Attorneys and Family Disputes
You need a lawyer like Scott Smiley to protect your rights and those of your children. While some people can handle "routine" family law matters without retaining an attorney, this is potentially hazardous to their rights and those of their children. Persons may represent themselves in a divorce but if there are children or any assets involved, they really should retain an attorney or have one review any proposed paperwork. You may decide to hire attorneys to review the draft of the Marital Settlement Agreement. If you have a pension or a large amount of property or income it is certainly advisable to consult an attorney before you sign anything.
Retaining or consulting an attorney now could save you great expense and heartache down the road as you may need to re-litigate issues you thought had been taken care of, but were not. Scott Smiley has been retained on dozens, if not hundreds of occasions by clients who tried to handle their issues alone to save money and ran into trouble. Often getting clients out of their mess costs more than if they had simply hired an attorney from the beginning. Call Scott Smiley at Thompson, Crawford & Smiley today at 386-5777 for an initial consultation about your rights, even if you are already in the midst of representing yourself. He provides free initial consultations, so there is no charge for your first visit and there is no risk in calling.
When Can You Represent Yourself in a Family Law Action
It is not advisable to represent yourself if you have a custody matter, you have substantial property, or there is a pension or retirement account involved. Self-representation is a process that works best for those with routine and uncontested legal matters and for those who can master the steps necessary to get from filing the complaint through the final hearing. An example is an uncontested divorce with little property and no children.
Thoughts about Finding an Attorney Who will Serve You Well
Only Hire a Lawyer With Expertise in Family Law. A lawyer who normally handles personal injury law or corporate matters will not be of much use in a divorce since he or she may have little understanding of family law. Always ask what percentage of the lawyer's practice is devoted to domestic law cases. Most states do not allow attorneys to state that they specialize in family law. However, attorneys are permitted to state that they limit their practice to family law, which means that they do not practice in other areas of the law. Scott Smiley of Thompson, Crawford Smiley is one of the few attorneys in the Tallahassee/Leon County area to limit his practice to all issues of family law.
Sometimes Scott Smiley is able to handle your family law concern with a "flat fee" in which you pay a flat charge up front. That is all of the money you will have to pay for his services. Other times that is just not feasible and he will need to charge by the hour, as most attorneys do. You will receive a monthly itemized bill showing exactly the time Scott and his assistant spent working on your issue along with any out-of-pocket expenses. Please certainly keep an eye on the bill. Never accept a bill that reads, "fees for services rendered" from any lawyer; we don't do that, no one should. Rather, insist on a detailed monthly billing statement. If you find a mistake or there is a charge you don't understand, bring it to our attention that you need, usually on an hourly basis.
Don't Be Passive. Just because you have a lawyer doesn't mean you do not have a job to do. You should ask questions and read the material on this web site to better understand the law and the process. You - not you lawyer - should make the ultimate decisions about how to proceed with your case. After all, it is your life and your future that is at stake, not your lawyer's. Scott Smiley and this firm are readily accessible to answer any of your questions.
Here are some sample questions you will want to ask Scott Smiley. You may also want to add more of your own.
How long will the whole thing take?
What will be happening step-by-step?
What is your best estimate of the fees I will be charged?
How much will the costs be? (Costs are all "out-of-pocket" expenses that are incurred to support the litigation. Examples are court filing fees and paying court reporters for deposition transcription services.)
Will I be asked to pay the other sides attorneys' fees? (Can I have my spouse pay my attorneys' fees?)
After describing what you want out of the divorce (i.e., by way of property division, custody and support), ask: Can this be done? If not, why not? If so, what are the problems we face in getting what I want?
How much support should I ask for (or offer to pay)?
How can I be sure that I get my visitation, child support, alimony, etc.?
Ask about whatever you don't understand or think you may not understand. Also, listen to what Scott Smiley says. Part of his or her job is to educate you about what you will be going through. (You may want to take notes for future reference.) Remember, you have the right to answers. Never accept a condescending answer such as, "It's too complicated, you wouldn't understand." And especially don't accept, "Trust me, it's all under control."
Scott Smiley will never give you these (non) answers to your questions. He will give you the truth: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Call him today at 386-5777 for your free initial consultation or please contact us right now through the form to your left. We look forward to helping you today.