Whether you have already scheduled your initial consultation, or whether you are still considering scheduling an initial consultation, here are some things you should know about the initial consultation

So that we can best understand your case, we will ask you to complete an initial intake form. 

This information helps us put into context the issues that may be present in your divorce, custody or support case.  It helps us determine whether your case will involve spousal support, child support, dividing marital or separate property, pensions, or domestic violence.  To get a head start on the process, you can download our firm here, print it out, and bring it to your consultation completed with all the information that applies to your case.

What do we do with this information? 

We use it to evaluate your case, provide you a reasonable estimate of the cost of our services, and to give you a general understanding of how we can help you.

If you are considering an uncontested divorce, we will provide you with a realistic opinion on whether your case truly qualifies. 

To learn more about what is considered an uncontested divorce, click here.  If you think your case qualifies, submit a simple, confidential evaluation, and we can provide you with an answer right away. 

We will discuss your investement. 

We invest our time, experience and resources in you and your case.  We expect a similar commitment from you.  We will describe our retainer and review it with you, and discuss how we arrive at the estimate.  

What is the retainer? 

A retainer is a deposit, which we base on what we believe will be the minimum amount of investment that will likely be needed to complete your case.  It is not the final bill.  The final amount of your investment depends on how much litigation is required and how much time we will need to expend on your case.  In addition to the retainer, you will be required to advance additional sums based on out of pocket expenses - filing fees to the Court, process server fees, appraisal fees, deposition transcripts, that sort of thing, are all forms of expenses typically incurred during a divorce case.

What happens if my retainer runs out? 

In some cases, the case requires more work than our initial estimate.  When that happens, we will continue to bill you monthly for any work performed at our hourly rate.  If we believe that the matter requires an additional retainer, we will discuss that.  We usually do that when it becomes obvious that their will be a substantial likelihood that your case will require significant work.

Is my retainer refundable? 

Yes.  Any portion of your retainer that you do not use, you will get back.  That is our guaranty.  So if you have paid a $5,000 retainer, but only used $3,500, you will get back the remaining $1,500.

What is hourly billing? 

Because all we have to offer you is our time, knowledge and experience, the only way to measure how we use that for you is by logging our time.  So our retainer is based on hourly billing.  The retainer will spell out the hourly billing and how it works.

Do you offer flat fees? 

For uncontested divorces, we offer a flat fee, depending on a number of factors.  For contested matters, essentially anything that does not qualify as an uncontested divorce, we only offer hourly retainers.  This isn't because we don't want to do a flat fee, but because we are not allowed to do so by Court rules.

Do you offer contingency fees on divorce matters? 

Absolutely not.  Court rules prohibit us from doing so, and the reasons make a lot of sense - if you make your divorce fees based on some sort of contingency, it causes a conflict of interest between you and the firm.  You need some one advocating for you, and providing you with the best possible advice and counsel you can get because ultimately, you are the one that needs to make the decisions that are best for you and your family.  

Do you offer financing or payment plans? 

We will consider payment arrangements with you, under certain circumstances.  We do accept payments by cash, check, money order, credit and debit cards, and can also arrange for recurring regular payments made automatically and arranged in advance.  In some cases, we may also consider taking a case where there is a substantial likelihood of successfully applying for your spouse to pay your fees. 

How long will the initial consultation last?

The free consultation is designed to be about 15 minutes to half an hour long.  This is generally enough time to get a sense of what your case is about, and what we will likely need to do.  

Will I be able to get free advice? 

No.  Unfortunately, we cannot give free advice for many reasons, but the most important one is that we are not a pro bono service.  There are plenty of pro bono services available, if that is what you are looking for.  We are a professional firm, and we are good at what we do.  Rest assured that when you hire us, you will want to know that we aren't wasting time throughout the day talking to people looking for free advice, and instead, spending it giving your case the time and attention it and you need.  That is why we only schedule an initial consultation with someone who is seriously considering our services.

Can I hire you on the spot? 

During the consultation, we are both evaluating our options.  You are considering whether our firm is right for you, and we are considering whether we can actually help you.  We don't take every case, and we don't expect that every initial consultation will result in being hired.  That is ok.  It's important that you feel comfortable with the firm you hire, and that you are confident in the representation you will receive.  If you are ready to hire us, great, have your payment method ready, bring whatever papers you already have, and lets get started.

 

Ted Alatsas
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Brooklyn, New York Trial Attorney Practicing Family Law, Elder Law, Asset Protection and Bankruptcy Claims