Going through a divorce is one of the most stressful situations anyone can experience. It’s important to ask the right questions and arm yourself with good answers. Who better to ask than a well-seasoned divorce attorney? We visited the law offices of Travis Whitfield in San Jose, and asked him the questions you need the answers to if you’re going through a divorce.
WHAT IS YOUR PHILSOPHY OR STYLE WHEN HANDLING A DIVORCE?
My particular style, given my experience in the court system, is to get in and get the best possible orders that I can for my clients at the beginning of the case. I find that by trying to negotiate or mediate the case up front, you lose valuable time and may be putting your client at the risk of losing assets. I have found the best thing for my clients is to get into court quickly, be aggressive in getting the best orders possible up front, and then to negotiate later off of those orders.
WHAT CAN A PROSPECTIVE CLIENT EXPECT FROM THE FIRST MEETING WITH A DIVORCE ATTORNEY?
Most of the time when prospective clients come into my office, they don’t know what to ask me at all. If I’m dealing with a client who has young children under the age of 18, what they should be asking first and foremost is about custody and visitation—what their rights are, what kind of visitation schedule, what kind of legal decisions they can or cannot make, traveling with the children…that’s usually the most important. Most of the clients that I meet with are referred to as the “out spouse” which means that they don’t know anything about the finances, and so usually, I am explaining to them what their rights are financially, the access to the bank accounts, the pension accounts, 401K’s, the retirement accounts, etc. They should be asking me questions about what they can expect regarding support and property division. When an inexperienced client
comes in, I try help guide the discussion so they are asking the right questions.
WHAT STEPS ARE INVOLVED IN THE DIVORCE PROCESS?
The first thing you would do to get the process started is to file a summons and petition with the court, which means you’re asking the court to dissolve the marriage and to take jurisdiction over things like marital assets, debts and minor children. And you want to do that so you can get orders in place. Usually the next step, if there are young children, would be to get family get court services involved the client can get custody and visitation schedules. If you’re dealing with a support or a property division issue, you might want to file a motion so that you can get in front of the judge as soon as possible.
HOW LONG DOES THE DIVORCE PROCESS TAKE?
To get single in California, it takes a minimum of six months from the day you serve the other party. I’ve had some cases where the whole case is finished in two or three months and the client is just waiting for the six months to expire. I’ve had other cases, and these are the outliers, that can go for years. Those usually involve custody and visitation or high net-worth property cases. The rest of them, I usually find between 6 – 18 months would be about the best range in my experience.
HOW MUCH WILL A DIVORCE COST? WHAT IS THE TYPICAL RATE FOR A DIVORCE ATTORNEY?
Divorce attorneys bill by the hour. The State Bar and the Business and Professions Code do not allow attorneys to take cases on a contingency fee. The State Bar also discourages attorneys from taking flat fee cases. It’s not really fair to the attorney, and it certainly isn’t fair to the client, so we bill on hourly increments. My office bills at an hourly rate down to 1/10 of an hour. How much is it going to cost? For an uncontested case, where you’re dealing with another good attorney on the other side, and it comes down to just dividing assets and debts, you could probably expect to spend between $5,000-$10,000, maybe a little bit more. Now, in a contested case, I hate to say the sky is the limit but, again, where people have young children and 10 years later they’re still fighting over custody, etc., in the end they would have ended up paying six figures. But the usual range is maybe from $5,000 – $20,000.
Law Offices of Travis Whitfield
2055 Junction Ave, Suite 118
San Jose, CA 95131