Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hiring a mediator does not mean you don't need to hire an attorney!!

I keep receiving phone calls from people that think that if they hire a mediator that they do NOT need to hire an attorney.

Obviously many people do NOT understand the role of a mediator!

They think that if they hire an attorney/mediator that they do not need to hire an attorney to assist them.  They are wrong, wrong, wrong.

If I assume the role of a mediator then I must take off my "hat" as an attorney.  I cannot function as an attorney.  I cannot provide legal advice.  I cannot prepare legal paperwork.  I cannot do the legal paperwork necessary to finalize a divorce.  After practicing law for 20 years I have avoided greviences against me.  I intend to continue my clean record!  I also as a "credentialed" mediator in the State of Texas.  I am held to a high standard of conduct as a mediator.  Therefore, I don't intend to start letting my ethics start slipping as an attorney or as a mediator!

If I assist a couple if coming to terms with the the final outcome of their divorce I am unable to assist them with preparing the paperwork to be submitted to the judge to sign the final paperwork! 

Therefore, the couple must still retain the service of a Texas attorney to assist them in preparing the final paperwork.

So what can a couple do to avoid hiring an attorney? 
The answer is not much.

They cannot use the services of a paralegal to do the final paperwork -- it is illegal for a paralegal to do so in the State of Texas.  In fact, it is a felony for a paralegal to do so!  The District Attorney's office as prosecuted paralegal's for doing paperwork for people.  Why?  Because often a paralegal has been known to do the final paperwork WRONG!  FYI:  There is one Harris County family cout associate judge that has personally called the District Attorney's office and given the DA's office the name of a paralegal and their contact information in order to aide in the prosecution of paralegals that do bad paperwork! 

Also, please don't waste your money with the kits advertised on radio, television and the internet.  If you listen carefully to their ads they state that they are not prepared by attorneys!  That is how they State Bar of Texas has avoided suing them for the unlawful practice of law in the State of Texas!  Also, their "guarantee" is worthless!  I believe their guarantee is for 60 days and a divorce in Texas takes over 61 days -- so you don't get your money back.  Plus, they don't give you the REQUIRED forms that the judge will want in order the finalize your divorce in Harris County and in the State of Texas.  Plus, they don't sell you the required Employer Wage Withholding Order and other necessary forms that you will need if you have minor children.

If a couple is broke, busted, and on a limited income then there are pro bono (free) legal services available.  Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program at 713-228-0732 comes to mind.  I worked there many years ago.  There is also Lone Star Legal.  The 3 law schools in town also have services.  You can go to the State Bar of Texas website and look for their pro bono list of programs in the State of Texas.  Be prepared to wait since the free programs are overwhelmed and understaffed.  Their funding has been drying up.  The demand for free services is swelling & there just are not enough people to handle the demand.

Many attorneys offer payment plans. 

Patricia Bushman at 713-807-9405 offers payment plans.

You can look for a recent law school graduate.  However, I would suggest that you find someone that has a couple of years experience.  A recent graduate does not know what they are doing and you don't need to be their first case!  Many times someone with 5-10 years experience can do the job much quicker and right the first time -- for less money since they know what they are doing!

You can always go to the Family Court house -- there are now courts at 2 courthouses -- the Family Courthouse at 1115 Congress & the Civil Courthouse -- both are downtown just a couple of blocks away from each other -- and you can look around and try to find an attorney that looks like they are "hungry" but smart.  I'd go down in the morning -- usually on a Monday morning when there is docket call.  I'd pick someone with a few wrinkles in their face.  Pick someone that is nice.  It's your money -- so don't pick someone that treats your rudely! 

You can check the Greensheet.  I advertised in there for years approx. 15 years ago but I quit.  There is just too much competition these days & too many shoppers.  Plus now everyone has the internet.  I found that most people use the internet to find an attorney.  The Greensheet was not as popular for hiring a family law attorney. 

You can look on and for many family law attorneys.Both sites allow you to post free questions.  Read the attorney answers & find someone that sounds nice. 

There are many, many free websites for attorneys to advertise on these days.  I used to pay to advertise but now there are literally probably 25 free attorney sites that I appear on.  I've had a website over 15 years so I'm a really old, old internet presence. 

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