Deadline to Appeal Associate Judges Shortened!

This post does not affect all counties – just those with associate judges, such as Tarrant, Dallas and Harris County, to name a few.  The Legislature passed H.B. No. 1366, which amends multiple sections of the Texas Family Code by shortening the deadline to file de novo appeals of associate judge rulings from seven days to three days.

While the changes do not take effect until September 1, 2013, we might as well get in the habit of making sure the client knows there is a very limited amount of time to appeal that temporary orders ruling.

For those choosing to represent themselves, this means a very short turnaround if you get an adverse ruling in an Associate Judge’s courtroom and then want to appeal the decision or go hire a lawyer to appeal it.

Pro Se Divorce Forms – Approved, but with Caution

The Texas Supreme Court recently approved a set of pro se divorce forms, with some pretty extensive disclaimers.  Specifically among those disclaimers is that these are only to be used for limited property, no children, no contest divorces.  Note that you should always sit down with someone that knows the process (a lawyer) and discuss your options.  Even the form’s disclaimer says that you should hire a lawyer.   In my experience, NOT hiring a lawyer tends to end up much more expensive when you have to get the order modified or corrected in the future.

Contracts with Lawyers (3 of 3)

The first post in this series dealt with retainer contracts.  The second dealt with flat fee contracts.  This is the third and final post in the series, and deals with contingency fee contracts.  Remember that these just are broad overviews, and a particular contract can be a blend of two or all three.  Read any contract very carefully and make sure you understand it before signing.

Contingency fee contracts are normally used in situations where there is a chance of a large payout, but it will either take a lot of investment and/or the client cannot front the money to pay the lawyer without a successful outcome.  Good examples are personal injury cases.

Contingency fee contracts can require clients to pay expenses associated with the case, but typically do not require payment for attorney/staff time.  Instead, the client will pay a portion of any recovery to the attorney as the fee.  Expect at least 33% of any recovery to be taken by the attorney, up to 50%.  It just depends on the individual case.  Some even break out the percentage further, with (for example) 30% of any recovery before a demand letter is sent, 35% of any recovery after suit is filed, and 40% of any recovery of a judgment, should the case go to trial.

As always, read the contract closely.  Each contract can vary so pay close attention to the terms.  If you have a question, ask!  Your lawyer would rather have you understand the contract and the process up front so that both of you know what to expect.

Retainer Contracts: Contracts with Lawyers (1 of 3)

Flat Fee Contracts: Contracts with Lawyers (2 of 3)

 

What Would My Texas Child Support Be?

Ever wonder how much you would pay in child support in Texas?  The Texas Office of the Attorney General has on online child support calculator that gets pretty close to figuring out what your child support obligation would be in Texas.  The actual number may vary, but this will give you a good idea -

LINK TO TEXAS CHILD SUPPORT CALCULATOR

Annulments in Texas

I’ve had a couple of people request annulments… Texas is very strict on when an annulment can take place and the requirements typically hit on the fact one of the persons of the marriage could not give consent due to incapacity or incomplete knowledge of the situation.  Once that defect is cured, consent is possible and if the person continues to reside with the person and act as married, the marriage will hold.

Reasons Texas will allow an annulment if at the time of the marriage:

(1) The person was under the influence of alcohol or narcotics;

(2) A person is impotent at the time of the marriage and the other did not know;

(3) One person used fraud, duress or force to induce the other to marry them;

(4) One person was mentally incapacitated at the time of marriage;

(5) One person concealed a divorce from the other; and

(6) if the marriage took place during the mandatory 72 hour waiting period between the issuance of the license and the ceremony.

In each of the above cases, the person without capacity or knowledge of the condition must stop living with the other as soon as the condition becomes known, otherwise annulment is not an option.

Another interesting fact about annulments… the parties do not have to follow the mandatory sixty day waiting period that a divorce places on them, the annulment can be over in a matter of days if agreed, and in 45 days after issuance if a trial is properly requested after the answer date.

Additional Resources

Tex. Fam. Code sections 6.104-6.111 
Tex. Fam. Code section 6.702

Contracts with Lawyers (2 of 3)

Post two of three deals with flat fee contracts.  These are the simplest contracts.  You pay the lawyer a set amount for a legal matter and that is it – no variance for how successful or not the case turns out.

Flat fee contracts are typically used for situations where the legal work/time/fees needed is easily determined.  Common cases would be a no-contest divorce or a criminal matter.

The problem with flat fee contracts is that most are nonrefundable, and the contract spells out the terms of the representation.  If your case evolves outside of the contract, you lose that money and the representation.  For example, you pay a flat fee for a no-contest divorce, then it becomes contested.  At that point, your lawyer is free to step out because the contract states his representation is only for a no-contest divorce, which no longer applies.  Should a situation like that arise, most lawyers are happy to renegotiate the contract, but do not expect another flat fee!

As always, read the contract closely.  Each contract can vary so pay close attention to the terms.  If you have a question, ask!  Your lawyer would rather have you understand the contract and the process up front so that both of you know what to expect.

Retainer Contracts: Contracts with Lawyers (1 of 3)

Contingency Fee Contracts: Contracts with Lawyers (3 of 3)

Contracts with Lawyers (1 of 3)

You should understand the contract with your lawyer.  Contracts with lawyers vary, but fit into three main categories – flat fee, contingency, and retainer contracts.  This post is about retainer contracts and only provides a brief overview.  If you have a contract with a lawyer, or are thinking of signing one, make sure to understand that specific contract.

Retainer contracts require an upfront amount, the retainer, to be placed with the law firm.  This goes into a trust account.  That money is held in trust until it is used by the lawyer working on your case and billing his or her time.  Sometimes expenses are also paid out of the trust retainer.  Expenses might include filing fees, service fees, copy fees and/or costs for depositions to name a few examples.

Some retainers have evergreen clauses, which state when your retainer hits a certain level, you must refill the retainer.  This makes sure that there is always an amount with the firm to cover time and expenses.

Most firms send out billing statements once a month.  The statements should tell you what was done during the past month on your case, how much it cost, and how much is left in the trust account.

Retainer contracts are commonly used in cases where the amount of time needed to pursue the case and/or the monetary payoff is uncertain and can vary greatly.  Family law lawyers normally use retainer contracts.

Always make sure you read the contract you will be signing, and if you have questions, ask.  The lawyer you work with wants you to understand that contract so that there is no misunderstanding later.  The lawyer wants to fight for  you, not fight with you.

Fee Contracts: Contract with Lawyers (2 of 3)

Contingency Fee Contracts: Contracts with Lawyers (3 of 3)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 188 other followers

%d bloggers like this: