if the firm has the resources and ability to accommodate your needs/preferences before you schedule an intake appointment. For example, you can ask if the divorce attorney is willing to meet you at a different location that’s more convenient for you.

* If this is the case, just make sure that the location you select still ensures your privacy and confidentiality. Or if you’ve decided to phone or video conference make sure to exchange information, such as Skype user names, and arrange who will initiate the phone/video conference when you set up the intake appointment. 

Intake Appointment

2. When you schedule the intake appointment, ask how long it will take so you’re not stretching yourself too thin.

* Trying to rush through the intake appointment because you only allocated 30 minutes (when you could really use an hour) adds stress. It’s hard to focus if you’re worried about making it to your next commitment on time. Therefore, schedule the intake appointment for a day when you’re less busy. If that’s not possible, you can always ask if the lawyer would be willing to spread the intake appointment out into 3 smaller meetings. Or try to get some help with your commitments to lighten your schedule. For example, arranging a carpool with another parent for your kid’s soccer practice that night so that you have enough time for the appointment. 

–> In addition, map out your route ahead of time and make sure you take into account parking and traffic on the day and time of your intake appointment. Always give yourself longer than you think it will take to get to your intake appointment. That way, you’re not running into your intake appointment already frazzled because you’re late. 

3. Provide a safe and secure (meaning, it should be private, confidential and password-protected) phone number with voicemail and/or email address, in case the divorce attorney needs to reach you before your intake appointment or if you’d like to receive an intake appointment reminder from the firm. 

* If you haven’t been asked already, let the firm know the best way to reach you and your preferred method of contact. If you don’t have access to a secure phone line or you have reason to believe that your email has been compromised, inform the firm immediately so that steps can be taken to protect your confidentiality and privacy. 

4. Confirm the address of the law firm and don’t be afraid to ask for directions and nearby landmarks. 

Intake Appointment - Directions

5. Ask about parking options for the intake appointment.

* You’ll want to confirm ahead of time if you need to find a nearby parking ramp, have cash/change for a meter, or if the firm provides free parking through it’s own parking lot. 

Intake Appointment 

6. If you didn’t do it at the phone consultation or forgot, confirm the retainer amount and discuss the method of payment. 

* If you’re planning on having someone else pay the retainer on your behalf, it’s a good time to bring this up when your scheduling your intake appointment. 

Learn more about: How to Pay for a Divorce Lawyer

7. Determine what you should be bringing to the intake appointment with the divorce attorney. Use this list of what to bring with you when you meet your divorce attorney to give you an idea and as a starting point. In addition, if you’re planning on bringing someone else to the intake appointment with you, it’s a good idea to discuss this now. 

8. Before getting off the phone, ask if there is anything else you should know at this point. This gives your divorce attorney the opportunity to add anything else s/he may want you to know or discuss ahead of time. 

Hopefully this series, What to Know Before Meeting with Your Divorce Attorney has been helpful. To prepare for your intake appointment, read: What Happens at Intake with a Divorce Attorney and 5 Tips When Meeting with a Divorce Attorney at Intake or pin them to read later! 

Intake Appointment - What to know when scheduling with a divorce attorney

Divorce Recall: Unveiling New Families

February 4, 2015 by  
Filed under Divorce

What are your current views regarding divorce? Is the stigma of divorce detrimental to families that are trying to move forward and hurtful to the children involved? As a society, are our views accurate depictions of what divorce is like or perhaps have they changed over the years? 

David Dickerman, author of Mom, Dad, and Everyone Else, a children’s book that uses clay illustrations to reframe the concept of divorce for children in a new light, challenges current notions of divorce in his featured article below.

New Families in Today's Divorce

* For more information about David Dickerman and his book, please see his bio below the article.

New Families in Divorce

Brave New Families

Every relationship is different. Some people gravitate towards a partner more similar to themselves in order to connect through common interests and backgrounds, while others prefer to be with their polar opposites in order to be challenged and exposed to new things. Since people are all different, no relationships can be identical. Therefore, it would stand to reason that every marriage would be different as well. If this logic is sound, would it not make sense that every divorce would be different too? 

