Family Law FAQ

Getting Ready For Your Consultation

What Paperwork Should I Have Ready For My Consultation?

If a court case has already been opened, please bring any recent orders or court pleadings with you. You may be asked to send them ahead of time so that the attorney has time to review it. Please also bring pay stubs and tax returns, which are often helpful if child and spousal support are an issue. We will often prepare preliminary support calculations at the time of the initial consultation in an effort to assist you.

What Can I Expect From The Consultation?

Consultations are one hour. This allows the attorney time to get a better understanding of your case, ask questions and work with you to create a work plan for the next steps you will need take. We offer a flat rate, reduced cost for the initial consultation.

Why Don’t You Offer A Free Consultation?

At your consultation, you can expect to receive expert advice and have a plan on how best to move forward in your case. We understand that some law offices offer a free 20-minute consultation. Our experience has been that 20 minutes is not enough time to provide insight into your case. It will always take the full hour to ask and answer enough questions and gain a sufficient understanding of your case. Like any initial consultation, however, our impressions will be preliminary.


What Is The Average Cost Of A Typical Divorce?

There is no average cost for a divorce, as each situation is truly unique. After a consultation with one of our attorneys, we can quote you a retainer for your action that is fine-tuned to your specific needs. We can also attempt to mitigate your divorce costs by offering unbundled or limited scope services. Obviously, if the parties are committed to resolving issues amicably, they are going to save significantly on attorney fees and costs. Litigation can be expensive, both financially and emotionally. However, we work with our clients to focus on those issues that truly matter and to come to a resolution as efficiently as possible.

Are There Ways That I Can Save Money?

Absolutely! Responding promptly and as accurately as possible to our requests for information is the primary way in which a client can save costs on legal fees. We will need information from you to properly represent you in court and out of court. Multiple requests and extending deadlines can increase costs to the client. We don’t recommend that a client complete his or her own paperwork. We have found that it can cost you more money to have documents reviewed, revised and reviewed again. You’ll end up paying twice. The best way that a client can save time and money is by deciding what is truly important in a case. There will always be minutiae that can get in the way, but any divorce or separation can be easier if you focus on what are only the most important aspects of your case. We can help you identify those areas on which to focus.

How Am I Billed For Attorney Fees?

A retainer is required up front and deposited into a lawyer trust account. You will receive an itemized billing statement once per month detailing the work done on your case for that period. The amount owed is then withdrawn from your trust account. We require that a minimum retainer balance be kept current in all cases. That amount is determined at the office consultation, specific to your case.

What If I Can’t Afford You?

If you are unable to continue to fund the litigation, there are options available to you. We do offer unbundling as part of our service, and you can hire us on a limited scope basis. We do ask that your bill be paid promptly to continue representation. Depending on the circumstances in your case, you may be able to obtain attorney’s fees from the other party.

Can I Get A Refund On My Unused Retainer?

Any unused portion of your retainer is refunded to you.


What Are The Office Hours?

Our law office hours are Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

What If I Have An Emergency After Hours?

We have a 24-hour answering service which is able to get a hold of me in a true emergency, such as the police are at the house and want to speak with your attorney. Please remember that in any true emergency involving your physical safety, you should always dial 911.

How Quickly Do You Respond To Calls And Emails?

One of the biggest complaints people have with an attorney is that they pay a lot of money and can never get a hold of him or her. At the Law Office of Stephen W. Penn and Associates, we pride ourselves in our client service. Our office policy is to return phone calls within 24 hours. We also encourage clients to set up telephone conference appointments to ensure availability. Email communication can be very helpful for quick questions. More complicated questions are more effectively handled in telephone conferences or law office conferences. You can always expect answers to your questions and concerns as soon as it is possible.

What Happens After I Sign The Retainer?

We open a new file and begin the process on your behalf. We also require that you complete the first eight pages of our Domestic Interview Form if this is an initial filing. If the matter has already been filed or is a post-judgment proceeding, such as a modification of a current order, then we will need paperwork specific to the particular matter. We will let you know specifically what we need, as we are a very process-oriented office. We pride ourselves on organization and communication with clients. Clients receive copies of everything we do, regardless of how routine it might be. It is important to us that the client knows what is going on in his/her matter at all times and has the same access to information that we do. We believe that a well-informed client is a less stressed client and leads to a productive attorney/client working relationship.

Understanding The Court Process

How Long Does A Divorce Take?

The soonest parties can be legally divorced is six months after the responding party is served with the summons and petition in California. The average time it takes in Santa Clara County to complete a divorce is approximately 12-18 months, but every case will vary.

Who Goes To Court?

Many cases will settle without going to trial. However, most clients will need to attend court hearings on various matters. We will let you know when you need to be present for court. You can be assured that you will always be accompanied by an attorney who is well prepared for your hearing and the issues under consideration.

My Case Is Already In Court. Can I Still Hire An Attorney?

It does not matter where you are at in the process of your divorce or court case. You can always substitute in or out an attorney. Once you have your consult, we can decide how best to proceed in your case.