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How much will my case cost?

Mr. Shaw currently bills an hourly rate of $275 an hour.
We will ask for a retainer to be paid up front in order to start your case. A retainer can range from $1,500 for simple or uncontested cases to $5,000 or more for highly contested cases. Since our law firm specializes in some of the most hard-fought, complex cases, we normally request the full $5,000 retainer.
In terms of the total costs of your case, we have seen uncontested cases cost as little as $1,500. The average contested case ranges from $5,000 to $20,000.

What is the basic process for a family law case?

We assist one party in completing a Petition or Complaint, which asks the Court to do something in a family law case. We then file the paperwork at the courthouse and serve the other party the paperwork in a legally valid way. Once the other party is served, he or she has 30 days to file an official Answer. After an Answer is filed with the Court, we either try to settle the case by agreement with the other party, or we prepare the case to proceed to court. Every case is handled individually at Shaw Law Firm LLC, so there is no set pattern for your case or how it ultimately will be resolved.

Do you represent mothers or fathers?

Both. We win child custody cases - doesn't matter the gender of our client. This said, there are very real differences when representing fathers and representing mothers. Your attorney needs to understand the law and how to apply it based on the specific circumstances of the client (and gender does play a large role), and do so in the context of how the other party will come at you and try to win the case. Our extensive experience representing clients in child custody cases enables us not only to understand and build a case based upon information that our client gives us, but also on how the other side is likely to approach the case. We have achieved remarkable results in child custody cases. We invite you to contact us and find out for yourself why we should be your attorney in a child custody case.

How many cases do you win?

We win a lot of cases, and many cases that other attorneys thought were unwinnable. We cannot claim however that we will "win" every case. No attorney can, and run away if they do. What our experience has taught us, however, particularly given how often we are retained to fix a case that prior counsel messed up, is that we are very good at what we do, and we know what we are doing. Finding competent legal counsel should not be so difficult, but unfortunately it sometimes is. When we give advice, whether you like it or not, you can trust it. And when you retain us, you know you have retained competent legal counsel, who will not overlook your case, forget your case, and who will be prepared for your case. We bring talent and passion to what we do, but we also bring competence, experience, hard work, and preparation.

How long will my case last?

While uncontested cases can be completed in as little as six weeks, contested cases are very unpredictable. Some cases may last a couple of months and others may drag out for over a year or more. At any time in a case, the parties can reach a settlement; however, without a settlement, we have to wait for court hearing dates to be assigned, discovery to be completed, and a Guardian Ad Litem or other outside experts to complete their work. Generally, the more complex a case, the longer it will last.

Do I really need to hire an attorney?

Yes. To be more specific, no one is required to have an attorney. No one is required to have a surgeon, plumber, mechanic, quarterback, hair stylist, or any of these other things, either. In certain limited circumstances, you may be able to effectively act as your own attorney. However, if you have a case that is contested in any manner, or that has any complexity at all (even if not contested), and the results can be life-changing (as is the case in most divorce and child custody cases), then yes, you need an attorney. To be even be more blunt, you need a good attorney who knows what he or she is doing. At Shaw Law FirmLLC, to our great frustration, we are often called in as the second or third attorney in many cases to try to salvage a case, when the prior attorneys could not properly handle the matter. What you really need to do is hire a competent attorney as your first attorney. Finding competent legal counsel should not be so difficult. Call us to find out for yourself why we should be the first attorney you retain on your case, as well as the last you will ever need on your case. No one is required to have an attorney. But when matters as important as child custody are at stake, do you really want to risk going it alone? At minimum, if you do decide to tackle a family law case by yourself, it is well worth the time and funds to hire an attorney to review any settlement before you sign it or to help calculate a proper child support or alimony amount. There have been countless times that we have heard stories of clients who thought they were getting divorced at a final hearing, only to discover that they had not followed some obscure legal technicality and had to either start the process over or wait for another hearing. We also have heard of the sad stories of custody cases gone completely wrong, where representing themselves or hiring the wrong attorney result in wasted time and money and a complete loss in court. In these cases, individuals often turn to us to help turn things around, wishing they had hired us in the first place. But then, hindsight is always perfect . . .

Why Should I Hire You As My Family Law Attorney?