Although the traditional view of marriage (with the woman staying home and caring for the house and kids while the husband works) has changed, our ideas about divorce remain the same. When the D-word is uttered, scenes of confrontational custody battles and alimony wars come to mind. However, generalities cannot be made about any relationships – whether it’s a marriage, family, divorce, etc…

Do some divorcing couples argue over custody and disagree about alimony? Yes, just like there are families where the wife stays at home while the husband works. However, there are also families where both parents work, same – sex couples, the father stays home, grandma moves in, sons and daughters play with step-siblings, etc…

As the nature of families change it is our responsibility, as a society, to acknowledge these changes and adapt. Just like we know more about medicine than we did a hundred years ago, we also know more about families and divorce. Therefore, it’s important that we continue to pass these evolving views down to our children.

Statistics show that people are now marrying later in life for reasons such as wanting time to establish a career and waiting to marry for love. This does not make the institution of marriage flawless. Nor does it change the fact that where there is marriage, there is also divorce.

Fortunately, changes have started to arise as the term “co-parenting” strutted onto the scene. Slowly, people are coming to accept that if children are involved, getting a divorce severs the marriage relationship, but gives rise to a new relationship with parenting.

As I mentioned before, families come in all shapes and sizes, and this also applies to divorced families. Some parents end contact with one another after the divorce and communicate with one another mainly through others, while some divorced families get together for sporting events and celebrate the holidays together.

Families are not the same because marriage is not the same. As a society we are trying to make a new type of family exist in an archaic construct. It is a losing battle that does not have to be lost if we reframe the idea of family and divorce to our children. 

People change and grow, sometimes in the same direction and sometimes not. If a couple produces children they both love, built something strong together, and end because they have become different people while still remaining friends, why is this considered a failure? Can a successful marriage end? It depends on how you handle the divorce…

By David Dickerman

New Families after Divorce

BIO FOR DAVID DICKERMAN:

David Dickerman was born in Dallas, Texas. He has a BA in Psychology from Syracuse University and pursued a Master’s in general childhood education and literacy from Bank Street College in New York City.

David began working with children at a young age as a camp counselor, and in after school programs. These experiences, coupled with his post-secondary education, prepared David for his multi-faceted career as a teacher, program director, literacy specialist, and educational consultant. David also shared that he identifies as an adult child of divorce (ACOD). 

David currently works as an assessment specialist in New Jersey and lives in the area with his wife, Laura; son, Spencer; and dog, Norman.

For more information about his book, click here.

What Parents Can Do to Enjoy the Holidays

Holidays can already be a particularly stressful time of the year; and what about for separating or divorcing parents and their children? 

How do we keep the holiday spirit alive in the midst of everything else that is going on during this time?

holidays divorced parents

Well… we know that nothing ruins the holidays more for you and your children, than fighting over holiday plans with the other parent.

In fact, being prepared and planning in advance can greatly reduce potential problems. It also gives you and your family the opportunity to experience the positive side to the holidays, such as, being surrounded by supportive friends and family and appreciating what we do have in life.

So with keeping in mind that that best defense is planning and preparation, let’s look at what you can do, as a separating or divorcing parent, to make the holidays a more pleasant time for you and your children.

Create a Holiday Schedule

If you’re in the middle of a divorce or custody matter, it’s important that you think about how you want future holidays to look for you and your children. One of the best ways you can decrease stress around the holidays for you and your kids is to develop a holiday schedule now, which maps out your plans for holidays to come. Although Minnesota law doesn’t require it, it’s a good idea to address holidays in your custody order or divorce decree.

holidays schedule

Holidays Included in a Holiday Schedule

Most typically, these are the major holidays that would be addressed in a divorce or custody order: 

  • Christmas Eve,
  • Christmas Day,
  • Thanksgiving Day,
  • The Child’s Birthday,
  • The Parents’ Birthdays,
  • Mother’s Day,
  • Father’s Day,
  • Memorial Day,
  • Independence Day,
  • Labor Day,
  • Easter,
  • Halloween,
  • New Year’s Eve, 
  • New Year’s Day, 
  • President’s Day,
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day,
  • Veteran’s Day, 
  • Passover,
  • Hanukkah,
  • Columbus Day,
  • Rosh Hashanah,
  • Yom Kippur.

The above holidays are listed only as a reference, and some may not apply to your family. The most important thing to remember is that you can choose to designate whichever holidays you’d like and as many holidays as you’d like with the other parent. For example, some parents also include Grandparents’ birthdays in the holiday schedule, as well. 

How does a Holiday Schedule impact Parenting Time? 

