Top Court Attire Mistakes Judges Hate & How to Avoid Them

Court Attire and Appearance

Your Court attire and appearance are worthy of careful consideration. How you’re dressed for Court reflects your respect for the Judge, the Court and Justice system.

It’s also a reflection of you! Disregard your appearance and you risk drawing a judge’s attention away from the issues of your case. Worse yet, you may be left trying to deal with a negative first impression. Instead, your Court attire and appearance should compliment your case by increasing your credibility.

So, let’s learn what to wear and what not to wear in Court so you can put your best foot forward in your divorce or custody case. In addition, find a free court attire and court appearance checklist at the end of this article, along with helpful information about your first court appearance in a divorce, custody or family law case. 

Mistake #1: Informal Court Attire 

Examples include: Jeans; t-shirts; shorts; sweatpants; jumpsuits; jerseys; sports and/or athletic apparel; tennis shoes; slippers; and flips flops. 

Going to court is a formal affair.  So, you want to look your best. Although you don’t have to buy a suit for court, if you own a professional-looking suit, wear it. However, if you don’t own a suit or it doesn’t fit properly, professional/business attire is fine.

Dressing for court is similar to dressing for a professional job interview. Think dress pants, slacks, or pressed-khaki pants with dress blouses or button-up, collared-shirts under long-sleeved cardigans or blazers. In addition, stick with tall, dark-colored socks with close-toed black or brown dress shoes.

Court attire and professional business apparel in court

Mistake #2: Inappropriate Court Attire

Tank tops, mid drift shirts, short skirts, sleeveless and/or low-cut blouses or v-neck sweaters, and tight-fitted or extremely-baggy clothing are inappropriate in a Courtroom. Furthermore, clothing with images, messages, or words can be provoking and/or inappropriate and therefore, should also not be worn in a courtroom. 

Therefore, cover your skin when in the Courtroom and all undergarments.  Bra straps, underwear, boxers, or briefs should not be visible at any time in court.  If necessary, invest in a brown or black dress belt to prevent pants from sagging in the courtroom. 

court attire shoes

Mistake #3: Poor Personal Hygiene/Appearance

Strong body odor, bad breath, greasy and/or unruly hair, a scraggly-looking beard, dirty finger nails, scuffed shoes, etc… all leave an unfavorable impression on a judge.

For example, imagine a parent arguing for more parenting time enters court in wrinkled, mismatched, and stained clothing, with long disheveled hair. A first impression like this could lead the Judge to infer the parent as irresponsible, neglectful, inconsiderate, reckless, inept, etc…

With such a negative first impression, it’s much more difficult for the parent to present and be viewed by the Judge as a competent and qualified co-parent. Any arguments of competency on the parent’s behalf will strongly conflict with the image s/he initially portrayed to the judge. After all, when actions don’t match words, we tend to view a person’s actions to be more reliable, honest, and a better representation of the truth, or their “real” character. 

make sure everything is clean

Clothes should be freshly-laundered, ironed, and in good-condition. Do not wear anything that has holes, tears or visible stains.Shirts should be neatly tucked-in before entering the courtroom. Shoelaces should be tied. Clean and polish dress shoes the night before your court appearance, if applicable.

Attend to personal hygiene the morning of your court appearance.  

    • On the day of your court appearance, shower and wash your hair.
    • Hair should be combed and neatly-cut or styled. Your hair should not hang in your face or obstruct your eyesight. If you’re constantly tucking-in bangs or brushing hair out of your face, it’s very distracting for you and a judge.
    • Brush your teeth and if necessary, use a breath mint, but finish it before going into court.
    • Trim and scrub finger nails and remove any visible dirt on your hands before appearing in court.
    • Shave facial hair, or make sure all facial hair is neatly-trimmed and combed.
    • Apply deodorant, but avoid spraying colognes or perfumes, or applying scented after-shave products or body lotions, as this can also be distracting. 

Mistake #4: Concealing Accessories

Concealing accessories and a lack of eye contact can signify a lack of respect or sincerity to a Judge. Sunglasses, hats of any kind (baseball caps, top hats, winter stocking caps, “beanies”, cowboy hats, etc…), along with hoods, and heavy jackets should not be worn in a courtroom. 

