What to Expect
Thank you for contacting Ward Family Law Group regarding your domestic issue. We hope that we will be able to assist you during this difficult time in your life. Quite often the domestic case–whether it’s custody, divorce issues, or domestic violence–is the first time that a client will consult an attorney. It is often a time marked by confusion, anger, frustration and uncertainty. We are here to help you through the journey. We want to share with you important information about what you can expect from us so that you can make educated and informed decisions about how to proceed.
- KNOWLEDGE OF THE LAW AND SOUND LEGAL ADVICE
We believe it is important for an attorney to discuss the law openly and frequently with clients from the very beginning. A good lawyer not only advises the client what to do, but explains the “why” behind it all. At Ward Family Law Group, we firmly believe that educating our clients about the law is first and foremost. A good lawyer will not simply brush off explaining the law to a client, claiming the law is too difficult or complex for the client to understand; a good lawyer will explain the law to her client. We believe our clients want and need to know the law that may affect their position so that they can evaluate their settlement options and make informed decisions. Our attorneys not only know the law, but know how to apply the law in the real world to real families. We pride ourselves on offering common sense, practical solutions, and advice tailored to your needs and concerns.
Most people would not want their general practitioner performing brain surgery on them. While their family doctor may be a fine doctor, he doesn’t specialize in brain surgery. The same is true for lawyers. We are not general practitioners; we only practice Family Law. Each of the lawyers at Ward Family Law Group has dedicated her entire legal career to the practice of family law and keeps abreast of recent developments not only in the law but follows the trends in how courts apply the law in different family settings. Our firm is well equipped to handle your domestic dispute. Linda Ward and Laura Manfreda are all certified by the North Carolina State Bar as Specialists in Family Law. In addition to limiting her practice to family law for almost a decade, Sasha Bocock also brings a wealth of experience to the practice of family law in high-conflict custody cases, as she was a Child Protective Services Investigator prior to becoming an attorney. In fact, it was Sasha’s work with families in the court system that inspired her to pursue a career in law. You can learn more about each of our attorneys by visiting www.wardfamilylawgroup.com.
- AN HONEST ASSESSMENT OF YOUR SITUATION
One of the most important duties of a lawyer is to provide the client with a frank and honest discussion of the facts and issues of the case. We understand that these are emotional and very personal issues to you about your partner, your children, and your future. Because you are “living it,” often it can be impossible to see anything but your perspective. At Ward Family Law Group, we are your advocate, and in advocating effectively for you, it is our duty to be objective with you about all of the facts, the law, and your options.
We will advise you about the positive and negative aspects of your case. Some lawyers simply advance the client’s position regardless if that position has merit or even makes sense. At our firm, we believe that no legitimate purpose is served in your lawyer telling you only what you want to hear. This will only lead to your having unmet expectations and dissatisfaction if the outcome is not exactly as you had hoped. It is our obligation to be candid and honest with you in evaluating all sides of your case. We promise to tell you the “good, the bad, and the ugly,” so that you can make informed and educated decisions. You should feel free to ask us at any time for our honest opinion on any matter that is involved in your case. We may not tell you what you want to hear, and we fully understand that may be difficult for a client to stomach, but know that we are always working in your best interest.
Money and time are very important factors for a client to consider. We promise to discuss all viable options with our clients. While we are strong advocates for our clients, and have extensive courtroom and litigation experience, we understand that litigation can be complex, contentious, time-consuming, unpredictable, extremely expensive, and, quite often, very frustrating for clients and lawyers alike. We pride ourselves on being solution-oriented lawyers and discuss with our clients all available options to resolve their dispute outside of litigation, including resolution through negotiation, mediation, and arbitration.
- LOYALTY, COMMITMENT AND COMMUNICATION: WE ARE A TEAM!
An attorney has an obligation of loyalty to the client. One of the most important factors to consider when hiring an attorney is the “trust” factor. A client should not only feel that the lawyer is knowledgeable and experienced, but a client needs to trust and believe that his lawyer understands his or her goals, really cares about the outcome, and will fervently advocate for him or her. The reality is that a lawyer cannot control the ultimate outcome of a client’s case. If the case is litigated, a judge will decide how marital assets will be divided, the amount of support a dependent spouse will receive, or the custodial arrangement for children. We cannot promise results. However, we can and do promise that we will zealously advocate for you and work as hard as we can to further your cause. We are committed to our clients, work hard, listen and respond to their needs. We understand that your domestic case isn’t a “case” at all; it’s your life, and you are living through the dispute each day.
We understand that this is a stressful time in your life, and we strive to provide each client with a timely response to all questions. If you call or email us, you can expect to receive a return call or email within twenty-four hours. We will send you copies of any and all correspondence and other documents we receive related to your case immediately upon receiving those from opposing counsel or some other source. Moreover, we understand that this is your case, and that you have the ultimate authority in deciding if, when, and how the case is settled. To that end, we obtain client approval on all correspondence and documents that go out in a client’s case. A client should not only know what his lawyer is doing but approve of any and all action the lawyer takes on that client’s behalf.