The idea behind incorporating a holiday schedule in your custody order or divorce decree is that when holidays are specifically addressed, they legally trump the regular parenting time schedule. In other words, let’s say that the kids regularly spend every Sunday with Dad. If Mother’s Day was a designated holiday with Mom, then the kids would spend that Sunday with Mom instead of Dad.

holidays time with mom

What to Consider When Making a Holiday Schedule

In addition to thinking about what holidays you and the other parent value, you’ll want to consider what holidays are important to your children. For instance, if your children have grown up looking forward to Easter egg hunts up north at your in-laws’ farm, you may want to maintain the tradition and designate Easter to be spent with the other parent.

holidays

Generally, it’s best to maintain traditions that your children have enjoyed and also to be open and flexible to starting new traditions of your own. Depending on your children’s ages, it may be worthwhile to include them in these decisions and seek out new traditions that match their changing needs and preferences.

It may also be beneficial for the children to experience some holidays with both parents. For example, maybe you designate Christmas Eve with Dad and Christmas Day with Mom, or vice versa, again taking into consideration current traditions and plans with extended family.

As mentioned previously, when working together on a holiday schedule, parents can address holidays in as much or as little detail as they like. However, when it comes to incorporating the holiday schedule into your custody order or divorce decree, it’s usually best to include language specific enough so as to prevent conflicts down the road, but also flexible enough to accommodate special circumstances that may arise and the changing needs of your children.

holidays parenting

Why Develop a Holiday Schedule? 

Perhaps one of the best reasons to use a holiday schedule in your custody order or your divorce decree is that it’s a plan that’s specifically based on your family’s own specific needs and wishes. It also keeps parents in the driver seat. Meaning, parents, rather than a court judge, are the ones making the decisions that impact how their children are raised. After all, you, not a judge, know what’s best for your children. 

holidays for kids of divorced parents

In addition to incorporating a holiday schedule into your divorce or custody order, it’s ideal if parents can talk and plan out additional holiday details, such as, negotiating times, location and transportation, if possible, at least a couple weeks before the holiday. It may be useful, depending on the holiday and your particular family, to coordinate gift-giving for the child as well.

Basically, it all boils down to the the fact that the more planning and arranging of these details that can be done before the holiday, the more time, energy, and desire everyone has for celebrating the holiday.

Planning holiday schedules is effective at reducing family conflict and tension because everyone involved knows what to expect ahead of time.

Not to mention, advance planning has become necessary in some cases, since some children are now faced with multiple visits, and may be trying to coordinate the holiday with divorced or separated parents, step-parents, and grandparents all in different places.

What do you think?

What are your thoughts or concerns about developing a holiday schedule? Or maybe you have additional recommendations for divorcing or separating couples on how to enjoy the holidays?

We’d love to hear what you have to say; please share your comments with us!

Why Caseload Matters In Your Divorce

August 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Divorce

Got a Good Lawyer

This is the 4th post, Why Caseload Matters In Your Divorce, in the series called, “Got Milk a Good Lawyer?

The series is dedicated to helping you find the best attorney for you and your divorce. It’ll help you in the decision making process by pointing out some things to consider when you’re deciding who to hire as your divorce lawyer. In particular, I’ve identified 10 criteria to use when you’re evaluating which divorce lawyer is right for you.

So far in the series, I’ve discussed 4 criteria to consider: Communication, Personality, Support help, and Background experience and education. This week’s post is about criteria 5: The Divorce Attorney’s Current Clients and Caseload.

caseload

ReCap of the “Got a Good Lawyer?” Series So Far:

For those of you just joining us, here’s a glimpse of what’s been covered so far in the series. For your convenience, I have linked all 4 criteria mentioned below to their previous posts. Simply click the criteria and you’ll be taken directly to the related post to read.

 What to Consider Before Hiring Your Divorce Attorney:

    1: Communication:

  • Before you hire your divorce attorney, what are his/her procedures for communicating with you? Do you know what to expect regarding methods of communication and receiving updates on your case?

     2. Personality:

  • Have you met with your divorce lawyer in person? Do you feel comfortable around your divorce lawyer? Do you feel like you can work with him/her?

     3. Support Help:

  •  Does your divorce lawyer have additional staff on his/her team, such as a legal assistant or paralegal to help him/her with your case, and save you money?

     4. Background Experience and Education:

  • Does your divorce lawyer practice in the area of family law and have experience with divorce cases similar to your own? What majority of your attorney’s cases are divorce cases?

Now to this week’s topic: Criteria 5,

The Divorce Attorney’s Current Clients and Caseload

The divorce attorney’s current clients and caseload will impact his/her ability to competently serve you.

For example, let’s say that you find a divorce attorney that has a reputation for caring about his/her clients, or you find a divorce attorney that is known for his/her dedication and hard work on cases…

Great! That’s what you want!

