Law Offices of Marci R. Carroll

What to Expect

Let us help you prepare

Practice Philosophy

Our office focuses on interaction with clients, factual investigation and development, paying attention to detail, developing customized and comprehensive parenting plans, and addressing the emotional and legal needs of domestic relations clients. We not only explain the legal implications of various aspects of a case, we also understand that our clients are human beings in an incredibly stressful and complex emotional situation. We approach our cases and clients with social and psychological factors in mind, which is especially important in the area of domestic relations because the litigants are not strangers to each other and generally must find a way to deal with and effectively communicate with each other about their children long after the case is over.

We spend the needed time with clients and investigate and develop their cases. While we offer clients some opportunity to do some of their own legwork and ask them to complete to the best of their ability initial drafts of financial statements and proposed parenting plans, we absolutely do not stop at that point and do not just file those client drafts with the court. We take client drafts simply as a starting point to start exploring and developing those aspects of a client's case and verifying and correcting data. We examine and dig for supporting documentation to ensure completeness and accuracy of financial disclosures. We also work extensively with clients to tailor parenting plans to their family's particular schedules, values, concerns, and needs. Our goal is to provide detailed, reliable, and complete factual and legal information to clients so they can make informed decisions with the benefit of our advice about their options, potential settlement of their cases, and the desirability of taking certain issues to a contested hearing for a judge to decide. While we are always pleased to achieve a fair and reasonable settlement of all or part of a client's cases, we are also very prepared to take a case to trial.

We approach any domestic relations matter with an attitude of professionalism, reasonableness, and civility while protecting and advocating for our client's interests. We maintain a cooperative relationship with opposing counsel where possible since this is one way to keep legal fees lower and to achieve a better quality result. Besides, there are generally more than enough issues to argue about in a domestic relations matter without unnecessarily adding to the conflict. Aggressiveness does not particularly equal quality representation. There is definitely a time to fight and to fight hard within the parameters of the law and procedural rules. Aggressiveness for its own sake may feel vindicating to clients initially, but it is rarely productive for a client's interests overall and tends to even be quite destructive to the litigants, who have to deal with each other in the years to come because of their children.

Top of Page

Court Process

Court procedures vary somewhat from county to county and in individual cases based upon the issues and particular circumstances. However, it is possible to give a generalized overview of the processing of most types of cases. Except for domestic violence, expedited child support modification cases, modifications, contempts, minor guardianships, name changes, and adoptions, once a case is filed with the courts and service of process is obtained upon the respondent, it may take around two or more months for an initial temporary hearing, which is usually only one-half hour long, before the court. The initial hearing may be used as a final hearing if all issues are resolved or if contested matters may be heard in that short length of time, but normally this hearing is used as a temporary hearing where the court will decide some preliminary issues (such as possession of and payment for certain major property items like the home and vehicles, child support and medical support, alimony/spousal support, and parenting plans) on a temporary basis until a more in-depth final hearing can be held. Sometimes there are status conferences, scheduling conferences, motion hearings, and other interim hearings before a final hearing can be held. In contested divorce, paternity, and child custody/visitation cases, it is not at all unusual for a case to take a year or more to complete properly. While it is true that a divorce can take as little as a couple of months from start to finish if the parties agree on all issues early on, such a foolhardy rush to finish the case involves an exceedingly high risk of shoddy and incomplete factual development and mistakes and oversights that may well result in expensive and lengthier subsequent litigation to fix things - if the problem can even be fixed. Your case is worth doing right from the outset.

In cases where custody/visitation issues are involved, the courts routinely order the parties to attend a parent education class geared toward teaching parents how not to put their children in the emotional middle of their domestic relations disputes. Locally, this class is a one-time class approximately two (2) hours in duration and is taught in a group setting. There is a designated provider for each county, but parties may register to take their parent education class with the designated provider in any West Virginia county. Also, courts most often will allow out-of-state parties to attend a parent education class in their own area so long as that class is based on the same model as the West Virginia class. Further, in these custody/visitation issue cases, courts now almost uniformly require parents to attend mediation to attempt to resolve those issues provided that pre-mediation screening by the court's case coordinator does not indicate that mediation would be inappropriate in a particular case.

In contested domestic relations cases, some courts also will require witness and exhibit lists, extensive and detailed pre-trial memoranda, and face-to-face settlement conferences.

Top of Page

Becoming a Client

During the initial consultation, the attorney meets with the potential client to review any recent court filings in a case and any existing court orders and to learn more about the potential client's problem and what may be involved in that matter. The attorney will discuss and assess the potential client's objectives and both attorney and potential client have the opportunity to gauge whether they would have a good attorney-client relationship. If an offer of representation is made at the conclusion of the initial consultation, the attorney will discuss the hourly fee rates, the case advance (a/k/a retainer) required for the particular matter, and some other particulars of retaining our office.

To preserve attorney-client privilege and to encourage potential clients to be forthcoming, potential clients are required to meet with the attorney alone; however, if it is planned that a relative or friend will be assisting or jointly responsible for a potential client's legal fees, that person will be permitted to be included in the pertinent portion of the consultation. Except in certain circumstances, such as where a client resides in another state, we require initial consultations to be in person and schedule those appointments during regular business hours. Also, as much as we would like to do so, we are unable to provide legal representation at free or reduced rates and do not accept payments.

Where an offer of representation has been extended, potential clients who wish to retain our office need to advise Julie or Judy that they want to retain our services. We will then prepare an Engagement Letter, which is a contract for legal services setting forth the details of the representation. Our office is not retained to represent a client and is unable to begin working on a case until we have the signed Engagement Letter and receive the full case advance.

Top of Page
From our office in Fairmont, we represent clients in divorce and family law in cities throughout West Virginia, including Barboursville, Berkeley Springs, Beckley, Buckhannon, Bluefield, Bridgeport, Bruceton Mills, Charles Town, Charleston, Clarksburg, Cross Lanes, Clay, Dunbar, Elizabeth, Elkins, Fairmont, Fayetteville, Flatwoods, Franklin, Glenville, Grafton, Grantsville, Hamlin, Harrisville, Hinton, Huntington, Hurricane, Keyser, Kingwood, Lewisburg, Logan, Madison, Marlinton, Martinsburg, Middlebourne, Moorefield, Morgantown, Moundsville, New Cumberland, New Martinsville, Oak Hill, Parkersburg, Parsons, Petersburg, Philippi, Pineville, Point Pleasant, Princeton, Ravenswood, Ripley, Romney, St. Albans, St. Marys, Spencer, Summersville, Sutton, Union, Wayne, Webster Springs, Welch, Wellsburg, West Union, Weston, Wheeling, Weirton, Williamson, and Winfield.