Services offered by my office
My services are designed to help you resolve your case by reaching an agreement. This involves going through a process so I can gather all relevant information, provide you with clear, understandable information and advice to assist you with any decisions you need to make, help you understand the court system and paperwork steps, and later provide you with necessary documents to accomplish your goals. You take your own documents to the County Clerks' office for filing, and I provide you with clear instructions for each step.
My services are NOT recommended for contested situations, where you and the other party are not in agreement or one of you doesn't want to reach an agreement. My services are designed primarily for people wishing to maximize the potential for resolving a family law matter by agreement, for people who feel they have worked out an agreement on their own, but need help making sure it is done right, and for people who need help in reaching the terms for an agreement.
For example, in a divorce situation, if you and your spouse are in agreement, or you anticipate being in agreement, or you both want to be in agreement but are not sure how to go about working the details out, then my services would be helpful to complete this process thoroughly and correctly. Most people need assistance in making decisions, evaluating your ideas, coming up with settlement options and alternatives, analyzing those alternatives, and then having your documents prepared professionally. A divorce is just one example, however. Other examples would include out-of-court resolutions for a custody or parenting plan dispute, a child support or spousal support modification, or a problem which arises after a divorce, such as the division of a retirement plan or other unresolved issue.
I offer three general types of services. You would decide which would work best for you in your particular situation. My goal is to keep you out of court and help you resolve all issues by agreement. Here is a quick overview of different ways to go about this. The word "party" refers to each person in the case. Please also see the separate links for Mediation and Collaboration for a more thorough explanation of those methods of resolution.
CONSULTING: This involves my working with ONE party, as a consultant, advisor, and document preparer. When we are working together in this capacity, I DO NOT REPRESENT YOU in the traditional sense, and am NOT your "attorney of record." I would be assisting you in a different capacity, primarily to consult with and advise you so you can handle your family law matter on your own, but with help, advice, and procedural guidance: A legal consultant in a non-traditional sense. I am assisting one person in understanding everything and making any decisions pertaining to your case, as well as providing services for the preparation of necessary court documents, and a settlement agreement for both parties' review and signature. With this option, the party I am working directly is the "client for conflict purposes" and this party discusses all issues with the other party directly. NOTE: I cannot speak with the other party independently, as this creates a conflict of interest.
A consultation is also the approach if you have a potentially contested case, where you may not know if it will be contested or not, but wish to maximize the potential for handling the case as an uncontested one. A frequent goal in this situation is to seek an alternative which may allow you to resolve the case without the necessity of its becoming contested. Usually, the case would be commenced as uncontested, with the option always available to proceed contested, if that became necessary (with representation from another attorney of your selection, if you elect to proceed contested).
MEDIATION: This involves my working with BOTH parties to work out the details for a divorce agreement, or for an agreement on any other family law issue. There are two ways this can occur. The only difference is how I am required to handle the "conflict" issue. This is governed by what communications have occurred as of the time you want to start mediation.
If you think you may be interested in mediation, I would highly recommend setting up your telephone appointment as a conference call with all three of us so that we have not set up a conflict inadvertently. This whole issue is confusing, but hopefully this brief explanation will help you to understand this distinction: My "client for conflict purposes" is almost always the first person with whom I speak, as I cannot have independent conversation with one person about the merits of the case without creating a "conflict of interest," so we must establish how we are handling this before anything else occurs. You can schedule your telephone appointment, but if you think you may want a mediation appointment, we should not discuss the actual issues of your case or any details about your case during that telephone appointment, unless we are on a conference call. Different attorneys handle this issue very differently, so we should discuss my policies about conflicts if it may be an issue in your case so you will understand how the conflict rules impact you and your situation.
In both Mediation options explained here, while we are working together at our joint meeting, there is no difference in the information provided by me or the process used to reach an agreement. The only difference between the two situations is how I am required to handle the "conflict" issue, which governs how I can communicate with you later.
Option One: Three Way Meeting: In a situation where I have consulted with one person already, or have discussed with that person ever, and now you both want to come in together for me to help work out the details for your agreement (or for any other reason), then the party with whom I was previously working with is the "client for conflict purposes" (the "client party") and I cannot independently communicate with the other party later, unless we all three are talking together (in person or on the phone). The "client party" is still able to have independent communication with me at a later time, if necessary. One example of when this option is used would be in the case where the "client party" is the one handling the divorce, and the other party is participating actively only in the negotiations and discussions needed to reach an agreement and is otherwise letting the "client party" handle all the paperwork, appointments, and discussions necessary to start and finish the divorce.
