When you’re looking for a family law attorney near you, make sure you give our family law firm with offices in Doylestown and Norristown, PA a call.
Our family lawyers know that every case is different, and the people involved in these cases may feel vulnerable and overwhelmed. Each of the family law attorneys in Bucks County and Montgomery County law offices has focused their practice on Family Law and Domestic Relations. They each, for their own reasons, felt the need to pay attention to the more personal and human side of law.
Our family law attorneys don’t work on cases … they work with people. We know that there may often be several different, but related, issues happening at the same time in your life, and that understanding Pennsylvania’s legal requirements as they relate to your situation can be daunting.
Don’t feel like you have to go it alone. Talk with a family law attorney at our family law offices today.
Below is a primer of what you can expect if you choose to hire High Swartz as your family law attorneys. Many of the issues brought up below may also pertain to attorneys at other law firms, but we do not speak for them specifically in these matters.
We recognize that many things that take place in connection with your case may be upsetting to you. Your family lawyer should do their best to be supportive of you and helpful with all problems that may arise. Our basic role as attorneys, however, is to protect you on a legal and economic basis. We encourage you to seek professional help for emotional support rather than looking to the lawyer. Our primary goal on your behalf is to provide legal support to achieve a settlement or litigated result which is fair and reasonable under the particular circumstances of your case.
Often, a client will come to our law firm because he or she has been recommended to one particular attorney. We have found that in giving a client effective service, it is often necessary to involve more than one professional in a matter. You can be assured that the family attorney primarily responsible for your case will review critical services performed on your behalf, and will oversee significant developments. The attorney may, however, ask you to cooperate with other professionals (an attorney or a paralegal who has expertise in a given area) and we reserve the right to make such assignments and delegations.
Please feel free to be open with any other attorney or paralegal who may be working on your matter. That other professional will be relaying information to your primary family attorney for the most effective resolution of your legal problems. By utilizing more than one professional on a case, a client will have other attorneys or paralegals to contact in the event the primary attorney is not available. In addition to being more efficient, the team approach is more economical for the client because hourly rates of paralegals and associates may be lower than that of the primary attorney.
One of the realities of the legal process in divorce matters is the frustration due to time delays. We will try to make realistic projections of the time necessary to obtain court dates. In many cases, we will be unable to make realistic estimates since the scheduling of court dates is unpredictable. If it is important that your primary attorney handle a given aspect of your case, all court dates must be coordinated with that attorney’s schedule. At times, court dates are fixed and then postponed for legitimate reasons by the court itself or because of the unavailability of your spouse or his or her attorney.
Apart from setting hearing schedules, many complaints or petitions which must be filed require time for the attorney or paralegal preparing them to do research or collect legal documents and records in order to prepare the pleading. Once the papers are filed, they must be processed by court personnel and this may involve further delays. Please be understanding when delays are caused by circumstances beyond our control. We will make every effort to achieve a fair resolution of your case in whatever reasonable timeframe is possible.
Due to the complex nature of marital cases, it is difficult to estimate the total fees and expenses. Generally, you will be billed according to all time spent on your case by the primary family lawyer, and any other attorney or paralegal working on your matter. Each professional’s time charges are based on an hourly rate commensurate with the person’s ability and expertise.
The time charged includes but is not limited to telephone calls, office conferences, preparation and review of correspondence and documents, and a variety of other office activities, as well as preparation for, travel to, and attendance at hearings and trials. The hourly rates for professionals working on your matter are variable depending upon whom it is that does the work, and are subject to increases from time to time.
In addition to billing for professional services in your matter, you will be billed for certain costs which must be incurred – e.g., filing and masters’ fees, stenographers’ fees, some photocopying costs, long distance calls, courier charges, etc.
At the outset of our engagement, the firm will request a payment of an initial retainer which is paid to our firm for the purpose of assuring our availability in your matter. Unused retainer payments are refundable and, unless specifically arranged, it is not a minimum fee. The initial retainer will be credited against the overall fee in your matter. In many matters, the retainer fee will exceed our time charges. You should refer to the signed fee letter agreement for further information as to the basis of the charges in your case, and the need for supplemental retainer payments.
It is in your economic interest to conserve the time of the professionals who work on your matter. Often it is more efficient for you to communicate with the attorney’s secretary or with one of our paralegals. Many clients use email. (See below.) If you have several questions, it might be preferable to write/type them out and the attorney or his/her secretary can make one quick telephone response or send a written reply.
In any event, we recognize that billing is a matter of concern to you. You will receive a detailed monthly bill. Please review this carefully each month. If you have any questions, bring this to our attention. We reserve the right to assess a service charge on overdue charges. If fees remain unpaid, arrangements must be made to secure payment or we reserve the right to require you to obtain new counsel.
In appropriate cases, we shall endeavor to seek contribution from the other spouse toward your legal fees and expenses. However, our ability to do this under the law is limited and the court may, in its discretion, grant our request in full or in part, or deny our request altogether.
Once a marriage breaks down, a number of situations may arise where clients need immediate guidance. In some cases, the need for communicating with your attorney is greater than in other cases. At the same time, we hope that our clients understand that matrimonial law is litigious by its nature and requires an attorney to make frequent court appearances.
Additionally, lawyers work on other matters on any given day, and are frequently unavailable due to meetings with other clients or attorneys, court-related activities and other commitments. For these reasons, it may be impossible for us to return every call or email that is made/sent on the day when it is made/sent. Also, to conserve valuable time, we ask that routine calls, requests or information be channeled through our secretaries or paralegal assistants since they may be able to get quicker responses for you, or pass the information on to us.