Don’t wear any head gear (such as, baseball caps, headphones, bluetooth pieces, etc…) before appearing in court.  That way, your hair will stay neat for court and you won’t have to worry about remembering to take anything off before entering the courtroom.

However, if the weather necessitates it, make sure that all hats, earmuffs, sunglasses, hoods, etc… are removed and properly put away before entering the Courtroom. 

Mistake #5: “Flashy” Accessories

Make-up, jewelry, body piercings, shoes, tattoos, colors, electronics, phones, food and beverages, chewing gum, e-cigarettes, pocket change, extravagant purses, etc… can all be distracting in a court room. In addition, wearing political buttons, club pins, college rings, expensive jewelry, designer handbags, etc… can all trigger prejudice or bias. 

As for your Court attire, aim for a conservative and neutral look.  Facial make-up should be modest, and stick with neutral tones and light colors.  Avoid bright, bold or flashy colors and patterns. Instead, stick with solid colors of white, navy, gray, and the like to be taken more seriously.  Although tattoos and body piercings are more common today, temporarily remove any facial piercings and cover all tattoos as much as possible when in Court.

Mistake #6: Distracting Accessories

Next, limit unnecessary noise. Avoid wearing large chains, cufflinks, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings to Court.  Don’t have loose change and/or multiple keys in your pocket that bang against each other and jingle when you walk. 

Leaving your cell phone on vibrate is often still audible in a quiet Courtroom.  Therefore, put your cell phone on “silent” mode or off and make sure that it’s put away when you’re in court.

Also, you can’t drink, eat, or smoke in the Courtroom.  This includes the use of e-cigarettes and chewing bubble gum.

Lastly, minimize disorganization and distraction. Court documents should be neatly organized and properly filed. 

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

7 Ways To Protect Yourself When Being Deposed

Woman Being Deposed
A deposition can be extremely stressful

Deposed in your divorce, custody or family law case? The deposition process (especially when you’re the one getting deposed) can be very intimidating. And understandably so. After all, most of us are uncomfortable during a job interview. So, if sitting in a room as a trained and experienced professional “sizes you up” and questions you with the intent of spotting inconsistencies in your statements isn’t your cup of tea… it just means you’re normal.

However, you don’t have to let your nerves get the best of you. Check out our deposition guide so you know what to expect, meet with your divorce or family law attorney, and don’t forget these seven tips when you’re getting deposed.

What to Do When Being Deposed

1. Be honest.

Although you won’t be in a Courtroom, you’re still under oath, like you are in court, during a deposition. Thus, if you lie, falsify information, make false statements, etc… while you’re being deposed, it’s a serious offense and considered perjury. In addition, any inconsistencies can and likely will be used against you later or if there is a trial. 

2. Answer only what the deposing lawyer asks you.

It’s not uncommon for people to talk a lot when they get nervous. However, when you’re being deposed, resist the urge to story tell. If you’re a person who is used to giving lots of details, keep it simple by focusing your response solely on answering the question at hand.

3. “I don’t know” and “I don’t understand” are perfectly acceptable answers if they are true.

If you don’t know or can’t recall the answer, or don’t understand the question – say so. After all, it’s the deposing lawyer’s job to ask questions that you (the individual being deposed) is able to answer and clarify questions you don’t understand. Sometimes, during a deposition, people feel so pressured to give an answer and/or they think it’s bad if they don’t know or have an answer – that they make an assumption, guess or speculate. However, it’s much harder to change an answer given during a deposition later in court, than it is, to expand on your answer after uncovering more information at a later date. And thus why, making assumptions, speculating, and/or guessing during a deposition can be a costly mistake and isn’t in your best interests. 

4. Stick to your guns if it’s the truth.

Don’t allow the deposing lawyer to twist your answers or get you to answer something that you don’t believe is right. For instance, an inexperienced deposing attorney may ask you a question that assumes untruthful facts, in hopes that by responding to the question, you’re agreeing to those untruthful facts. Instead, don’t be swayed to change your answer or agree to statements that you don’t believe are true. 