Option Two: Mediation: This involves my working with both parties together from the very beginning through the very end of the process. We never have any communication about your case except joint communication with all three of us. If you want to do this, I would highly recommend that when you schedule your free telephone consultation, you set up a conference call so we all three are speaking at that time (you will need to arrange this). Mediation is a choice which you select, but once selected, cannot be changed later. We stay with joint communication until the case is resolved.
In both of these mediation options, the process is the same: We work together by going through a specific systematic process to gather all relevant information, facts, and documents, then analyze the issues, discuss options and alternatives for a resolution of all issues, and work through the details to come to the terms for a settlement of all issues. The end result is the written settlement agreement, which you are both free to take to other attorneys to review, if you like. The agreement that is reached through this process is the end result, and eventually becomes your court order.
If you both WANT to resolve your case by agreement, then there is almost always a way to achieve that. The INTENT to reach that goal is the key, not the nature of your assets, nor your ability to resolve issues on your own, nor even your ability to communicate with each other. The desire to reach an agreement is the key. The costs you incur for mediation are usually a very small fraction of the costs you would have in a contested situation.
It is also possible to go through Mediation when one or both parties are represented by other attorneys. I do not usually do the settlement agreement in that event, although that is your choice.
If you are scheduling a mediation appointment, you will need to come in 15 minutes early to read the "Mediation Fee Agreement" before we start talking, OR we can email or fax this document to both of you ahead of time so you can review it. Let my secretary know which you want to do.
COLLABORATION: In a collaborative law case, I am representing one party as his or her attorney of record, and the other party has a separate attorney of record who is also a collaborative law attorney. However, all four of us have agreed that the case shall be resolved outside of the court system, and that we shall, through a step-by-step process, resolve all issues by agreement. The case progresses in this fashion and shall have no direct court involvement. Often, other professionals are used to help with this process, as needed. Examples would be using a financial expert for valuation issues or tax advice, or using one or more mental health professionals as coaches for one or both parties, or to work with both parties to resolve parenting plan or custody issues. This method of resolving a case is most often used in a divorce but it could be any family law case. I usually recommended this option for parties with substantial assets and where one (or both) parties are more comfortable having his or her own attorney for advice on an individual, private basis. There is an increasing number of family law attorneys who have completed collaborative law training, and the attorneys chosen by each party should have had some training in this subject (although it is not absolutely required but your success rate is increased). In the event the case becomes contested, either party may terminate the collaborative process. Both parties would then hire different attorneys to represent them in the contested case. The collaborative attorneys are no longer involved at all. The costs you incur in a collaborative case are usually more than for mediation, but usually less than in a contested case.
CONTESTED CASES: I DO NOT HANDLE CONTESTED CASES. The word "litigation" refers to the court's process of resolving a contested case. Litigation is required when you have a contested case, if you are unable to reach an agreement through any method. For cases which you may assume to be contested, I can consult with you with the goal of providing an analysis of your situation or case, as an educational experience only. This benefits you by assisting you in understanding your case and the court system, and in outlining your available options to resolve or move forward with your case. This usually serves to provide some "direction" to you as to what you may want to do. This does NOT provide you with representation for your case. I DO NOT assist anyone in preparing for trial, and do NOT assist with acquiring temporary orders, including restraining orders, by way of an Order to Show Cause, as those matters are usually more complex than you may realize; and representation by a traditional attorney is STRONGLY recommended. If you have complex trial issues, I will advise you to seek additional advice and representation from a litigator. I am NOT a litigator, and if your case is a contested one, I will advise you to seek the advice of a litigator for an opinion on your case from a litigator's standpoint. My focus is to keep you OUT of court, and if you are already on your way there, then I am NOT usually the best person to be advising you.
FULL DISCLOSURE REQUIRED: Disclosure laws require a FULL DISCLOSURE from each spouse as to assets, debts, and income. This includes separate property as well as community property. The disclosure process requires certain paperwork to be completed by each party and provided to the other party at certain stages in the case. The penalties for failing to comply with the disclosure laws can be SEVERE. The Disclosure process is mandatory; and there is no safe way to avoid complying. This applies to all family law cases.