However, even with these great qualities, no divorce attorney is immune to the limitations of time. After all, there’s only so much that can get done in a day. 

Therefore, the simple fact remains…

If your divorce attorney takes more clients and cases than s/he can handle, it impacts you, as the client, because your attorney won’t be able to deliver the best service possible.

Therefore, to ensure that you and your divorce case get the quality representation and attention that you deserve, don’t overlook the fact that the divorce attorney that you’re considering may already have a full plate. Like this guy…

Why Caseload Matters

“How Do I Know If An Attorney Has Time for Me and My Divorce?”

 I recommend that you ask the divorce attorney that you’re considering on hiring,

“Do you currently have the time and resources available to competently handle my case?”

I realize that this may seem silly, because some attorneys may say yes because they don’t know their limits, or worst case scenario, say yes because they want your business. However, even in the worst case scenario, I’d still ask and here’s why…

By asking this question, you signal to your divorce lawyer that this is a concern for you. By communicating this concern from the get-go, you ensure that your divorce attorney is made aware of your concern right away. By making your lawyer cognizant of the issue from the start, s/he is able to take the necessary steps throughout your case to ensure that it doesn’t happen. Therefore, by voicing your concern, you increase your chances of receiving quality representation and services.  After all, it’s in any lawyer’s best interest to keep his/her clients happy since lawyers depend on referrals from past clients for future business!

One more helpful tip,

Consider As Many Criteria as Possible when You’re Deciding Who to Hire

It’s to your advantage to take into consideration as many of the 10 criteria as possible when you’re judging which divorce lawyer to hire. The more criteria you use when evaluating and deciding which divorce attorney is right for you and your divorce, the more satisfied you’ll be with the attorney you pick in the end.

To illustrate, if your divorce attorney has a legal assistant or paralegal (criteria 3: support help), then the firm can take more clients, than a solo practitioner, because more staff means more people to help with your case and share the work.

 Support Help

Therefore, this example shows how taking into consideration both criteria 5 (the attorney’s current clients and caseload) and criteria 3 (support help) help you make a better decision about if you’re divorce attorney will have time for you and your divorce case, than if you only focused on criteria 5 or criteria 3.

In addition, if your divorce attorney practices exclusively in family law and is experienced with divorce cases (criteria 4: background experience and education), s/he can have more clients at a time, than an attorney who practices in several areas of law, because presumably the general practice attorney is going to be serving a wider range of clients and therefore having to set aside more time to learn and research laws in multiple areas (such as, criminal law, or bankruptcy law) due to having unrelated cases.

Multiple Law Areas

Therefore, this example shows how taking into consideration criteria 5 (the attorney’s current clients and caseload) and criteria 4 (background experience and education) help you make a you make a better decision about if you’re divorce attorney will have time for you and your divorce case, than if you solely focused on criteria 5 or criteria 4.

Ultimately, the reason you care about the 10 criteria that I’m sharing with you in the series, is because they will help you find the right divorce attorney for you and your divorce by helping you answer important questions, such as how we used criteria 3, 4, and 5 in today’s post to help you answer the question, “How do I know if my divorce attorney has time for me and my divorce case?”

And as I just demonstrated, it’s detrimental to base your decision only on a single criteria because you just saw how criteria 3 and criteria 4, can impact criteria 5. So when you make your final decision of who to hire as your divorce attorney, just make sure to consider as many criteria as possible. 

Thanks for reading. In the next post in the series,  “Got a Good Lawyer?”  we’ll discuss criteria 6.

Love to Hear From You…

Time Management Skills

Other factors such as, the firm’s organization and the attorney’s time management skills, impact how many clients and cases an attorney can competently represent at one time.

What else do you think impacts an attorney’s ability to competently represent several clients at a time?

Take a moment to add to the discussion by commenting in the section below.

Got a Good Lawyer Series, Post 3

July 24, 2014 by  
Filed under Divorce

Support Help and Professional Background and Experience

This is the third post in the series, “Got a Good Lawyer?” This week I’ll discuss Criteria 3 (Support Help) and Criteria 4 (Professional Background and Experience) to consider when selecting your divorce lawyer. Also, I’ll share some research on the importance of your divorce lawyer’s looks. I’m looking forward to hearing your opinion on the matter. Scroll down to the section titled “Criteria 3 and 4 to Consider when Hiring a Divorce Lawyer” to go straight to this week’s post.