You can also trust us to keep your information confidential and not reveal it, without your permission, to people outside our law firm. What you say to us in confidence remains that way. Whatever you wish to communicate with your lawyer is “privileged”, that is, the lawyer is forbidden to repeat or discuss what you have told him or her without your permission. What you say in our offices remains here unless you allow us to discuss these matters with someone. No judge or court order can order a lawyer to disclose the confidential matters you bring to your attorney’s office, outside of unusual cases such as the intention to commit a crime in the future or to commit perjury on the witness stand. The purpose for this rule is to ensure that you will be frank and candid about your circumstances and in your discussion of the facts with us. The lawyer should not have to wonder whether the client is telling the whole truth. Don’t be afraid to tell us the truth. Remember that we are on your side. We can’t help you unless we know the whole story.
WHAT WE EXPECT FROM OUR CLIENTS
- CANDOR: WE NEED TO KNOW THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY!
We need to know the truth; even if it hurts. If you believe that there is some fact that may be harmful to you, it is much better to discuss this openly with your attorney than trying to hide it or hoping no one will ever learn about it. It is far better that your attorney be confronted with this fact at an early stage, rather than learn about it for the first time in the courtroom when the other side has known about it all along. Surprises of this kind can only harm your case. With advance knowledge of problems or difficulties, your lawyer can often suggest a course of action that can diffuse/disarm the anticipated impact, or avoid exploitation of the problem by the other side. It is often better to “embrace a bad fact” and get it off the table rather than letting the other side have the advantage of introducing this bad fact to the court and emphasizing it.
- COOPERATION, COMMUNICATION, AND INPUT: WE ARE A TEAM!
Family law disputes can be very emotional, painful and stressful, and sometimes a client simply wants to avoid having to deal with the issues. We are here to help you, but we cannot do it alone. The lawyer and the client are a team. The lawyer’s job is to provide the client with sound legal advice so that the client can make informed and educated decisions. As the client, your job is to provide us with the information we need in order to advise you appropriately, and to follow our advice. In most domestic cases, you will be asked to provide detailed histories and financial information, complete a detailed journal, create a monthly budget, and prepare a detailed listing of assets and debts. If your case is in litigation or if a business is involved, then the demands for documentation may seem overwhelming. We will need your help in gathering information for your case. Additionally, we may advise you to take certain actions regarding various matters in order to advance your cause. It is very important that you follow our advice, as it may affect the overall outcome of your case. Finally, you need to communicate with us and keep us updated on all matters relevant to your case and respond to our requests for information in a timely manner as well, especially if your case is in litigation where there are court-ordered deadlines in place. Also, please be sure to let us know if there is a change in your telephone number, email, place of work, or home address.
- PAYMENT FOR LEGAL SERVICES
Our firm is committed to working hard for you to resolve your legal dispute in the most timely, cost-effective way possible. While the lawyers in our firm periodically offer pro bono services to those in need, we generally bill for our services, and the client is expected to pay all legal fees incurred in the client’s case as requested by the firm. Legal fees are an important part of the “team” and “communication” concept. We need to work together. We promise to keep you apprised of fees incurred, the likely cost of pursuing various options in your case, and to advise you of the overall financial benefit of moving forward with a particular option in your case. We will continuously evaluate and re-evaluate your options, and we will be practical in our advice. You will also be expected to evaluate your settlement and trial options based on the amount of legal fees you will incur to accomplish a certain goal. You are expected to pay your legal fees with our office and inform us immediately of any changes in your situation that may prevent you from paying your fees.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER OPTIONS?
We meet with all kinds of people from all walks of life. Some people will meet with an attorney regarding divorce issues while they are still living with their spouse. They are not satisfied in their marital relationships, scared about the future, and need advice on what to do. Some are unsure if they want to continue in the marital relationship at all; some do not want a divorce, but simply want a “fix” to the problem; and then some are done, ready to move on and end the marriage.
At Ward Family Law Group, we understand that the decision to end a marriage is not one that is made overnight or without a lot of thought, prayer or soul-searching. Lack of communication, children’s/parenting issues, disagreements regarding financial management, infidelity, substance abuse, domestic violence, or mental health issues are often common themes we see in troubled marriages. We are here to provide you with detailed information about your legal rights in the event of a separation and how you might protect your interests if you continue to remain in the marital residence with your spouse. Over the years, we have also had the opportunity to work with various counselors, therapists, financial planners, accountants and investigators, and agencies, and we usually can provide you with a number of referrals depending on your needs.
Ultimately, you will have to decide how to proceed, but we are here to educate you on your choices and provide you with a number of alternatives, so that you can make the best decision for you….and your family.