DISCLAIMER. Law deals with life. The law is complicated because life is complicated. No two legal situations are identical. The statute laws, the case law and court decisions, and the rules of court just for South Carolina take up hundreds of volumes. This book deals with generalities. It is not a substitute for a lawyer and you should not act in reliance on any statement in this book until your own lawyer has advised you.
SEXISM. I am not sexist. Neither basic human decency nor my wife, my daughter, my mother, my law partner, my favorite court reporters, my office staff nor the other strong women in my life would permit it. In this book, purely for brevity, I use the generic masculine pronoun unless referring specifically to a wife or mother.
With those two housekeeping details completed, I now continue with the substance of this book.
I am a divorce lawyer. More broadly, though, I am a family law practitioner. I represent clients in matters dealing with divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, property division, and any domestic relations issues. Note that I am not your lawyer until you and I agree.
I charge for my time and my employees' time hourly rounded to the next tenth of an hour. You should pay your lawyer to do certain things for you in a domestic relations case. You can do certain things for yourself and should not have to pay anyone to do for you. When you save your lawyer time, you save your money. The first major purpose of this book is to help you get the best legal representation at the least expense.
Lawyers are sometimes poor at maintaining good public relations. The chief complaint of clients is not that the lawyer got a poor result. The chief complaint is that the lawyer did not explain procedures, strategy, and actions to the client. The second purpose of this book is to help you understand what the lawyer is doing for you as your lawyer and to help you understand why they are doing it.
Trial lawyers are competitive and have large egos. I am a trial lawyer. I like winning and I hate losing. The better prepared your lawyer is for your case when you go to court together, the better chance you have of getting a favorable result. A third purpose of this book is to help your lawyer better prepare so you may get a more favorable result.
I tried to make this book readable, informative, and relevant. I hope you enjoy it, although you are probably going through a difficult period in your life and the subject is emotionally difficult. I recognize using this book effectively requires time and effort.
If you read and understand this book the benefits to you should be substantial. You will save money in legal fees. You will get better representation in both settlement negotiations and trial. You will be more knowledgeable about family law and you will be more confident in your situation. You will better understand the proceedings. You will have a better relationship with your lawyer, whether me or someone else. You will be a stronger person, both emotionally and financially.
My purpose is not to teach you to be a lawyer. That takes three years after college plus practical experience. My purpose is to have you as a happy and satisfied client. I want the legal aspects of your domestic relations problem handled in a way that does not increase the pain and anguish you may be feeling.
I first published this book as a printed book in September 1982. Since then many changes have occurred in the laws and in the rules of court, requiring many revisions.
I originally wrote this book for my clients but it should be valuable for anyone going through separation and divorce.
For Other Lawyers’ Clients Your lawyer will not do everything the way I do it. This does not reflect negatively on either your lawyer or me. Our general principles and the ultimate goals are the same.
Hourly rates in the legal profession vary. Your lawyer may charge more or less per hour than I charge. Your lawyer may charge for his services on some basis other than an hourly rate. He may charge a flat or fixed fee. He may charge at the end based upon several factors. His fee may contain a combination of these rates. Generally, a lawyer may not ethically charge a contingent or percentage fee in a domestic relations case.
The initial retainer fee varies greatly from lawyer to lawyer. The larger the retainer fee, the greater the chance that the lawyer will not earn it all. Have a firm understanding whether the lawyer will refund you any unearned portion of your retainer fee. Most lawyers apply your retainer fee toward their hourly rate or costs. If a lawyer charges a fixed amount just to take your case and that amount will not apply to your hourly fees, you may wish to consider another lawyer.