For Those just Joining the Series,

Welcome, and thank you for checking out the blog!

I’ve provided a brief recap below explaining what the series is about and its purpose. However, I recommend checking out posts 1 and 2 to get completely up to speed.

For your convenience, I’ve hyperlinked the post titles below so you can just click to be taken directly to the article.

Recap of Previous Posts in the Series

Post 1: Intro to Series “Got a Good Lawyer?”

This is the first article in the series, “Got a Good Lawyer?” In the article, I mentioned that in order to get the best representation in Minnesota, you want to find the lawyer that is the best fit for you and your divorce. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone. However, I thought it would be helpful if you had some criteria to base your decision on. Therefore, the series focuses on 10 criteria to use when judging which divorce lawyer is right for you.

Post 2: Criteria 1 and 2: Communication & Personality

Last week, in Post 2, I introduced criteria 1: Communication and criteria 2: Personality. I stressed the importance of knowing your divorce lawyer’s communication procedures before hiring him/her to represent you in your divorce. That way you know ahead of time what to expect when it comes to communicating with your divorce lawyer.

In regards to personality, I shared research that demonstrates the value of meeting briefly with your divorce lawyer in person, to get an idea of what his/her personality is like before hiring him/her for your divorce.

 

Criteria 3 and 4 to Consider when Hiring a Divorce Lawyer…

Criteria 3: SUPPORT HELP

It’s important to know what type of help the divorce lawyer that you’re considering has available to him/her. For example, does your divorce lawyer have a legal assistant, paralegal, administrative assistant, etc…?Let’s take a look at some research.

Our Ability to Process Information

Neurophysiological studies show that although the human brain receives 11 million pieces of information per second from our environment, we can only process 40 bits per second. In addition, due to today’s fast-paced and technology-driven society, information overload has become rampant. Lastly, additional research shows that the more cognitive resources required to filter through information, the less we have to use when it comes time to complete the task at hand.

Case in point, see picture of computer screen posted below. Yikes!
Cluttered Legal Assistant Computer Screen

Therefore, hiring a divorce lawyer that has at least 1 additional staff member, helps manage the work that needs to be done on your case, keeps your case more organized, ensures important details don’t get overlooked, and allows your divorce lawyer to dedicate his/her attention and focus on the most important aspects of your divorce case.

Also, hiring a divorce lawyer that has at least 1 additional staff member can save you money. For instance, if your divorce lawyer is a solo practitioner, you might be paying high attorney fees for tasks required on your divorce case (such as, filing with the court) that could otherwise be done by a legal assistant at half the price!

Criteria 4: PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND AND EXPERIENCE:

Check for Family Law Background

It’s essential that you consider the lawyer’s professional experience and background for a number of reasons. To illustrate, let’s say you check out a law firm’s web site and the firm advertises that they’ve been practicing for 20 years.

You may be thinking, “Great! They have a ton of experience.”

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. For instance, are they adding up the individual years among each attorney in the practice and therefore, getting a total of 20 years? Hopefully that’s not the case. However, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

So let’s say you do ask, and you find out that each lawyer has 20 years of experience individually.

Great!

Hold up…

So your lawyer has 20 years of experience, but in what area?

It does you absolutely no good to hire an attorney for your divorce in Minnesota who has 18 years of experience in criminal law, and only 2 years in family law, or worst yet, none!

Evaluate Experience with Minnesota Divorce Cases

Therefore, you’ll want to evaluate how much experience the lawyer has in family law in Minnesota, and even more specifically, with divorce cases that are similar to your own. By doing so, you increase your chances of finding a divorce lawyer in Minnesota that is familiar with your individualized needs and specific concerns. In addition, it’s beneficial if the majority of the lawyer’s family law cases have been divorces in Minnesota, because the current laws and legal statues will be fresh in his/her mind. And lastly, it’ll be more likely that your divorce lawyer will know the Minnesota judge that will be overseeing your divorce case.

Review Education and Ability to Practice

In terms of education, you want a divorce lawyer that has graduated from an accredited law school, passed the Bar exam and is currently licensed to practice as an attorney in the state of Minnesota. You should be able to easily find this information on the attorney’s website in his/her about me section. Or, when you go for your initial consultation with your divorce lawyer, check the walls of his/her office and you’ll most likely see his/her diplomas and certifications hung up. You may also find it helpful to know if your divorce lawyer belongs to any associations or currently serves on any committees related to family law. This information can also usually be found on the attorney’s website in his/her about me section, but you can always just ask too.

