I hear a vast variety of legal questions during my free family law consultations with potential clients. Some are individual, but some seem to follow reoccurring themes. The following are the top 6 frequently asked legal questions answered in a blog:
Are you a Tiger?
Other variations on this question include, “Are you aggressive?” And “Are you a Warrior Lawyer?” The gist is that people tend to want a fighter on their side. When they are feeling uncertain and vulnerable in the face of a new and contentious legal situation, they want someone who is able to fight for them. I have to say, this is an aspect of my practice that I am particularly proud of. I am fearless in the courtroom. I fight for my clients and stand up for them against unfair and egregious accusations. I argue for their best interests. I know how to handle tense negotiations. So, the short answer is – yes. I am a tiger. Prior clients, opposing counsel and colleagues would back up that assertion and future clients will discover it for themselves.
How often do you win?
This is a tricky question particularly when it comes to family law because in the case of a divorce or probate, the label “Winner” is hard to come by. Unfortunately, sometimes neither party is the winner because each is left with less than they started with. What I can tell you is that I can get you an equitable result – one that is as beneficial as possible for your ability to move forward after a family law event.
Sometimes in the breakup of a marriage or family probate battle there is betrayal and the temptation is to try to seek vengeance by inflicting legal pain in the courtroom. Judges rarely side with the pure revenge-seekers. And any lawyer that tells you “we’re going to stick it to your ex” is just feeding you a line to get your retainer. I believe the place to work through hurt feelings is the therapist’s office. I will listen to your woes and genuinely, compassionately care about your emotional well-being, but I will not promise that I will make your ex suffer. I will tell you that together we will work to get you a settlement that will allow you to move forward and recover your life. The side-benefit to eschewing legal revenge is often that you will spend less in attorney’s fees and complete the process more quickly so you can put divorce behind you. If that is your divorce goal then yes, I win a lot.
What will my case cost?
This is one of the big topics that we’ll discuss during the free consultation. Once I get the basics of your legal situation I can give you an estimate. Our firm, Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates, works on a refundable retainer system. This means that when you hire me, I will give you an estimate and take a deposit for an amount that will get the work started. I hold that money in a separate account. As the case progresses, we will keep you updated on how much of your retainer has been used. In some instances, the case resolves more quickly than anticipated so I would refund the unused portion of your initial retainer. Another issue that can impact the cost of the case is whether or not you are awarded attorney’s fees in the settlement. During the free consultation, I will give you an idea of if and what amount of attorney’s fees could be possible in your case. As much as most people would like to be able to make a quick phone call or Google search and find a price range, there are just too many factors for any responsible attorney to state a range that could apply to all family law cases.
How do you keep up on the law?
One of the big bonuses to hiring a lawyer like me with two decades of experience is that I know the courts, judges, other attorneys and Michigan law from having practiced here for 20+ years. But some people wonder how I keep up on the latest developments in legislation and legal practice. The answer is continuing education. And lots of it! I am licensed to practice law in both Wisconsin and Michigan. Michigan does not require legal education requirements but Wisconsin does. Wisconsin accepts my credits for doing Michigan-specific legal education. My training usually comes in the form of ICLE (Institute of Continuing Legal Education) seminars throughout the year. Most recently, I completed a Family Law Institute seminar that included such topics as “Parental Alienation: Identification, Causes and Remedies” and “Handling Electronic Evidence in Family Law Cases.” Even though these seminars take away from my potential for billable hours, I make the time because the great information provided make me a successful, informed lawyer. We will be blogging about some of the more interesting topics in coming weeks.
How will the courts handle my unmarried relationship?
This question seems to come up quite frequently. As the social environment changes quickly, fewer and fewer people are living in traditional nuclear families. Hence, there are fewer and fewer textbook, cut-and-dry divorce cases. We hear about unmarried parents’ custody concerns; same-sex couples looking to transition from a domestic partnership to marriage; or grandparents looking to write a grandchild’s long-time boyfriend into a will.
Current statistics estimate that the number of people getting married may soon drop significantly. According to a Gallup article, “Gallup Analysis: Millennials, Marriage and Family” by John Fleming, “59% of millennials are single and have never been married.” The story also details that nine percent of the roughly 73 million American Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1996) are in a Domestic Partnership or Cohabitating. It’s probable that some of those relationships may fail and family law attorneys will be tasked with helping couples split assets and custody without traditional, legislated divorce standards.
I recommend couples planning to cohabitate should keep separate accounts and expenses and get their names on things that they are bringing into the relationship and may, someday, want to retain. In the case of children, family law attorneys are adept at designing estate plans and domestic partnerships that may help provide for children and resolve custody issues in the event the unmarried parents someday breakup.
What’s the difference between separation and divorce?
The main difference is that after separation, the couple is still legally married and cannot go forward and marry someone else. Otherwise, the processes both involve splitting assets, debts, and custody. Both take about the same amount of time and money. Usually, couples choose divorce. There are obviously reasons why separation might be beneficial for some people. For instance, I sometimes suggest separation for more mature couples that may not want to live together any longer but may not want to move on to other relationships either. Separations can also sometimes protect mutual assets; allow one party to stay on the other’s health insurance; or protect employment benefits. Some religions frown on divorce so separation may be preferred.
Legal Questions Answered
The best way to get your legal questions answered is to contact our office to set up a free consultation with one of the attorneys of the law office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates by calling 248-676-1000. Until we hear from you, I hope the answers to others’ legal frequently asked questions give you the information you need to make decisions about your future. The experienced attorneys at Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates in Milford, Michigan help clients throughout Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, Livingston, and Genesee counties. We handle cases in Milford; Highland; Hartland; White Lake; Walled Lake; Waterford; Commerce; Howell; South Lyon; New Hudson; Linden; Grand Blanc; Holly and many more local communities.
This blog is a collaboration between Kathryn Wayne-Spindler and her Communications’ Specialist Christine Donlon Long