All information given to a secretary or paralegal will be held in strict confidence. Don’t hesitate to let the secretary or paralegal know if a call is of an urgent nature and every effort will be made to have someone return the call as quickly as possible on the day that it is made. However, we do ask that such calls be held to a minimum and that each client use good sense in determining when calls are urgent and when they are not.
Communication is critical to the attorney-client relationship. In order to expedite our communications among people in the firm, with you and with other participants in this matter (including their counsel), we may use e-mail, and we may attach documents to e-mails that are otherwise confidential and/or privileged. While we will endeavor to use reasonable and appropriate measures to protect the integrity of e-mail transmissions, please understand that transmissions over the internet, through e-mail can be compromised.
Marital litigation can be extensive. Frequently, cases involve many court proceedings. It is not uncommon for several proceedings to be taking place at the same time. By way of illustration, you may be involved in a support proceeding and in custody litigation at the same time with different preliminary conference officers, masters and conciliators. It is our sincere hope that all matters can be resolved to your satisfaction without resort to litigation, but you should be aware that if matters cannot be settled on a reasonable basis, litigation may result.
Litigation can be costly, time-consuming and emotionally traumatic for the parties. Whenever possible, it should be avoided. A settled or agreed result is often better than a litigated result, especially when you take into account the expense of litigation and its unpredictability. Lawyers and clients should know the proper time to settle and the proper time to litigate. Some settlement negotiations are facilitated by the use of a mediator. If you and our spouse choose mediation, please consult your lawyer before sessions so you are prepared.
All mediation proposals should be subject to consultation with your lawyers. Our candid judgment as to the propriety of a proposed settlement is always available to you. In a case that cannot settle, you may choose to select a private arbitrator who can preside over all issues much more efficiently. Since arbitration is usually binding, you will want to weigh the risk of no appeal against the benefits of a comprehensive prompt resolution with less expense.
It is sometimes necessary to engage a private investigator. Our office makes use of investigators, and in appropriate cases we are prepared to recommend that they be employed. An investigator can be used to uncover financial information; to determine marital misconduct; or in custody matters. Not every case requires a private investigation. Also, they can be costly and effective results cannot be guaranteed. Before any investigation is conducted, we would be happy to sit down with you and let you know if it should be conducted and how it might be helpful. You need to confirm with the investigator what the estimated costs would be.
You may have a strong suspicion that your spouse is unfaithful and the engagement of a private investigator may produce sufficient evidence to demonstrate this fact. On the other hand, even if your spouse is unfaithful, there are chances that the private investigation will not produce results which can be used in court. Also, marital misconduct is not a factor in the equitable distribution of marital property. Nor is marital misconduct after final separation a factor in the award of denial or alimony.
Certain things are difficult to remember – dates, monies paid or received, significant incidents, etc. We generally recommend that each client keep a dated diary so that significant information can be recorded and referred to if the need arises. Talk to us if you need guidance on what items should be included in your diary. Make sure your diary is not available to your spouse. It may also be important to keep a divorce checklist so you can keep tabs on necessary tasks.
High Swartz family lawyers do everything possible to keep you informed as to every important aspect of your case in a variety of ways: meetings in our offices, letters, emails, copies of correspondence and documents received from your spouse’s attorney or the courts, copies of court pleadings and, in some instances, copies of internal file memoranda.
If you have any questions concerning the status of your case, you are welcome to call or email, and we will be pleased to give you information as to where your case stands. In these situations, you should always let the secretary know why you are calling, as the secretary is often in position to relay this information to you.
Keeping you informed requires that you promptly advise our office of any changes in address, telephone numbers or email.
Sometimes, our clients get the sense they are back in school when they receive “homework” assignments from us. Your cooperation in getting financial and other information for us is vitally important if we are to do an effective job on your behalf. For example, assets inherited during a marriage are non-marital property and not subject to equitable distribution except for the increase in value thereof to the date of final separation. We may need your assistance in getting copies of the original documentation in an estate which prove the extent and value of what you inherited during the marriage.
Further, there are two primary court forms which will have to be prepared (with your help) and filed with the court. They are (i) the Income and Expense Statement and (ii) the Inventory and Appraisement Form.
One of the frequent complaints received from clients by matrimonial lawyers is that “the other side is getting away with murder.” Generally, the spouses who are in the dependent financial position complain that the spouse with the economic power is using that economic power to gain advantages in the case.
On the other hand, generally speaking, the financially independent spouse usually complains that the other spouse is filing all of the paperwork and nothing is being done by the attorney to take the offensive. There is a measure of truth to the complaints from both sides, but there isn’t much that can be done to overcome the dilemma. We need your help in understanding that the disparity in economic power generally brings about the feelings which may be created in your case.
By this time, we suspect that you have a better idea of the complexity of divorce cases. They can be extremely complicated and troublesome not only to the parties but to the attorneys as well. We wish that it were possible to accomplish results quickly and painlessly, but our experience indicates that it never works out that way. We need your patience and understanding during this difficult time of your life. If we accept your case, we are committed to doing everything possible to accomplish what is in your best interests. However, we cannot accept responsibility for delays of the judicial system or for delays and the action or inaction of your spouse and his or her attorney. If there is anything significant to report on your case, we will be the first to get in touch with you and let you know.
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