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Several of my recent Fort Worth divorce cases illustrate how certain enterprising attorneys prey upon marital assets to obtain inflated fees.
Example number one: After a long term marriage a couple in their late fifties is in the middle of a divorce. The children are grown so case issues are limited to division of community assets and debts. Fortunately, there is virtually no marital debt and the marital assets are held in five investment accounts. In short, the assets are a known quantity and are easily divisible. Frankly, this is a case that should be resolved in a minimal time and with a very modest investment of legal fees. If only it were so. Opposing counsel, seeing the investment accounts as a ready source of funds for legal fees, elects to prolong the litigation by sending burdensome and unnecessary discovery and filing various motions with the court. Will the additional fees ultimately benefit the client or the lawyer? I must leave this as a rhetorical question!
Example number two: A Tarrant County divorce case has been pending for 8 months. All child custody and support matters have been agreed from the outset. The community estate is relatively modest and the nature and value of the assets are easy to ascertain. My client hired a so-called father’s lawyer because he liked their ads on the radio. In the ensuing seven months, he paid his divorce lawyer $30,000. Seeing that his case was not moving as expected and that fees were continuing to mount, he hired Schreier & Housewirth Family Law to help him end all of the delays and finalize his divorce. He paid Schreier & Housewirth $5,000, we got up to speed on his case, scheduled mediation, and concluded his divorce in 30 days. So, what exactly did our client get for his $30,000? His lawyers got more money for radio ads.
Don’t get me wrong – family law attorneys are professionals and deserve to be paid a reasonable fee based upon their credentials, experience and reputation. In the current market, I’ve seen fees anywhere between $175.00 an hour and $500.00 an hour. The legal consumer ultimately must decide whether he or she is getting value for the money or simply “style points” from a lawyer.
At Schreier & Housewirth Family Law we continually engage in a cost-benefit analysis in the representation of our clients. At our office, we understand there is a difference between cost and value in legal services. We’re not out to be the cheapest… we’re out to provide the most value to our clients.