PLACER COUNTY: If your case is in Placer County, and you have children of this relationship, PLEASE NOTE: A local rule in Placer County requires attendance at a Co-Parenting Class, which is a class lasting several hours, offered weekly in Auburn (no charge). Both parents are required to attend one session, regardless of whether or not you agree on a parenting plan. You will not be able to finish your case and get a Judgment without proof of attendance, with only a few exceptions. Other counties may have something similar. NOTE: You are NOT required to participate in formal court mediation if you can reach an agreement for your parenting plan.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT PARALEGALS: One of the most common questions I hear is about the use of paralegals in family law cases. Consequently, I felt it necessary to mention that issue here. Over the years, I have seen and heard some of the worst horror stories you could imagine from people as to what they have had to do to correct problems created by incorrect documents and improper "advice." Sometimes the problems are not possible to fix without great cost. In my personal opinion, it is better to have your paperwork completed correctly the first time, rather than spend extra money (sometimes quite a lot), as well as time, to have things fixed later (if possible to fix at all). Most paralegals are not trained in the substantive law and, in my personal opinion, rarely understand all of the legal issues in a case. Paralegals are not licensed to give legal advice, and it is not possible, in my personal opinion, to properly assist anyone with a family law case without providing legal advice. You should also consider the issue of the lack of professional liability for any errors which may occur. Thus, you, the consumer, are the one potentially hurt. Please be AWARE of this problem! (This paragraph is NOT intended to refer to the organizations who use paralegals to prepare restraining orders, nor is it intended to refer to paralegals who operate under the direct supervision of a licensed attorney. Paralegals operating on their own have varied levels of knowledge, and that is my concern.)
Note: If you are scheduling an in-office consultation, I would request that you NOT use any PERFUME, COLOGNE, AFTERSHAVE, etc., before coming to my office. It causes me to have an allergic reaction. I greatly appreciate your consideration of this problem. Also, we are in a RURAL location, please WATCH YOUR STEP in the driveway. This is a non-smoking environment, so please DO NOT SMOKE once you have entered the driveway, and leave any cigarette butts in your car. Please do not bring any other people, or animals, with you. Thank you.
Please email us to obtain the current fee schedule, and review it in conjunction with fee arrangements explained below prior to our telephone appointment.
It is strongly recommended that you schedule your free one-half hour telephone consultation so that we can go over an individualized analysis of what fees do, and do not, apply to your situation. Most situations do NOT require all of the items listed here. Some situations require items not listed here. This fee information, and the separate fee schedule, is provided for your general reference so that when we talk, I can reference which fees apply to you and which don't. These fees refer to divorce-related documents. If you have another situation, I will need to review with you what document fees apply to your situation.
My policy for fees is a "PAY AS YOU GO" arrangement. Any fee which applies to you is due at the time that particular service is provided. I do not have a retainer, except in collaborative law cases. Fees for consultations are due at the time of the consultation. Fees for documents are due when you request the preparation of the document. If there is any fee for a telephone discussion, explained below, that fee is due at the conclusion of the phone conversation with a credit card, unless we make other arrangements at that time.
Checks, cash, money orders, VISA , MASTERCARD, ATM, and DEBIT cards are accepted.
For our FIRST DISCUSSION, a one-half hour scheduled telephone appointment to go over basics, NO CHARGE. These appointments are scheduled at specified times. To schedule a telephone appointment, CALL IN between 9 am and noon and speak to my secretary to schedule a time and provide additional information we MUST have before setting your appointment. I MUST have both parties full names prior to scheduling our telephone appointment, as well as any other names either of you have ever used. (The names are necessary for conflicts checking.) I will also need to know the number of minor children you have, and the general subject you wish to discuss, as well as your home and work telephone numbers. I do not review documents during our telephone consultation, as that is more appropriate during our in-office initial consultation.
Any additional telephone time or other time spent at your request (AFTER our free telephone consultation but BEFORE your initial consultation) is billed at the initial consultation hourly rate in effect at that time and paid for by credit card at the conclusion of our discussion. This includes time spent in responding to emailed or faxed questions, and payment arrangements need to be made in that event.
FOLLOWING your initial consultation in my office (and continuing through the time your Judgment is filed with the court), all clients have ONE HOUR of additional "chargeable time" which is given to you at no charge. This is intended to cover anticipated questions. Chargeable time includes telephone time, email review and response time, fax review and response time, and any time specifically spent on your behalf, excluding document preparation time. If you go over your free hour, any chargeable time above the free hour is billed at the initial consultation hourly rate in effect at that time and paid for by credit card at the conclusion of any telephone or other discussion which exceeds the free hour.
INITIAL CONSULTATION FOR ONE PERSON - Please refer to current Fee Schedule for hourly rate: This is our first meeting. Average length: 3 to 5 hours. Yours may be shorter or longer, depending. I will try to estimate this for you when we talk. This meeting involves gathering all basic information, reviewing assets and debts in detail, discussing all children-related issues, discussing all spousal support issues, going over all options within the procedural framework of your situation, and then going over ideas for a division of property. This meeting is our educational meeting and is for developing the GAME PLAN. This hourly rate applies to consulting with ONE person.