5. Be patient.

Listen carefully and completely to each question from the deposing lawyer before answering. Sometimes silence can feel so uncomfortable that we rush to an answer or fill the air with “Umms…” until we’ve processed a question. However, it’s perfectly okay to pause (and thus, for there to be moments of silence) in order to collect yourself, process the question and provide a thoughtful response. In fact, you may find it advantageous to pause (briefly) after each question. If you pause briefly before responding to each question (even when the question is incredibly easy – such as, “What’s your date of birth?”) then when a more complex question comes along and you need more time- you’ll have it and feel less rushed. In addition, besides giving you the opportunity to provide a thoughtful response, being patient and taking your time ensures that you wait to hear the whole question before answering and also gives your attorney the opportunity to object to any inappropriate or unnecessary questions. Lastly, being patient during the deposition will help you remain calm, which is the next tip. 

6. Remain calm.

During a divorce or family law deposition, be aware of emotionally-provoking questions. A brief pause to take a few deep breaths is better than an aggressive outburst that you can’t take back. Besides making you look bad, interrupting and/or talking over the deposing attorney makes it difficult for the court reporter to type and have an accurate record of the deposition. In addition, do you really want the deposing attorney (in most divorce and family law cases – the opposing attorney) to discover what pushes your buttons and later be able to use it against you in a trial?

7. Be Professional.

Some people get so nervous about presenting themselves in a desirable light that they become overly friendly during the deposition. Others, don’t take the deposition seriously enough and tell jokes. Instead, you want to act in a professional manner. Show courtesy to those involved and be polite in your interactions. Avoid swear words and sarcastic responses during the deposition. Just like you don’t have to like a co-worker, but you need to respect him/her – the same applies to the other party, the deposing attorney, the court reporter, etc… during a deposition.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For other Court rules, please click here.

What is the Notice of Initial Case Management Conference?

In a Minnesota divorce, custody or family law case, the Notice of Initial Case Management Conference is typically the second document you receive from the court. Generally, this notice from the court comes after the Notice of Case Filing and the Notice of Case Assignment. However, sometimes you receive all three of these notices from the court together. 

The Notice of Initial Case Management Conference will inform you of the date, time, and location of the Initial Case Management Conference, known as the ICMC. In most cases, the ICMC is the first time you’ll need to appear in court for your divorce, custody or family law case.

The notice may also briefly explain what the ICMC process is, and will inform you that you’ll need to complete a document titled, the ICMC Data Sheet. Typically, the ICMC data sheet must be filed with the court and the other party 5 business days before the ICMC. However, it’s very important that you know and follow the procedures and policies within your specific county court system. 

In addition, the Notice of ICMC may provide a short preview of what you can expect at the ICMC, along with a discussion of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE), scheduling, appraisals, and discovery. All of these processes can potentially be a part of your case. Although, typically you need to use more of these processes during a divorce case than a custody case.

Read At Court-ICMC to learn more about the Initial Case Management Conference with the judge and take a look at our infographic below.

Notice of Initial Case Management Conference

If you’re not familiar with such processes listed above (ADR, ENE, Discovery, etc…) or don’t know how to prepare for them with your best interests in mind, your best course of action is either to hire a family law attorney or try a legal self-help clinic. Because, regardless of whether you’re represented or not, the judge will expect you to be prepared to discuss these processes and issues.

TIP: In fact, judges are especially pleased when the parties have worked together and reached agreements on these processes and issues before talking to the judge at the ICMC. 

Lastly, if you have a family law attorney or divorce lawyer, s/he may be sent the Notice of ICMC from the court instead. However, in that case, your attorney should give you a copy. You should keep this copy of the Notice of ICMC for your personal records. 

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

Co-Parenting Class, Finding the Right One

As a separated or divorcing parent in Minnesota, you may be required to take a co-parenting class. Beginning in 1998, these classes have been part of a state-wide effort to provide parents with the support and resources to help their children adjust to family changes and work together effectively.

