Frequently Asked Questions
An initial consultation is a time for you and a managing partner at our firm to get to know one another and discuss your case. A consultation is your opportunity to learn about the process and discuss strategy related to your specific situation. You will also discuss or address:
Children should not be present at consultations. This is a time for you and an attorney to speak about serious matters, and you should be able to dedicate your full attention to the meeting. Moreover, it may be harmful for them to be in the room or even in the office. Courts typically discourage children from being involved with the specifics of the lawsuit. If you are unable to attend your consultation without your children, please discuss appropriate options when you schedule your consultation. Exceptions can be made based on the following:
Exceptions can be made for friends or family members to accompany you, but it will depend on whether or not:
Be careful—allowing a friend or family member to join in your consultation may waive your right to privacy through attorney-client privilege. Consult with your lawyer before allowing additional parties to be present.
Bring any information that may be helpful to your case or help us to answer your questions. You might find it helpful to jot down questions you don’t want to forget to ask. Here are some documents that you should bring with you as well as some of the information you should be prepared to provide:
You may reschedule your appointment at any time prior to your scheduled meeting. We will try to accommodate your schedule as much as possible when rescheduling your appointment. Typically if you need to reschedule due to an emergency, we will try to reschedule you for the soonest available time that works for you and the attorney. Your consultation fee will not be refunded in the event of a canceled appointment.
You can cancel your appointment any time prior to your scheduled meeting. However, please be aware that cancellations made within four hours of your scheduled meeting will result in a forfeiture of your consultation fee.
You can view available appointment times by following the instruction on the Schedule a Consultation page.
We bill hourly like all attorneys, but approach our billing in a way that is more transparent, honest and fair. We don’t play games or hide the ball. We have an open and honest dialogue about costs. We publish our hourly rates and estimated retainer fees online. Try to find another law firm that discloses this information.
To see more details about our billing process and fees, visit our Attorney Fees and Billing page
At Walters Gilbreath, PLLC we believe in fair fees and efficiency. Check out our Attorney Fees and Billing page for a breakdown of how our billing works and what to expect when hiring our team.
A Retainer Fee is a deposit paid by a new client at the time they hire our firm. A client is required to keep refreshing that deposit so that there is always a positive balance. Once the case is completed, the balance is refunded to the client.
Learn more about how retainer fees are collected in our blog, Understanding Retainer Fees
Divorce & Property Division
In a divorce, debts and assets are categorized as either community property or separate property. Community property is any asset to which both spouses have a claim to ownership. Typically, any property obtained by either spouse during the marriage (regardless of which spouse’s name the property is in) is community property, and community property is divided between the spouses. Even if only one spouse bought a house, the other spouse would still have a claim to the equity in the home. In this characterization process, both parties will make a detailed inventory of their personal property, and they will either agree on the division of property or submit to the court.
Assets are not always divided into two equal parts. For example, if property was registered under one name, but purchased with community property, it may be characterized as community property. To learn more about factors that can affect the way in which your assets are distributed, click here.
Your spouse may be entitled to a portion of your retirement. Any portion of your retirement earned during the marriage (and before your date of divorce) will be considered community property. In a divorce, community property is divided between the spouses, but individual assets are not necessarily shared equally. For example, you could keep your retirement and give more equity in the home to your spouse to accomplish an even division of the property.
To determine the characterization of your current portfolio, you will want to gather information/documentation regarding your stock plan such as contact information for the plan administrator. A full list of recommended materials can be found here.
It is a common misconception that an asset that is solely titled in your name cannot be awarded to your spouse; this is not true. For example, a retirement account is typically only in the name of one partner, but it is common property if the funds contributed were done so during the marriage.
Debts and liabilities acquired during the marriage, like assets, will be divided between the spouses. This division is either done by splitting each liability, or by awarding each party several liabilities (such that the overall property division is fair and equitable).
Possession, Custody, & Conservatorship
Courts allocate a variety of rights and duties between the parents. What most people mean when they refer to ‘custody’ is the right to designate the primary residence of the child. The amount of time each parent spends with the child and what the schedule looks like is called ‘Possession and Access’). The right to make medical, educational, and other decisions, and how other decisions are made on behalf of the child is called conservatorship. Lastly, one parent will collect child support from the other parent.
In Texas, the law explicitly states that no preference may be given to either males or females. Instead, the courts look to see who has historically been the primary caretaker, who prioritizes the kids’ needs, and the parents’ abilities to co-parent when making decisions regarding the children.
“Bad facts” are factors that reflect negatively on a party’s parenting, credibility, or judgment, and can shift custody from one parent to the other. When it comes to bad facts, substance abuse is the most common, family violence is the most heavily punished under the law, and untreated mental disorders are usually the most complex. Other examples of bad facts include failure to respectfully co-parent, exposing kids to a paramour, and prioritizing negative feelings for the other parent over the well-being of the kids. The existence of these factors requires that you have an exceptionally experienced and skilled attorney on your side to take advantage of said facts or to properly defend against them.