Now to the Study: Looks More Important than The Books?

Divorce Lawyer Head Shots
Mary Ellen Sullivan wrote an interesting article based on research conducted by Leigh McMillan, Vice President of Marketing for Avvo (an attorney-client networking site). The results of the study were based on the responses from 10,000 consumers. The study looked at factors involved in how individuals choose a lawyer.

The results?

The lawyer’s head shot mattered more to people when deciding who to hire as their lawyer than where the lawyer went to school.

To read her full article, check out the link at the end of the article under the “Sources” section.

What Do You Think?

How important is where your divorce lawyer went to school?

Please take a moment to add to the discussion by commenting in the section below.Look forward to reading what you have to say!

Thanks, and see you in 2 weeks for my fourth post in the “Got a Good Lawyer?” series regarding criteria 5!

Sources:

Manfred Zimmerman, “Neurophysiology of Sensory Systems,” in Fundamentals of Sensory Physiology, 3rd, rev. ed., ed. Robert R. Schmidt (New York: Springer, 1986), 116.

Mary Ellen Sullivan, http://www.attorneyatwork.com/heads-headshots-created-equal/

Advantages of Hiring a Small Law Firm

July 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Divorce, Law Firm

So you were served with divorce papers, your spouse already has a lawyer, there are children involved, or you’re in any of the other situations previously mentioned in the article When Should I Get a Divorce Lawyer.

Now do you hire a small law firm for your divorce in Minnesota or go with a big law firm?  

There are definitely some advantages to hiring a small law firm, which we’ll look at here.

Advtanges of Hiring a Small Law Firm

4 Advantages of Hiring a Small Law Firm for your Divorce

 

  1. Less Expensive

Perhaps the most significant advantage of hiring a small law firm for your Minnesota divorce is cost.

Small law firms have less staff to pay. They also have less organizational overhead, lower advertising costs, and less expensive office space rentals. In any law office, these expenses will inevitably be pushed off onto the client, usually in the form of higher fees.

For example, big law firms in downtown Minneapolis charge a minimum of $400 an hour with paralegal fees of $300 an hour for divorce and family law cases, and be prepared for a significant initial retainer.

 

  1. Focus on Divorce and Family Law

Small firms often, although not necessarily, are more likely to specialize in the practice area they work in.

Usually you can tell, through the firm’s advertising, website, or after calling, what areas they practice in and deal with on a regular basis.

It’s also easier to figure out how much experience and practice the lawyer that will be representing you has had with divorce when you go with a small firm.

  1. Personal Connection

When you work with a small firm, you meet all the staff.

Along these lines, you always know who is working on your case. Unfortunately, just because you meet with the partner of a big law firm, doesn’t mean that s/he will actually be the divorce attorney working on your case.

Do you really want to take the risk of your divorce case getting passed off to a less-experienced associate or bouncing from one attorney to another throughout your case?

Instead, with a small firm, what you see, is what you get! Staff at a small firm get the opportunity to know you and your case on a personal level. That’s exactly what you want from your divorce attorney considering the fact that your divorce case is a personal matter!

Staff Availability

  1. Staff Availability

Because there are less people to get through and because staff will not be working on a high volume of different kinds of cases that they may not be as familiar with, staff are easier to get a hold of and more quickly available when you need them. This includes being able to directly communicate with the lawyer working on your divorce.

Please keep in mind that these are the common differences between small law firms and big law firms.

There are additional factors you should take into consideration as well when choosing your divorce lawyer.

Next week, we’ll get into the details and show you how to get the BEST representation for your divorce.

 

Minnesota Divorce Retainers

June 23, 2014 by  
Filed under Divorce, Family Law, Retainer

When you’re thinking about divorce expenses or looking to hire a divorce attorney, it’s important that you take into consideration Minnesota divorce retainers and understand retainer fee agreements. If you’ve never hired a lawyer before, you may be wondering, “What’s a Retainer?” This article explains what a retainer is, how a retainer works in Minnesota divorce and family law cases, and what you need to know before signing a retainer fee agreement or representation contract with an attorney.

Minnesota Divorce RetainersLegal Retainer Definition

A retainer (also sometimes referred to as a, retainer fee) is a good-faith, advance payment made to a lawyer for legal services. The retainer can be a single advance payment or reoccurring, depending on your situation. (We’ll talk more about single vs. reoccurring payments later in the article).