Unfortunately, many parents don’t know about these classes, until they’ve been court-ordered to attend. Understandably so, a parent education order can be an unsettling surprise for parents. However, we’ve found that the more parents know about these programs, the more helpful they’ve found the classes to be. Therefore, we’ve dedicated an entire blog series, The 411 on Parent Education in Minnesota Family Law, so parents have the information and resources to get the most out of this experience.

Parent Education in Minnesota Family Law

Most separated or divorcing parents find it reassuring to know that these classes aren’t “basic” parenting classes and they’re not handed out as a sort of “punishment” by the judge.

To learn why you’re being Court-ordered to attend and what these classes will be like, or to determine if you’ll need to attend a co-parenting class, check out our first article: Parent Education Program: Unknown Court Orders to Parents.

Next, check out our second article: 8 Tips to Navigate Court-Ordered Parenting Classes in Minnesota. The article covers frequently asked questions such as,
   

 “What happens if I don’t attend?” 
     “How much is this going to cost?” 
     “What if I can’t afford to pay?
     “Do I have to attend the same class as my Ex?
     “Can my Ex use what I say in class against me in court?

Now, as promised, our third article is committed to finding the best co-parenting class for you. When it comes to choosing a parent education program, your divorce lawyer or family law attorney can help. However, when it comes to the final decision, you’re the best person to decide. So to help you with the decision process, consider these 9 criteria to find the right co-parenting class for you.

Find the Best Co-Parenting Class for You

1. COURT-APPROVED

First and foremost, the co-parenting class needs to be court-approved in Minnesota. Specifically, the co-parenting class you choose needs to be approved and accepted within your specific county. Because counties vary, it’s essential you determine that the program is approved in your county before taking the class.

If the co-parenting class is court-approved, it means that the program has been selected because it meets the Supreme Court’s Parent Education Minimum Standards.

co-parenting class curriculum standards
Standards for Parent Education Programs in Minnesota

These 25 standards promote the quality of parent education programs in Minnesota. Although by law (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 1 ), the county only has to offer one parenting program, most counties have a few available. Therefore, the rest of this list will help you narrow down your options.

Stay tuned to the series for more help with finding a court-approved co-parenting class in your county. 

2. CLASS FORMAT/SETTING

When you choose your co-parenting class, consider how the class is taught. For example, you may be taught in-person by an instructor, guided through self-study online, or a combination of both. The format of the class may be mainly lecture-based, or geared towards discussion and skills practice. In addition, it can be helpful to know how the material is presented. For instance, you may prefer handouts and take-home worksheets or maybe you value the visual guidance of a power point presentation and slide notes. Bottom line: When it comes to class format/setting, the most important thing is that you choose the class with the format and teaching style that is most compatible with your learning style. 

Additional questions to consider when evaluating Class Format/Setting include:

  • Are individual questions permitted at the end of the class or 1:1 sessions available?
  • What is the class size?
3. CONVENIENCE 

As a busy parent with a jam-packed schedule, convenience is a necessity these days. Finding a co-parenting class that is convenient for you to take, can reduce stress.

Therefore, it may be helpful to find a co-parenting class that is close by, and has designated parking. That way you don’t have to waste time searching for a parking space (especially if you’re in rush hour traffic).

Besides location, when you’re evaluating Convenience consider the following:

  • Program availability (How long before you can attend? Is there a wait list?)
  • Class Schedule (Time & Dates of classes offered)
  • Class Length (How long is each class?)
  • Number of Classes/Sessions You’ll Need to Attend

Typically, each co-parenting class is 8 hours long. However, the class will be taught in 2 sessions on different days, with each session lasting approximately 4 hours each. Parents are then required to attend both sessions, in order to fulfill the court’s parent education order.

Some of these parenting programs are organized so that the first session is an online course, and the second session is a 4 hour in-person class. In fact, in order to better accommodate parents’ busy schedules, Minnesota has approved some parenting programs that are entirely online.