ADDITIONAL CONSULTATION - Please refer to current Fee Schedule for hourly rate:
This is not frequently necessary and depends on the situation. An additional consultation is when you need to come back in AFTER your initial consultation for another consultation later. The most frequent examples would be where you have a document which has been prepared by your spouse's attorney that you wish to review, or if things have changed and we need to meet again. This hourly rate applies to an additional consultation with ONE person.
MEDIATION - Please refer to current Fee Schedule for hourly rate:
Mediation (explained above) is a voluntary process which you and your spouse would utilize based on your decision to have me facilitate a resolution of the issues in your case. Please refer to the information above regarding mediation and conflicts.
COLLABORATION - Please refer to current Fee Schedule for hourly rate:
In a collaborative law case, (explained above) you would come in for your individual initial consultation first before deciding about collaborative law. In the event we begin a collaborative case, a retainer will be quoted to you for me to handle your case. This retainer will be held in my client trust account and withdrawn each month depending on the time spent on your behalf, subject to a monthly statement sent to you. Or, you could designate a credit card for your monthly charges to be applied as long as you had a sufficient credit line to cover this. Any unused retainer is returned to you at the conclusion of the case. Additional retainer funds would be necessary in the event your retainer is used up prior to the conclusion of the case.
DOCUMENT CHARGES PLEASE REFER TO CURRENT FEE SCHEDULE
BASIC COURT FORMS:
There are different costs depending on if you have, or don't have, minor children of the marriage. Documents are paid for at the time of your appointment to have them completed. Document fees include the preparation of the basic, required court forms which must be completed in all Family Law cases (divorce, legal separation, nullity) in order for you to begin and end the case. It occurs in two steps, usually the first and last paperwork steps that we do. This fee includes the preparation of your basic forms, all copies, all envelopes and stamps, a file to keep things in, and instructions for completing each step. You do your own footwork, which is not difficult.
MARITAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT:
Quote will depend on complexity. This is the most important document, as it reflects all details of your agreement with your spouse as to property, children, support, etc. This document becomes your court order. I can give you a range of cost estimate during our telephone discussion. A firm quote will not be known until after the initial consultation. You will also have notary fees for each signature.
There are several different types of Deeds, the need for which varies under different facts. Deeds are necessary when one spouse keeps the property and under certain other circumstances. You will also have notary fees for each signature, and recording fees of usually less than $20. (County fees always subject to change)
PROMISSORY NOTE AND DEED OF TRUST
Necessary when one party receives a Promissory Note secured by real property being kept by the other party. Notary and recording fees also apply.
QDRO and JOINDER
A QDRO is necessary when the non-employee spouse is retaining an interest in the employee spouse's pension or retirement plan, 401(k), 457 DCP, 403(b), or other similar retirement benefits. Similar documents for public employers (CalSTRS, CalPERS) are called "Stipulations." A Joinder refers to a process where the pension plan is joined to the case as a party, which is required by some retirement plans, including CalSTRS and CalPERS. The need for these documents varies tremendously.
Any document out of the ordinary - to be quoted
On occasion, some people need other documents prepared, and if so, a fee will be quoted and the document explained.
COURT FEES - FILING FEE:
County's fee for filing case (these fees may change without notice and the court may start charging fees for documents that were previously filed without a fee). Please refer to current Fee Schedule for County fees. The filing fee is paid to the County at the time of filing the case, unless you qualify for a Fee Waiver. Fee Waiver papers are prepared for you as part of your basic court forms.
OTHER MISC. FEES:
Child and/or Spousal Support Calculations Printout. Please refer to current Fee Schedule
There is certain software frequently used to calculate child and spousal support. You may acquire printouts of the results of various income scenarios if you wish. This service is included in an in-office consultation. These additional charges would apply if you wish the printouts at a separate time. I do not provide this service without having had the initial consultation first, as there is more to calculating support than a simple application of income figures, etc. If you wish to use this service, please request a separate Child/Spousal Support Calculations Order Form from my secretary and fill it out with the information you would like to use to run the scenarios. Also, understand that a telephone consultation may be necessary in order to clarify your request, and applicable chargeable time fees (explained above) will apply.
I hope this is clear. You will need to read this in conjunction with the current Fee Schedule (obtained separately by email) so that we can estimate your fees and costs at the time we speak on the telephone. Please contact my secretary and let her know that you have read this "Explanation of Services," and that you wish to schedule a ONE-HALF HOUR telephone appointment. I can go over an estimate of the fees and costs which would apply to your situation at that time. I look forward to talking with you.
Law Office of Kimberly Cole
Updated April 6, 2005