Retainer Purpose

In addition to signing an engagement letter (or representation contract), the retainer establishes a client-attorney relationship between the individual and the lawyer. Without the retainer, an attorney will not work on your divorce or family law case, provide legal advice or representation. Thus, the retainer provides the individual with legal services and ensures that the attorney will be paid for such services. 

How Does a Retainer Work?

First, the retainer is typically collected during the intake appointment with the attorney. There are a number of different payment methods available to you. Learn about the different retainer payment options by reading: How to Pay for a Divorce Lawyer. Additionally, in some cases, your spouse can be ordered to pay your attorney fees. To learn more about when you can don’t have to pay attorney fees, read: Attorney Fees

After intake, the lawyer puts the retainer into a separate trust account for the client. The retainer belongs to the client. No money from the retainer can be collected by the attorney unless it has been earned.

Then, as the lawyer works on the divorce or family law case, s/he charges the client for legal services provided. The client pays for such legal services with the retainer (the money in the trust account). As services are rendered, the lawyer withdraws money from the retainer for payment. Once earned, money from the retainer is deposited into the firm’s account and no longer belongs to the client. Any unearned portion of the retainer is returned back to the client. (We’ll talk more about retainer refunds later in the article).

Minnesota Divorce Retainers

Typically, divorce and family law attorneys in Minnesota require an initial retainer somewhere between $3,000 – $5,000 and charge on an hourly rate basis. Minnesota laws, specifically Minnesota’s Rules of Professional Conduct Regarding Fees, guide what attorneys can charge, when they can charge, how they can charge and their responsibilities to the client-attorney relationship. For example, in Minnesota, it’s illegal for an attorney to charge contingency fees in family law matters. However, Minnesota divorce and family law attorneys can legally seek reimbursement from the client for in-house costs and materials, like: paper; printing; coping; telephone charges; postage; etc…

TIP: In-house costs quickly add up and can exceed people’s expectations. Therefore, it’s important that you ask the attorney how additional case costs and expenses are handled. For example, at Majeski Law, we do not charge the client separately for such in-house expenses listed above.

Single (Initial) Retainer vs. Reoccurring (Replenishing) Retainer Fees

The initial retainer is the amount your divorce or family law attorney believes is reasonably necessary to start working on your case. As your case proceeds, you may need to replenish your initial retainer to continue working with the attorney. Thus, the initial retainer may cover all legal services during your divorce or family law case or you may have reoccurring retainer fees. Whether you’ll have a single retainer fee or reoccurring retainer fees will depend mostly on you, your attorney and the specifics of your case. (We’ll talk more about replenishing the retainer later in this article).

Minnesota Divorce Retainers

TIP: Don’t be afraid to bring up money concerns with your divorce or family law attorney. In fact, it’s best to address any financial issues right away with your attorney. Generally, the more you, as the client, do yourself, the more money you can save. Therefore, it can be helpful to identify tasks that you can do yourself, and tasks that you will need an attorney to complete for you.

Retainer versus Additional Costs and Total Expense

Typically, the retainer is only used to pay attorney fees. However, you’ll have additional case expenses, such as court filing fees. Court fees are set by the court, collected by the court, and paid to the court. You pay court fees regardless of whether you have an attorney or not as they are mandatory in the state of Minnesota. For example, it costs about $400 to file for divorce in Minnesota.

In addition, during your divorce or family law case, you may acquire additional services from a third party, such as a mediator, custody evaluator or a property appraiser. Like court fees, your attorney has nothing to do with third party fees, and retainer funds are not used to pay such third party fees. Instead, payment for services from a third party should be arranged between the third party and the client, directly.

NOTE: An attorney may be willing to use money from the retainer to pay a court filing or process server fee on your behalf, but those tend to be the only (and rare) exceptions. If retainer money is used to pay a court or process server fee, the firm can provide you with a court and/or process server receipt. In addition, best practice would also be to have such items and services clearly accounted for on the firm’s invoice.

Thus, the retainer does not cover your divorce or family law case expenses. Instead, the retainer is only for attorney fees. We stress this point, because some individuals mistakenly take the initial retainer fee to be the total cost of their divorce or family law case. Although attorney fees (and thus, the retainer) impact the total cost, they’re not the only expenses in a divorce or family law case. Instead, how much your divorce or family law case will cost, will depend upon your specific situation and several different factors. Therefore, it’s best if you can budget accordingly.

Read: How much a Divorce Costs in Minnesota to estimate your total cost and learn how you can save money.