If you’re interested in taking your co-parenting class with an online program, the following are additional questions to consider when evaluating Convenience: 

  • Is the online program available for you to take 24/7?
  • Can you save the work you’ve done and come back at a different time, or do you have to do it all in one sitting?
  • Do you have access to a computer, internet and the necessary software?
4. COST

Most programs in the Twin Cities area cost around $50 – $90. However, when calculating the total price of the class include additional costs, such as: costs for materials and tax (if applicable), and transportation and parking fees (if not taking the class online). Knowing the total cost to take a co-parenting class makes it easier when you’re comparing several programs.

Additional questions to consider when it comes to Cost include: 

  • If you can’t afford the class, is there a sliding fee scale or other additional discounts?
  • What happens if you’re not satisfied with the class, can you get a full/partial refund?
  • What type of payment method is required?
  • When is payment due for the class?
  • What is the cancellation policy regarding the class or what happens if you miss a class?
5. INSTRUCTOR & INSTITUTION’S CREDENTIALS

It’s important that the co-parenting class you take is taught by a qualified professional. Children and family therapists with experience in mediation, family law, counseling and adult education can be helpful class instructors.

In addition, some parents prefer to take a co-parenting class that is taught by two instructors, one female and one male. In return, they’ve reported that they felt more comfortable in the class and believed that they benefited by having more than one instructor’s perspective.

Besides considering who teaches the class, along with their credentials, training and experience, it can be helpful to consider the company and/or the institution’s reputation.

Typically, parents tend to feel more comfortable with a company or institution that has been in business for a while and is known as a leader/expert in the field. In fact, knowing more about the company can be particularly useful when you’re taking an online-only program and you’re not being taught by a specific individual.

6. CLASS CURRICULUM

As mentioned above, the supreme court sets certain standards for the program. Although these standards guide class curriculum, they’re just the bare minimum. Meaning, the standards dictate what must be taught in the class, but the class can cover more topics. Therefore, class curriculum can be different among court-approved programs. Therefore, to determine what you’ll be learning in the program, see a class outline. As mentioned in our second article, you may want to make a list of current issues and concerns, and then use this list to compare it to each class outline. Finding a class with a curriculum that interests you, that addresses topics you’re concerned about, and teaches skills applicable to your specific situation makes a big difference. 

7. CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION

Also as mentioned in our second article, at the end of the program you should receive a certificate of completion. This completion certificate is essential because it’s your proof to the court that you followed the court’s order. Therefore, before deciding on a co-parenting class, find out how their certification process works. For instance, do you need to complete and pass an exam at the end of the program in order to earn your certificate?

If there is a final exam,

  • What score do you need in order to pass? 
  • If you don’t pass, do you need to take the whole program over again before you can re-take the exam?
  • Is the final exam timed? (If so, how long do you have to complete the exam, and how many questions is the exam?)
co-parenting class
You will receive a certificate of completion for finishing your co-parenting class

Additional questions to ask when learning about the Certification process include: 

  • How quickly do you receive your certificate after you’ve completed the program?
  • How do you receive the certificate? (For instance, is it mailed to you? Are you emailed and instructed to print it out yourself? Is it handed to you at the end of the class?)

These additional questions are important because (as you learned in our second article) you’re expected to notify the judge and the other party in a certain number of days after you’ve completed the class. In order to do so, you need the certificate to show you’ve fulfilled the parent education order.

8. TESTIMONIALS

When deciding which co-parenting class is right for you, consider what individuals who’ve taken the class have to say. Reading reviews from previous attendees can provide additional insight. And because most companies publish client reviews and testimonials directly on their website, it’s easy to do.

In addition, online reviews may be available through Google, Better Business Bureau, and Facebook Ratings and Reviews. However, don’t be alarmed if you can’t find several testimonials. Divorce and family law matters are a personal topic and therefore, a lack of reviews can be a result of a desire for privacy rather than an indication of the quality of a co-parenting class.

Besides reading reviews from previous attendees, you can also ask for referrals and recommendations from professionals or friends and family members who have gone through the program. Lastly, online support groups and forums can be an additional source for reviews from previous attendees.

9. CUSTOMER SERVICE & SUPPORT

Although hopefully you won’t have any problems, it can be reassuring to know that someone is there to help if they do arise. For example, if you end up having trouble taking the class online or receiving your certificate of completion.