We always tell people that you MUST hire a family law attorney you trust 100%.  If you, for one second do not feel comfortable or cannot trust a family law attorney with your case, then perhaps you have chosen the wrong attorney. Your family law attorney is NOT your friend or your therapist. Your attorney is a “hired gun” who will take control of your case and advocate relentlessly for you. When you hire Shaw Law Firm LLC, you will find our no-nonsense attitude both refreshing and effective. We will answer your questions honestly, give you the advice that you need to hear, and put forth the maximum effort possible to get you the results that you are seeking. We know what we are doing, we are very good at it, with a track record to back it up. We should be the first attorney you retain on your case, and the last attorney you will need on the case. Finding a competent family law attorney should not be so difficult. Call us to find out for yourself why we are the right family law attorneys for your case.

What is Joint Legal Custody In Georgia?

Joint Custody is sharing of a child's custody, both Physical Custody (where the child lives) and Legal Custody, (who makes major life decisions). There are two specific types of child custody in the State of Georgia.  The two types of custody are Legal Custody and Physical Custody. Joint Custody under the law is the sharing of a child's custody. But this can be deceptive, and Joint Custody does not necessarily mean EQUAL custody and joint physical or joint legal custody are two entirely different things. This section will discuss what is joint Legal custody in the State of Georgia, and in Atlanta metro area courts such as in Forsyth, Gwinnett, Cobb, Fulton, Paulding, Coweta, Cherokee, Paulding and other Atlanta counties. Joint physical custody is discussed separately in the another FAQ. Legal Custody of a child is the power, under Georgia law, to make decisions for your child that relate to the child's health and moral well-being, education, extra-curricular activities and religious upbringing. Joint Legal Custody is the shared power to make these decisions for your child. However, it is very important to understand that Joint Legal Custody, does not mean equal custody. Joint Legal Custody is routinely granted to parties in the State of Georgia without the need to fight over it, precisely because Joint Legal Custody of a child does not mean equal legal authority over the child. The usual language awarding Joint Legal Custody is as follows: “both parents shall discuss major decisions affecting their child’s health, education, extra-curricular, religion, and moral upbringing, and if after discussion the parties do not agree, then MOTHER shall have final decision making power.” In other cases it may say that "FATHER shall have final decision making power." In most cases, the party who is awarded final decision-making power will be the party who is awarded the child's primary physical custody. Since an Award of Joint Legal Custody in an Atlanta metro area court does NOT mean "Equal" custody, then what does Joint Legal Custody mean in a practical sense to mothers and fathers? First, with Joint Legal Custody , the parent who is awarded final decision making power is under a legal obligation to discuss matters with the other parent. Final decision making power does not kick in until an attempt at a discussion. Discussion does not mean dictating, or informing of decisions already made, but actually, before a decision is made, to discuss a Joint Legal Custody decision that needs to be made, in good-faith, and on a reasonable basis. After reasonable discussion, if you cannot reach an agreement, then the final decision making parent can make and implement their decision. Discussion can be via email, text, telephone, or in person, but have the good-faith discussion. If the other parent refuses to participate in the discussion, then that is their problem, and the parent with final-decision making power gets to make the decision. All that needs to be attempted is communication in good-faith. In Joint Legal Custody , if the final decision making parent habitually makes decisions without discussion, that parent can be held in contempt of court, and sometimes that parent may lose primary physical custody as well. It is important to comply with the process. A well drafted Joint Legal Custody Order will make it clear that neither party has legal custody decision making power until after attempt at discussion, so in many cases, you have to attempt to discuss before you even have final decision making power over an issue. It is important that the non-final decision making parent not sit idly by and allow the parent with final decision making power to control or override the process. It sometimes does not sound like much, but holding a parent accountable for their Joint Legal Custody obligations has been a very material factor in many contempt and child custody s modification the Shaw Law Firm has handled. There is real and valid power in the right to be informed and to discuss, and a parent who abuses their final decision making power can be held to account for it and perhaps risk the balance of power in a Joint Legal Custody situation. Finally, there is no prohibition under the law that Joint Legal Custody decision making power cannot be shared equally. As for example, one parent can have final decision making power over education, another over healthcare, another over extra-curricular. This type of sharing of Joint Legal Custody power is routinely done, although it does sometimes require a real fight. The only requirement is that there has to be a final decision maker over each issue. Almost no Georgia or Atlanta metro area court will allow the parties to share 50/50 decision making power without some sort of valid and practical tie-breaking mechanism. It is possible to be creative, but the plan needs to practically work. And yes, sole legal custody can be awarded as well, without any obligation to communicate, but an award of sole legal custody requires specific facts that are different from a more typical case.

What is Joint Physical Custody in Georgia?

