Answering Your Questions About Family Law
At the Law Offices of Rachel Rolfs & Associates, we want to remove the veil from the legal process. We know that you have questions, and we are happy to help you get the information you need. Below are some of the most common questions our clients ask.
Please note that your circumstances may change the answers to these questions. To get personalized answers, we encourage you to speak directly with our attorneys. You can schedule an appointment at 877-531-6896.
What type of cases do you handle?
We handle most types of family law cases, including: divorces/dissolutions, legal separations, custody cases, parenting plan cases, child support cases, paternity cases, non-parental custody cases, minor guardianship cases, de facto parentage cases, step-parent (or other non-parent) visitation cases, prenuptial agreements, agreed adoptions, simple wills, durable powers of attorney, health care directives, collaborative cases, family law mediations/settlement conferences, family law trials, relocation cases, and modifications of family law cases.
What type of cases do you not handle?
We only handle family law cases and simple estate planning. There are some cases that seem like “family law” that we do not handle. Cases we do not handle include: Criminal, general civil (we do not sue people unless related to the types of cases we handle, and we never sue corporations, businesses, or government agencies), dependency cases (we handle cases in which CPS is involved, but if CPS or the state took a child away from a parent, that is a “dependency” case and we do not handle those), juvenile court cases, or contested adoptions.
What is a consultation?
A consultation is a one hour meeting with an attorney (for a flat fee of $150). During that hour, you can discuss your matter with the attorney and get whatever help the attorney is able to provide in that hour. That help could be discussing your options, helping you fill out forms, discussing hiring the attorney to handle the case for you, etc. After that hour, if you do not sign a representation agreement and pay a retainer to hire the attorney, if you want help again, you would need to schedule another consultation and pay the fee. If you hire us and pay the retainer, you would no longer pay for consultations, and the attorney would just charge their hourly rate for work done.
Do you charge for a consultation?
Yes. We charge $150 for up to an hour. We charge because we add you to our conflicts list such that we can never represent opposing party against you. Also, our consultations offer great advice and assistance, and are worth the small fee. Many firms charge the attorney’s hourly rate for the consultation, but we charge only $150 (for up to an hour), far less than our attorney’s hourly rates.
Why can’t I just talk to an attorney quickly without a consultation?
Because we need to collect information from you to make sure there are no conflicts, add you to our conflict list (to make sure we never represent the other party against you), and get enough facts from you in order to appropriately answer your questions. There are rarely “quick questions” in family law cases.
What if I just need to know where to find court forms and don’t want to talk to an attorney?
You can go to www.courts.wa.gov and click on “forms”. If you need help determining what forms your need or how to complete them, you are welcome to contact us to schedule a consultation ($150 fee).
What are your hourly rates?
Our attorneys charge between $225 and $275 per hour, depending which attorney is appropriate for your case. These will likely increase early 2021.
Do you require a retainer?
Yes, if you chose to hire us.
How much is the retainer?
The retainer is essentially a pre-paid fee. It stays in our trust account and we bill against it and withdraw payment. The amount of the retainer is determined during the consultation, as the amount is based on the complexity of the case, the issues involved, and the initial work anticipated. Initial retainers usually run between $2500 (for a fairly simple agreed matter) to about $7,500 (this is the usual, they can go higher or lower in some cases). If your case is within four months of trial, we would require a trial retainer of at least $7,500 to be paid. We also require at least $1,500 in trust at all times. Any funds in trust that are not earned are refunded to you after your last bill is issued. If the fees/costs go above the amount of the retainer/money in trust, you would be responsible to pay those additional fees/costs.
Is the retainer the total cost of the case?
No. The retainer is an advance fee payment required at the time of hire. We bill against the retainer, and if the amount of work exceeds the amount of the retainer, you would owe whatever else we bill. We do require $1500 (usually) in trust at all times. Once we are off of your case, we refund any unearned trust funds remaining (if we don’t earn it, we don’t keep it).
Do you take payments?
No. We require a retainer at the time of hire, and we require payment in full on each bill, by the 15th of the month.
Do you offer a sliding fee scale or offer any sort of discounts?
No. However, we do sometimes take cases through the WSBA Moderate Means Program and we do offer a sliding scale on those cases. You have to apply through the WSBA Moderate Means Program. We keep our hourly rates as low as we can for everyone to ensure access to justice for as many people as possible.