Reading testimonials can give you an idea of their customer service and support, but it’s worth looking into deeper. This is especially true, if you’re taking the program online. In addition to determining if they have a customer support/help line, it can be beneficial to know the hours available.

If technical difficulties arise while taking your co-parenting class online, 24/7 technical assistance may be the difference between a 10-minute delay and having to wait and finish the class another day.

Hopefully, you now have a good idea of what to consider when it comes to picking a co-parenting class and you find the right one for you.

However, choosing a co-parenting class is just the beginning. Stay tuned for a “How To” guide for parent education orders to get walked through the entire process. We’ll also include a checklist to help you stay organized and on track.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

Why Caseload Matters In Your Divorce

Got a Good Lawyer

This is the 4th post, Why Caseload Matters In Your Divorce, in the series called, “Got 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

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/

Got a Good Lawyer Series, Post 2

Got a Good Laywer  Part II

Last week, I introduced a new blog series, called “Got a Good Lawyer?” In the post, I shared that the most important thing to consider when you’re looking for the best representation in Minnesota is to pick the lawyer that is the best fit for you and your divorce. I also told you that the purpose of the series is to help you judge whether a divorce lawyer is right for you or not by evaluating him/her on 10 specific criteria. So this week, I’ll get started by identifying and discussing the first 2 criteria: COMMUNCATION and PERSONALITY.

     1. COMMUNICATION:

Perhaps one of the most significant factors to take into consideration before hiring your divorce lawyer, is to clarify communication procedures ahead of time.

For example, you’ll want to know the answers to questions such as,

  • “How can you get a hold of your lawyer when you need to talk with him/her about your divorce case?”
  • “Does your divorce lawyer have open office hours or is s/he able to meet with you in the community?”
  • If you prefer to talk on the phone, email, fax, text, skype, etc… “Does the divorce lawyer currently have systems in place to match your preferred method of communication?”
  • If your divorce lawyer is unavailable… “How long will it take for him/her to get back to you?”
  • “How often will your divorce lawyer update you on your case?

The last question is important because if you’re someone who wants to be updated immediately and frequently throughout your divorce case, you want to make sure that the divorce attorney that you pick has the resources needed (whether that means the divorce attorney has a legal assistant, a manageable caseload, etc…) to meet your preferences.

     2. PERSONALITY:

Sometimes people just rub you the wrong way and you can’t necessarily put your finger on what it is that bothers you.

     When you first meet with your divorce lawyer, consider the following…

  • How do you feel around him/her?
  • Does s/he seem genuine and authentic when talking with you?
  • How long did you have to wait in the reception area before s/he greeted you for your intake appointment?
  • Did s/he offer you a beverage and try to make you feel welcomed and comfortable in the office?

Importance of Initial Consultation with Divorce Lawyer

Why does it matter if you meet with your divorce lawyer in person before hiring him/her? Well, if you don’t meet with him/her in person, you’re making it harder on yourself. Here’s why…

Research from UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian demonstrates that we infer meaning and our understanding of someone not on what they say to us, but how they say it. In fact, body language accounts for 55%, tone of voice accounts for 38%, while words account for a mere 7%. In addition, when someone’s verbal communication doesn’t match their non-verbal communication, we believe the non-verbal communication to be more valid.

Actions Speak Louder than Words

We’ve all experienced this in real life. For example, when you ask a friend how she’s doing and she says fine, but you notice that her eyes are glossy from holding back tears.

Do you actually believe that she is fine? No.

Although she says she’s fine (verbal communication), her facial expression (non-verbal communication) says otherwise. And since the two don’t match…we deem the non-verbal as the true message, which then guides our behavior to try and comfort her, instead of talking about the promotion we just got at work.

Therefore, if you’re trying to get a sense of whether this divorce lawyer or that divorce lawyer is a good fit for you, you can only get the whole picture by meeting with him/her in person. Otherwise, as the research shows, you’re making a decision without having all the information.