Minnesota Divorce Retainers

Retainer and Retainer Fee Agreement

The terms of your engagement letter or representation contract with your attorney should include a section regarding the retainer fee agreement. The retainer fee agreement or retainer agreement you make with your lawyer should not only be in writing, but should clearly state the firm’s procedures and policies regarding the following: Retainer amount; Hourly rates; Services provided; Scope of representation; etc…

Retainer and Accounting Practices

In addition, your lawyer should provide you with a regular invoice. A good invoice shows you what services were provided, who completed the work (such as, an attorney or a paralegal), and the amount withdrawn from the retainer. Best practice would be that you receive a monthly invoice, unless no services were provided that month. In that case, depending on the firm, you may or may not receive an invoice that month. The firm’s accounting and invoice practices should also be explained and stated in writing in the retainer agreement.

Retainer Fee, Replenishing the Retainer and Legal Representation

As mentioned earlier, you may need to replenish the retainer. Some divorce and family law attorneys require the retainer to be replenished to the initial amount, while others require a larger or smaller amount. Inability to replenish the retainer usually results in the divorce or family law attorney withdrawing from the case. In that instance, the client would either need to represent him/herself in the divorce or family law matter or seek services from a free legal clinic. Again, the firm’s policy regarding representation and retainer replenishment should be clearly explained and stated in writing in the retainer agreement.

Retainer Refund

Once your case is completed and closed with the firm, you should receive your last invoice. At this time, you may still have money left in your retainer. As previously mentioned, the retainer money belongs to the client, until it’s earned. Therefore, any unearned portion of the retainer belongs to the client and must be returned.

In addition, you, the client, may fire your divorce or family law attorney at any time. Similarly, whatever balance is left in your retainer after closing out your case, would be returned to you. Therefore, whether you end up receiving money back, depends on the remaining balance of your retainer when your case is closed (regardless of whether your case is finished or because you fired your attorney).

Minnesota Divorce Retainers

NOTE: Because the retainer money belongs to the client until earned and the client is not receiving the entire retainer fee, it’s not truly a retainer refund. It’s actually more accurate to call it an unearned retainer return. However, because “unearned retainer return” is not commonly used or searched for by the public, “retainer refund” is used, and refers to the remaining (unearned) portion of the retainer that gets returned back to the client. Again, we emphasize that the client only receives the unearned portion of the retainer at the end of the case.

Minnesota Divorce Retainers Summary:

  • The retainer is money that you designate up front to your lawyer to be used to pay for services provided during your divorce or family law case.
  • The retainer is put into a trust account and belongs to you. No money is collected from the retainer until it’s earned by the attorney.
  • As services are rendered, money from the retainer is paid to the firm. Once collected by the firm, that money no longer belongs to the client.
  • Depending on your case, you may need to replenish the initial retainer. Inability to pay for services, by not replenishing the retainer, dissolves the client-attorney relationship, legal representation and all legal services.
  • At any time in your case, you can decide to represent yourself or fire your current attorney and hire another attorney. At this time, the remaining balance would be returned back to you. Otherwise, any remaining balance is returned back to you at the end of your divorce or family law case.
  • It’s very important that you read the retainer fee agreement carefully to make sure that the firm’s policies and procedures are stated in writing and that you have a complete understanding before signing the contract.

If you still have questions about retainers in Minnesota divorces or family law cases, the consultation is a great time to ask for more details and clarification. Otherwise, ask your retainer questions when you’re scheduling the intake appointment. To learn what else you should be asking when you’re scheduling the intake appointment, read: Scheduling an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney for more details and to get your free checklist. 

Next Page »

About

Hello. I'm Matt Majeski. I'm a divorce lawyer and family law attorney. In 2009, I founded Majeski Law, LLC. Equipped with a degree in Law & Psychology, I decided to focus my law practice solely on divorce and family law matters. Although I serve individuals throughout the state of Minnesota, most of my clients live in Ramsey, Dakota, Washington, Anoka, and Chisago county. I've been Co-Chair of the Family Law Section of the Ramsey County Bar Association since 2014. In addition, I've been an active member of the Minnesota State, Ramsey County, and Washington County Bar Association since 2009, and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts since 2012. Besides volunteering at the Washington County Legal Advice Clinic, through the Volunteer Lawyers Network (in Minneapolis, Minnesota) I've also been able to serve a number of individuals pro bono in several civil matters. When I'm not practicing law, my two daughters keep me busy running around, stepping on Legos, and playing computer games. In addition, those who know me on a personal level, know I have a deep appreciation for Star Wars and Tootsie-Rolls, and that I humor my wife's love for, The Packers.