The following questions and answers are to provide only general answers, and are not intended to provide a substitute for advice from a Certified Specialist in Family Law.

Q: Where can My Case be Filed?

A: There are complex rules that determine the state, county, or branch court in which a case may be filed. The court must have jurisdiction over the subject and the individuals involved. These are complex questions that should be addressed to a Certified Specialist.

In Family Law, most cases are handled on an hourly basis plus court costs and expenses.

In San Diego County, Certified Specialists* typically have hourly rates in the range of $325 to $400.

This is especially true if any of the key participants, adults or children, have not been residents of San Diego County for an extended period of time. Choice of courts is often an important strategic decision, often needing advice from a competent lawyer. For more information click on the "jurisdiction" link.

Q: How Much Does an Attorney Cost? How Much Does it Cost for a Typical Divorce?

A: It depends. It is impossible to estimate the cost of your matter, and there is no such thing as "a typical divorce." Almost all Family Law matters are handled on an hourly basis, since it is impossible to know in advance how difficult the case will be.

While your attorney can control what he or she does, they have more limited control on how reasonable the client is, and no control over the other lawyer or his client. In tough economic times, it seems people are less willing to spend what funds they have fighting over unimportant issues, and the overall cost of cases seems to go down, on average, but there are still unreasonable people.

In Family Law, most cases are handled on an hourly basis plus court costs and expenses. Hourly rates are set by the attorney, and vary considerably. While the hourly rate is a consideration, also consider how the attorney charges. A lawyer with a low hourly rate who types all his own paperwork is an expensive typist; one who is inefficient or needs to do a lot of research to do simple tasks may be no bargain.

In San Diego County, Certified Specialists* typically have hourly rates in the range of $325 to $400. Typical retainers run $3000 to $5000, although they can be higher or lower depending on the complexity of the matter and the lawyer's practice. The hourly rate is not the only factor in determining the cost of your case - what you are billed for and who does the work are often more important.

Q: How Long Does it Take to get Divorced?

A: Again, it depends. There are certain legal requirements that can slow down the process, but most long cases are the result of complicated legal and factual issues, or more commonly litigants who cannot agree on a reasonable settlement.

Typically, we predict the process will take 6 to 12 months, although many cases can take less time and some a lot longer.

Q: How Much Support Will I Receive or Pay, and for how Long?

A: Every case is different. There is a complex formula for calculating child support, but spousal support is purely within the discretion of the trial judge, with no standards to guide the decision. See Spousal Support or Child Support for more specific guidance.

Q: Do You Need to Appear in Court?

A: It is not necessary for anyone to appear in court. Court appearances are usually the result of a failure of the parties to come to agreement on disputed issues. If you have written agreements, the judge may review them and make orders without the need for you or your lawyer to go to court.

If there is no agreement, however, someone must make a decision based on some evidence. The evidence is usually in the form of declarations, although trials and some hearings require live testimony. In San Diego County, the vast majority of cases are resolved without trial through a Settlement Conference process using private lawyers or retired judges to help narrow differences and resolve disputed issues.

NOTE: If you see a pattern developing here, it is because every case and every set of facts is different. That is why it is important to have an experienced lawyer in your corner to guide you through the process.