Joint Physical Custody is sharing between parents of where their children live. There are two specific types of child custody in the State of Georgia.   The two types of custody are “legal” custody and “physical” custody. Legal custody is the power to make major decisions for a child related to the child’s health and moral well-being, education, extra-curricular activities, and religious upbringing. Physical custody is the power to have the child primarily live with you. "Joint custody" under the law is the sharing of a child's custody. But this can be deceptive, and "joint custody" does not necessarily mean equal custody and joint physical custody or joint legal custody are two entirely different things. This section will discuss what is joint physical custody in the State of Georgia, and in Atlanta metro area courts such as in Forsyth, Gwinnett, Cobb, Fulton, Paulding, Coweta, Cherokee, Paulding and other Atlanta counties. Joint legal custody is discussed separately in another FAQ. Physical custody, or where the child primarily lives, is the issue that is the core of most child custody cases. Often parties fear that they cannot win primary custody of their children but they'd be happy with joint physical custody. This can be problematic in Georgia. Not only is there no presumption under the law in Georgia (like there is in many other states) that joint physical custody is preferred, a court in Georgia is not even required to consider joint physical custody under the law. The relevant statute simply states that the court “may” consider joint physical custody. In many cases it becomes a winner take all situation at trial. You will often hear that the best way to get a true joint physical custody schedule with your child is to reach a settlement with the other parent. This is often easier said than done. If the other party won’t willingly settle, then you have to give the other party reason to settle. The best way to get the other party to settle is to build a solid case that gives real reason to fear going to trial. This said, more and more, courts are willing to award differing forms of joint physical custody. Not always equal, but much more than what use to be "standard" visitation. Let me explain. Standard visitation in most Atlanta metro area courts, such as in Gwinnett, Forsyth, Cobb, Fulton county is generally considered to be a visitation schedule in which the non-primary parent who does not have physical custody of the child, but instead awarded visitation that consists of every other weekend from Friday to Sunday, alternating every other holiday (like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break) and two weeks in the summer. This is around 70-80 days per year with your children. Not much, but is what "standard” visitation is. It is a visitation schedule structured around the philosophy that both parents are not of equal importance, but instead, one primary parent and the children stable in one home, is presumed to be in the children's "best interests" (see other FAQs on this site to understand what "best interest" means under the law, and how to use it in a child custody case). This philosophy is hotly debated, but nevertheless, remains active and viable in many Atlanta metro area courts and in particular Cherokee County, but depending on the case, Gwinnett, Forsyth, Paulding, Fulton, Cobb, and all metro area counties will often fall back to "standard visitation". And standard visitation is most definitely not joint physical custody, even if joint legal custody is also awarded (see FAQ on joint legal custody). Georgia courts these days have "evolved" in many cases beyond the philosophy that drove "standard" visitation. Today, true joint physical custody schedules are much more common. Joint physical custody schedules are not always equal custody (but sometimes they are). Custody schedules range from schedules, such as first advocated in Wisconsin, in which one joint custodian has the children every other Thursday through Monday, alternate the holidays, and half or more of the summer, to true 50/50 child custody plans. However, if you want to pursue a real joint physical custody arrangement, both parties need to be able to get along, to cooperate, and to live close enough together to make it work. If you cannot establish these elements, a court is not going to award joint physical custody. So it is important to carefully plan your arguments and case in consort with your attorney. There are many reasons to pursue a true joint physical custody schedule (whether equal custody (which still remains very difficult - but not impossible) to be awarded by a Georgia court) not the least of which is it may be in the best interest of your children. If you have a philosophy that both parents being intricately involved in their children's lives is more important than having one primary parent, and one home, then some sort of joint physical custody schedule is in your children's best interests. And this philosophy is becoming more and more accepted in Georgia courts. That children need two strong and involved parents. But you must still make your case or most courts are likely to revert back to "standard" visitation. Another reason to pursue joint physical custody is if you expect the other parent will move away or move out of state. The more custody time you get, the more difficult it is for the other parent to take the children and move. And this is a legitimate reason to obtain some sort of joint physical custody schedule in a Georgia court. Yet another reason involves child support. Joint physical custody schedules can be used to reduce a child support obligation (see child support FAQs). Keep in mind that the term "joint physical custody" is just a term. What really matters is the physical custody schedule with the children, the label itself does not mean much. But it is often beneficial to award both parents joint physical custody, but name one party "primary" and the other "secondary" if the joint physical custody schedule is not 50/50. If it is 50/50, then both parties should be denoted primary physical custodians of the child, and joint legal custody decision making power divided between the parties (see FAQ on joint legal custody).

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Since 1995, we've dealt with the most complex and challengingDivorce and Child CustodyDivorce and Child Custodycases in Georgia.