One of the most effective components of a case is the testimony of witnesses. The value of witness testimony varies significantly, but generally, the most effective witnesses are neutral parties, such as neighbors, teachers, and mental health professionals. Statements from family or close friends are often perceived as biased.
Consider the following: if you’re looking at restaurant reviews, would you trust a review from the restaurant’s owner, or would you look for a review from an unbiased third-party?
Children can be split up, but it is incredibly rare. Separating children is disfavored under the law, but not forbidden. Usually, this separation occurs when children are older or when a child is under the age of 3 and siblings are older.
Jury Trials & Litigation
Whether you are having a jury trial, a hearing, or a trial with a judge, you must dress in a way that presents you in the best light. Let’s be honest; people are judgmental. Often it isn’t even intentional, but it happens, which is why first impressions are so important. For example, if you visit a doctor for the first time, and they showed up wearing shorts and flip flops, you may wonder if they take their profession seriously. On the day of trial, you should dress in a way that is respectful and shows that you are taking your legal matters seriously—no shorts, no flip flops. Leave your hat in your car. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing it to a place of worship or in front of your grandparents, it is likely inappropriate for court. If you have tattoos that can be covered, go ahead and cover them. If you have facial piercings, take them out for court—small details matter, so it is vital to have an attorney that will steer you in the right direction
Strategically, you will want to talk to us about how to best present yourself in a way that reinforces your position in court. If you are a stay-at-home mom looking for a decision or schedule that aligns with your role as a parent, it is okay to dress like a mother rather than a businesswoman. Similarly, if you are asking to reduce the amount of support you pay, you shouldn’t come to court in a luxury suit and designer watch. Don’t let a detail derail your case. Our team has years of experience and can help you to develop a comprehensive legal strategy that includes everything from case details to clothes.
Testifying in court is not like it is on TV. You’ll get to tell your side of the story, but it won’t be as dramatic as it is in movies. Your attorney will ask you questions, and you will answer them; It’s much more conversational than people expect.
Jury trials are the most complex type of hearings in civil court, and if you want an experienced attorney to represent you, it may seem like an expensive endeavor. However, having someone experienced in jury trials will save you money because they are more efficient and effective in their preparation than most. Think of it this way, would you rather have a low-cost surgeon with a spotty track record, or an appropriately-priced, highly-recommended surgeon? In the long run, If you opt for the discounted surgeon, you’re likely going to spend more time, money, and energy trying to correct their mistakes than you would if you hired the more highly-regarded surgeon. Secure your future. Hire an attorney that understands every detail of your case and how to use them in court.
Although many divorces (and all custody cases) involve children, you can’t bring children to court. Most courthouses do not have onsite childcare and it is crucial to shield your children from the legal process. Your children should be in childcare or school at the time of your hearing. The only exception to this is when a judge specifically requests to speak with a child in his or her chambers. In that instance, the child will be allowed to speak with the judge after arrangements are made with the court.
Typically, we recommend that you arrive to the court at least 35 minutes before your hearing, as you will want to allow time to park and go through security. Security checks are the first step required before you will be allowed to attend your hearing. However, you should speak with your attorney about what time he or she would prefer that you arrive.
Courtrooms are not as theatrical as they may seem on TV. Instead, the courtroom is primarily a place of order and silence. When you arrive at the courtroom assigned to your case, you will notice that there are other people present. There will likely be other parties there for their own cases, attorneys, clerks, a court reporter, bailiffs, and of course, a judge. With that said, most courts will require absolute silence in the courtroom unless you are in front of the judge for your case. In most Texas courts, this includes speaking with your attorney. Not only is talking distracting for the court, but if your attorney is listening to you instead of the court proceedings, they may miss something important. Usually, you’ll be required to briefly step out of the courtroom to conduct this conversation during a break to maintain the order discussed above. Remember, it becomes difficult for the court reporter to transcribe testimony if he or she cannot hear adequately, and it creates a similar problem if the judge cannot hear testimony due to courtroom chatter.
Next, you should know that taking pictures or video with any device while in the courtroom is strictly forbidden. For this reason, we recommend clients keep their electronic devices out of view, so it does not even appear as if a client is attempting to violate this rule.
When in court or the courthouse, it is key to be polite and courteous even in the hallways. You never know who may be observing you or making judgments about your credibility and character.
We’d argue that the most critical and universal rule of all Texas courts is that your cell phone must be in silent mode or powered off while in the courtroom. We have witnessed bailiffs both remove people from the courtroom and confiscate cell phones because of a non-silenced phone during a proceeding. To avoid this issue and embarrassment, we recommend that our clients power off their phones just to be safe.
If mediation is needed, you will meet with your lawyer and a neutral mediator who will help guide you and the other party to a resolution. Several advantages to mediation are:
Things to consider with regard to mediation: