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  1. #1
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    Apr 2016
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    Default Is it Worth Spending the Money for a Lawyer in a Family Court Case

    I've posted a few questions before, and every answer always comes down to the general advise that nonlawyers should not represent themselves pro se against someone with a lawyer in family court. I am trying to weigh whether legal representation is worth the cost. I've consulted with 3 family lawyers so far. Their retainers range from $3000 to $4000 and hourly rates were $400, $325 and $300 respectively. It appears this $300 to $400 hourly rate is the going rate around my area (broward county, florida)

    All three attorney's I consulted gave the same range of hours it would take to resolve a basic case involving the establishment of paternity and child custody - provided it gets resolved in mediation. That's about 12 to 20 hours. As per Florida statute a respondent in family court can ask for his/her "reasonable" legal fees to be paid by the petitioner if he has the means, or net worth, to do so. In my case I do. I have the capability to cover my daughter's mother's legal fees and she is requesting I pay all of it. I would have thought $300 to $400 an hour in legal fees is beyond "reasonable" but I am learning courts in this district would consider that reasonable. If we estimate 30 hours in total for both her and my attorney we are at about $10K. That's $10K just to come up with a parenting plan and a custody arrangement. That money wouldn't force me to declare chapter 11, but it would hurt deep in the gonads.

    There are no disputes from discovery. I am on a W-2 and all financial records requested by the respondent were provided. There are no other factors involved such as previous criminal records or anything like that. It's plain and simple a father trying to establish paternity and a parenting plan with mom for a child born out of wedlock.

    What pretty much everyone I talked to here seems to agree on, is that judges in family court have so much discretion that in one case a father could get something like 20% time visitation and in a completely identical case 50%. There are guidelines judges use to determine "what is in the best interest of the child" but as far as setting visitation times, they pretty much go with what they personally feel is adequate.

    Is it really worth it spending that money on an attorney? How much of a difference can an attorney make in getting a court to award more parenting time for one of the party's if the courts have so much discretion anyway? It appears family courts base most of these decisions on the character judgements they make of each party, meaning that in end effect, may be there isn't much a lawyer can do unless they try to alter the perception of an otherwise unworthy individual. Is this the wrong way to look at it? Should someone look at the $10K in legal fees as an "investment" in the future or something of that nature?

  2. #2
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    Sep 2005
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    Default Re: Is it Worth Spending the Money for a Lawyer in a Family Court Case

    It's entirely up to you to decide if it's worth the money to hire a lawyer. It's really a matter of how important it is to you to win. If it's not, going into family court where you are not represented and the other party is represented is an excellent strategy for losing your case, but it very well could save you some money.

  3. #3
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    Apr 2016
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    Florida
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    Default Re: Is it Worth Spending the Money for a Lawyer in a Family Court Case

    Unless she can prove that I am harmful to our child, the way I understand it is that if I am paying child support there will be some form or another of visitation privileges for me. Even if it's just every other week end visits. Even people with DV charges get supervised visits. So what does it mean to "lose" in court here? Getting less visitation time than I could potentially get with a lawyer?
    Whether I lose the case or not, as long as I get reasonable amounts of visitation time with my daughter I don't really care if its called winning or losing.

  4. #4
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    Apr 2009
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    Default Re: Is it Worth Spending the Money for a Lawyer in a Family Court Case

    Quote Quoting Victory VI
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    Unless she can prove that I am harmful to our child, the way I understand it is that if I am paying child support there will be some form or another of visitation privileges for me. Even if it's just every other week end visits. Even people with DV charges get supervised visits. So what does it mean to "lose" in court here? Getting less visitation time than I could potentially get with a lawyer?
    Whether I lose the case or not, as long as I get reasonable amounts of visitation time with my daughter I don't really care if its called winning or losing.
    This is why it's usually a bad idea for pro se litigants to go ... pro se: child support has NOTHING to do with visitation - at all, even if, ever. And now I'll have to go back and read your post history.

    Oh goodness me. You are not prepared to represent yourself. Not before you do a whole lot more reading and studying (and perhaps more importantly, understanding).

    You're trying to take on a parent who has an attorney working for her and there's also a relocation issue isn't there?

    You need an attorney. Please don't do this to yourself because I don't want to see you back here in 6 months wondering what went wrong when much of it could have been avoided.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
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    Florida
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    Default Re: Is it Worth Spending the Money for a Lawyer in a Family Court Case

    I am not the same man I used to be when I did that.
    I can always use that line in court.
    lol.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
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    3,175

    Default Re: Is it Worth Spending the Money for a Lawyer in a Family Court Case

    Quote Quoting Victory VI
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    I am not the same man I used to be when I did that.
    I can always use that line in court.
    lol.
    What evidence can you show the court to prove that you are not the same man that you use to be ? Anyone can say that they are not the same person that they use to be. What long term proof is there ? If you were asked what brought about the change, how would you answer that ? How can you explain to a stranger that you know you would never go back to being the man that you use to be ?

  7. #7
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    Florida
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    Default Re: Is it Worth Spending the Money for a Lawyer in a Family Court Case

    Quote Quoting Mercy&Grace
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    What evidence can you show the court to prove that you are not the same man that you use to be ? Anyone can say that they are not the same person that they use to be. What long term proof is there ? If you were asked what brought about the change, how would you answer that ? How can you explain to a stranger that you know you would never go back to being the man that you use to be ?
    The evidence consists of a certified letter from a Doctor Emeritus at the University of Vienna that explains how my personality underwent a complete transformation through a variety of psychotropic drugs and shock therapy. In addition, the parts of my brain that caused all the fury I used to experience were surgically removed.
    How would that hold up in court?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    7,874

    Default Re: Is it Worth Spending the Money for a Lawyer in a Family Court Case

    Quote Quoting Victory VI
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    The evidence consists of a certified letter from a Doctor Emeritus at the University of Vienna that explains how my personality underwent a complete transformation through a variety of psychotropic drugs and shock therapy. In addition, the parts of my brain that caused all the fury I used to experience were surgically removed.
    How would that hold up in court?
    IS the doctor going to testify? The letter can't be cross-examined by the other side's attorney. You have had multiple parts of your brain removed?

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Is it Worth Spending the Money for a Lawyer in a Family Court Case

    Present that letter and argument to the court and, should the custodial parent make the request, you should not be surprised if the court responds by suspending visitation and requiring a full psychiatric evaluation.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
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    Default Re: Is it Worth Spending the Money for a Lawyer in a Family Court Case

    Quote Quoting Victory VI
    View Post
    The evidence consists of a certified letter from a Doctor Emeritus at the University of Vienna that explains how my personality underwent a complete transformation through a variety of psychotropic drugs and shock therapy. In addition, the parts of my brain that caused all the fury I used to experience were surgically removed.
    How would that hold up in court?
    That is not going to help you at all. I agree that if you present that at court yourself, you will likely be demanded to get a full psych eval. That does not even sound real. Get a lawyer. It is definitely worth it especially if your ex has a lawyer. You can potentially lose out on visitation. As Dogmatique said - child support and visitation are completely separate. People fail to understand that (especially some ex-wives). It does not matter whether you pay child support or not on how much visitation you get.

    When I filed for divorce, I got a lawyer. Luckily he was very reasonable in his price - it only cost me $1500 for everything. It also helped that my ex did not show up for court, did not respond within 30 days to the paperwork he was sent and it was a default judgment for me. Parenting time at my discretion.

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