What To Know About Divorce

Many of our clients come to us early on in the divorce process and want to know more about their options. Whether they are seriously thinking about taking the first step or just gathering information, at the Law Office of Steven M. Bishop, CFLS, we want to provide you with some answers to the most common questions we receive at our firm about divorce.

Does It Matter Who Files For Divorce?

No; this is something that does not matter to the courts. The filing fees are the same for the Petition and the Response. It might be an issue if you and your spouse live in different areas of the County and one of you wishes to have the matter heard in the courthouse closest to your home; all hearings and subsequent filings will be held at the courthouse where the Petition is filed. The first to file, the Petitioner, does get to present their case first at trial, but since only a small percentage of family law cases ever go to trial, that advantage is minimal.

What Will My Divorce Cost?

The expenses of most divorces are driven by the parties and the complexity of the individual case. It is nearly impossible to render an accurate estimate of the total cost. We have had cases breeze through in weeks within the parameters of the initial retainer. We have had hotly disputed, complex cases drag on for years and run $50,000 and up. An average case runs about six months to a year-and-a-half in duration and incur between $7,000 to $10,000 in fees and costs (provided child custody and visitation are not issues).

Your questions about fees and costs may be more specific. To provide the most complete information possible we will provide a sample of Mr. Bishop's standard retainer agreement upon request.

Should I Use A Mediator To Handle My Divorce?

While Mr. Bishop believes in dispute resolution, his nearly four decades of legal experience in family law cases suggest mediation as a formal alternative is all too often a waste of time and money. In essence, it is merely hiring a third party, usually another lawyer, who cannot give advice or explain options from a proactive standpoint.

If the parties and opposing counsel are willing and able to work together, Mr. Bishop greatly prefers and does everything possible to negotiate a full resolution of all issues. The process usually ends in what is called a Marital Settlement Agreement – basically a contract between the parties which incorporates the terms, provisions and mandated language required by law. This document becomes part of the Final Judgment. This method is typically faster and less expensive than litigating, and certainly easier on everyone.

Constructive communication between the parties is always encouraged. A large part of Mr. Bishop's divorces are resolved through negotiated agreements, and if the parties are able to work together it helps to minimize attorneys' fees.

There are numerous instances where the parties find themselves in relative agreement on most, if not all, issues, before a divorce is initiated. In those circumstances, Mr. Bishop is available to assist in finalizing the essential terms, preparing and filing the required documents with the Family Court to start the divorce action and drafting a Marital Settlement Agreement for review and approval by both parties.

In these situations, two lawyers may not be necessary. While Mr. Bishop can only represent one party, he will thoroughly explain the family law process to both parties, including the meaning and effect of each provision of the Marital Settlement Agreement.

Unlike the mediation scenario, this arrangement allows Mr. Bishop to give his client specific direction and advice while maintaining a cooperative environment and healthy attitudes between the parties.

In the event the parties are insistent on mediation as an option, Mr. Bishop's training, experience and expertise in dispute resolution more than qualify him to serve in this capacity.

Do Courts Treat Men And Women The Same When It Comes To Issues Concerning Child Custody?

Courts have become increasingly gender-neutral. Men now have far more equal footing in custody and visitation issues as well as financial matters than has historically been the case. Consequently, the "old school" rules no longer apply and an attorney must be on the cutting-edge of today's judicial attitudes. Mr. Bishop spends considerable time keeping abreast of changes in the law, changes in court staffing and fluctuations in the socio-legal norms.

Do You Have Additional Questions?

Talk with a certified specialist in family law. Schedule a free telephone consultation with our lawyer by calling our San Diego office at 619-535-0678 or by sending us an email.