No Free Initial Consultation Offered

Unfortunately, some divorce lawyers charge a fee for the initial consultation. Not being able to meet your divorce lawyer in person makes it harder to get to know his/her personality. However, you can get a glimpse of your divorce lawyer’s personality by searching for him/her on social media. Try checking out your divorce lawyer by visiting his/her Google+ page, Website, LinkedIn account, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, or You Tube channel.

No Free Initial Consultation & No Social Media Presence

If the divorce lawyer you’re considering doesn’t offer a free initial consultation to meet him/her in person and s/he doesn’t participate in social media, then how is s/he trying to meet your needs? The fact that the divorce lawyer doesn’t offer the opportunity to meet in person and also doesn’t participate in social media already tells you a lot about his/her personality.

However, if this is the case and you’re still interested in the divorce lawyer, then the additional criteria to come will have more weight in your decision on who you decide to hire and I highly recommend you come back next week when I share criteria 3 and 4.

One Last Thing on Personality

I’m not saying that the two of you (you and you’re divorce lawyer) have to be kindred spirits. In fact, I think we all know that even if your best friend happened to be a divorce attorney, that it would be in your best interest NOT to retain him/her as your divorce lawyer.

I simply just wanted to point out that things typically go a lot smoother when you’re not also budding heads with your divorce lawyer and having to deal with clashing personalities.

What Do You Think?

  • What are some communication practices that you wish divorce lawyers would use more often?
  • What personal qualities do you look for in a divorce lawyer?
  • Or what qualities make a good lawyer?

Please check back next week to see our next post in the “Got a Good Lawyer” series. 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!

Sources:

Mehrabian, Albert; Wiener, Morton (1967). “Decoding of Inconsistent Communications”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 6 (1): 109–114.

Mehrabian, Albert; Ferris, Susan R. (1967). “Inference of Attitudes from Nonverbal Communication in Two Channels”. Journal of Consulting Psychology 31 (3): 248–252.

– Author: Rachel Rogers, Editor: Matthew Majeski on behalf of Majeski Law, LLC

Got a Good Lawyer? Intro

Got Milk?  Got a Good Lawyer?

Starting a New Series and it’s called, “Got a Good Lawyer?”

Last week, I discussed 4 advantages of hiring a small law firm for your divorce in Minnesota. However, when you’re looking to hire a lawyer for your divorce, it’s important that you’re evaluating more than just the size of the firm. Therefore, as promised last week, I’m going to identify the additional factors you should take into consideration when deciding who to hire as your divorce lawyer. In fact, this post serves to introduce you to the “Got a Good Lawyer?” series. Ok cheesiness aside with my title, I’m writing this series for a couple of reasons:

  • First, I hope to spare you some of the hassle and time that goes into finding a divorce lawyer in Minnesota.
  • Second, although no divorce lawyer in Minnesota (regardless of who you decide to go with and how much money you’re willing to spend) can guarantee a certain outcome in your divorce, your divorce lawyer should advocate for your needs and treat you with respect. By focusing on these additional factors, you’re increasing your chance of that expectation becoming a reality.
  • And lastly, unless you’ve been divorced before or have extensive experience with lawyers, there are simply things that wouldn’t cross your mind, that I believe would be helpful for you to know about a head of time.

So with that aside, I’m going to start with the bottom line right from the get-go…

Most Important Thing to Consider when Hiring a Divorce Attorney

If you want to ensure that you’re getting the best representation for your divorce, the most important thing to consider and ask yourself is this: 

“Is this lawyer a good fit for me and my divorce case?”

Now you might be thinking to yourself, “Well yeah, I already knew that!” But I’m going to take the chance that you’ve never actually sat down and taken the time to think and come up with the exact criteria that you will use to judge whether this divorce lawyer or that divorce lawyer is a good fit for you. So that’s exactly what “Got a Good Lawyer?” series will be all about! In the following posts, I will identify 10 specific criteria for you to use to make it easier for you to find the best lawyer in Minnesota to represent you in your divorce. Next week, we’ll get started with number 1 and 2. Thanks so much for reading and see you soon!

Advantages of Hiring a Small 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

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.