All FAQs

Can my spouse just move out and stop paying any of our bills?

They may think they can, but they are still responsible in most cases. Nobody can legally abandon. If this happens, there are things you can do. For example, you can go to court to ask for emergency support, depending upon your financial circumstances.

Can you represent both me and my spouse in our family law case?

In family law cases, we never represent both spouses; this would create a permanent conflict of interest. Although some States allow an attorney to obtain a written waiver of conflict, this is not permissible in Virginia and, frankly, we agree with that restriction as it is too easily the case that one spouse may later claim duress or coercion to get out of any agreement he or she signs, claiming that the attorney over-reached or was one-sided in his or her advice.

Do you provide mediation services?

Patricia E. Tichenor can serve as a mediator; however, she is a neutral in that instance and can only help each side to work towards an agreement. Once that agreement is reached, it is up to one or both of the spouses to meet with their own, separate and independent attorney to review the mediated agreement and decide to sign it. A mediator in Virginia cannot complete your divorce for you; so, at least one spouse must always obtain legal counsel to complete the divorce after a mediated agreement is signed. We also provide representation during mediation for spouses who want to have an advocate on their side guiding them on their rights during the mediation process. A mediator, as a neutral, is there to facilitate discussion between spouses and not provide legal advice; so, it is often important to secure your own attorney to review any agreement reached in mediation before you sign it. All this being said, our law office highly recommends mediation and often uses it to help clients resolve even the most difficult of legal matters. Virginia has some of the finest retired Circuit Court Judges available to assist in that process. We believe court should be the last resort, but we also know that an opposing party’s expectations can often be so far from reality that mediation will not be productive, leaving court the only option to reach a fair resolution.

Do you require a deposit up front?

A deposit, also called a retainer fee, is required up front by our Office. For Estate Plans, it’s the total flat fee quoted for the documents to be drafted.  For Family Law and other matters, the deposit is based upon the nature of the issues involved and whether the matter is in litigation or anticipated to require litigation. We provide our fee and deposit information in your consultation.

Does separation mean one of us has to leave the house?

No. Separation is a mental state and an action to live like a spouse’s roommate, ceasing to hold yourself out to friends or family as a “married couple,” and putting them and your spouse on notice of your intentions and that those intentions are permanent in nature. You need only move into a separate bedroom, stop, if possible, sharing a bathroom, stop eating together or having your spouse do your laundry, stop engaging in conduct or behavior that would lead others to believe your marriage is “fine” or that you have “reconciled” since a stated decision to separate.

How do you bill?

Estate Plans are paid for up front by a flat fee deposit and a bill is normally issued at the time you sign your documents. All other matters are billed on a monthly basis using itemized invoices that track fees and costs separately, with the final page tracking what remains on deposit with the office as “unearned funds” from any initial or subsequent deposits provided for our services. We do have certain replenishment requirements for ongoing family law matters that we address with clients on a case-by-case basis depending on the nature of the issues involved and whether or not there is ongoing litigation.

How do you charge your fees?

For estate planning, we use a flat fee, by the document, approach. The flat fee varies, based on the complexity of the document being prepared. For other services, we may offer an hourly rate for services, and there may be a different hourly rate depending on the level and experience of our managing and associate attorneys assigned to your case. After the initial consultation, our Office requires all clients to sign a Fee Agreement with you that spells out exactly how you will be charged for our time, and we review that thoroughly with you before commencing any legal work on your matter.

How do you ensure confidentiality?

We actively take steps to ensure our communications remain protected by attorney-client privilege, so that what we discuss is held confidential. We ask you not to have other people in the room when you meet with us or discuss matters with us by phone. The presence of a third party is a “waiver” of that privilege and, in cases before the court, the third party whom you had present could be used against you to divulge your private discussions, legal strategies, and other information they learn by being present to listen to your communications with your attorney. We encourage your support person to wait outside in our waiting room and for you to actively consider limiting what you share with them verbally or by text, emails, etc. We also encourage clients not to use work email addresses to communicate with our office. Lastly, we may recommend that a client obtain a separate, private post office box for his or her mail.

How long does it take to complete my estate plan?

Generally, we provide a first draft of your estate plan within two to three weeks of engagement, then it is up to you to review and suggest edits. Most estate plans are completed within 30-45 days. However, the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. can expedite your estate plan if necessary (rush fees will apply).

How quickly can you get me a divorce?

In divorce issues you can only control your own timeline; you can’t control the other side. We also have to take into consideration the legal timelines as set forth by the Commonwealth of Virginia, especially in cases where children are involved. Unless there is a fault ground, like adultery, if you have minor children, you will need to be separated for a period in excess of one year to obtain a divorce, even if you sign a settlement agreement. If you have no minor children and are able to sign a settlement agreement, the separation period required by statute is six months and one day.

I cannot come to your office, can you come to me?

Yes. We are available to travel and provide home visits when necessary (advance deposit may be required for a first consultation before travel occurs to ensure payment for mileage and time). The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. has a 24-hour notice requirement for all consultations involving travel. If we are notified less than 24 hours prior to the start of the consultation, any deposit paid is deemed earned by the office. You will, however, have the opportunity to re-schedule your consultation and credit may be given for the payment made upon hiring our office for ongoing legal services.

What does Family Law mean, and what is covered under it?

Family Law includes issues encompassing marriage and divorce, support, custody and visitation, adoption, step-parents’ rights, grandparents’ rights, paternity, and more, as it relates to minor children. It can also entail proper estate planning.  

What if I can’t afford an attorney?

For out-of-court issues, if you need the advice and guidance of an attorney on a limited basis, we can be your go-to advisor. There are also things you can do on your own, with our guidance and legal advice, and you control your fees and costs by deciding when and how to involve us with what you need. The hourly rate and deposit required for “advisory services” may be more within your budget depending on your circumstances and the issues involved for which you may be trying to represent yourself.

When is the right time to create my will or trust?

Many people postpone estate planning because they assume death is far off. But you never know when your time is up, so you must plan for the worst-case scenario. By the time they enter their mid-20s, most people have begun to accumulate assets or start families. To truly protect your loved ones and your estate, the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. recommends creating your original estate plan at this time. Also, if you have not updated your estate plan in more than five years, we recommend a review.