Do you do pro bono work?
Not directly. We volunteer through other agencies but do not take cases without charge directly through our office.
What if I can’t afford an attorney?
There are some services out there that offer free legal help. You could check out tacomaprobono.org to start. Also, the WSBA has a moderate means program with a sliding fee scale (not free, but lower cost). We charge $150 for a consultation (up to an hour), so if you just have some questions, and can afford that, that may be an option if you can’t find any free help elsewhere.
Do I need an attorney?
Having an attorney is the easiest way to handle a case, but you do not have to have an attorney. You can represent yourself.
What if I represent myself and I need help?
We offer consultations ($150 for up to an hour). If you represent yourself and just need some help along the way, you can schedule a consultation and we can answer your questions during that time.
If I have a consultation and don’t hire you, do you continue helping me?
No. If you do not hire us, and you have more questions, you would need to schedule another consultation wherein we can answer those additional questions. The consultation is just the one hour and permits no additional communication or assistance without hiring us or scheduling another consultation.
How much experience do your attorneys have?
Our attorneys have between 3 and 15 years of experience (as of 2020).
Can I get custody of a child that is not my own?
Possibly. It depends on whether the parents are able/willing to properly care for the child. If not, then it depends on what other resources (other people available or wanting to care for the child) are available for the child and other factors.
How can I help a child that doesn’t have suitable parents, when I am unable to care for the child myself?
You may be able to initiate a guardianship action for the child, wherein someone else could be nominated to take care of the child.
What is the difference between non-parental custody/third party custody and a minor guardianship?
The non-parental/third party custody statute is being replaced by the minor guardianship statute. Thus, non-parental/third party custody cases will no longer be appropriate actions. The minor guardianship is a different sort of case and has very different requirements. If you did not qualify for a non-parental custody action, you might be able to qualify to assist under the minor guardianship statute, and sometime children get to have a say in the minor guardianship cases.
How much does a divorce cost?
If a simple divorce is agreed upon (as to all required aspects), and there is no negotiation, revisions, etc. required, we can usually get a divorce finalized for around $2,500. If there is negotiation, or if the case is not agreed, the final cost depends on how much work, how many hearings, whether it goes to trial, etc. It is impossible to estimate that without further information.
Can my child decide where he/she wants to live?
For a parenting plan case, not until he/she is 18 years of age. However, in a minor guardianship child, your child’s wishes will be considered, depending on the age of the child.
Can I move and take my child with me?
That depends. If you have a parenting plan or residential schedule, you have to give notice to the other parent. The type of notice depends where you are moving to. The other parent has an opportunity to object or agree. If you have a 50/50 parenting plan (or something very close to that) and you need to move far enough away that you can’t maintain the same residential schedule, you will need to seek a modification of the parenting plan. If you do not have a parenting plan, you do not need to give formal notice, and technically, you can move and take your child. However, if the other parent objects, the court could order you to return the child. Even without a parenting plan the court does not appreciate taking a child away from another parent without notice.
What if I can’t find the other person to serve them with legal documents?
You have to make reasonable efforts to find the other person to serve them. If you make those reasonable attempts and are not successful, you can ask the court to allow you to serve them by mail (either to their current address or a last known address), or if that is not likely to work, you can ask the court to allow you to serve them by publication. It is always easiest if you can get them personally served, but your inability to do so will not prohibit you from pursuing your case.
How long does divorce take?
Every divorce is different because every couple is different. In the simplest cases, divorce can take a short a few months. Our firm can help you minimize the length of your divorce proceedings through alternative dispute resolution and other techniques.
Is mediation an option for me?
Mediation and other alternative dispute resolution methods are fantastic options for people looking to save time and money. If you believe that you and your ex can come to a civil agreement on issues like child care and property division, mediation may be a good option for you.
How can I protect my children?
Statistics show that children do best in emotionally and financially stable homes where they have consistent expectations and boundaries. In addition to taking the right financial steps, your children will likely benefit from a clear co-parenting agreement.
How Do I Schedule An Appointment?
You can come in and speak with our attorneys at a time that works for you. Reach us at 253-267-8682 or send us an email and ask for an appointment with one of our compassionate, experienced attorneys.