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When discussing Guam Family Law Office's (GFLO) Refund Policy, it is important to understand how law firms bill their clients. The process is substantially different from purchasing goods from a regular retail store and receiving refunds for returned items.
Most clients who retain GFLO are requested to deposit a set amount of money, called a retainer, with GFLO before any legal work is begun. This is an advance payment for services about to be rendered. GFLO deposits these funds into its trust account. The amount of the retainer depends on the type of case. You might view the retained funds as a type of savings account from which GFLO can withdraw money as the legal services are provided and billed.
Generally, GFLO handles two types of matters, consent and contested. Consent matters are those where all parties agree to sign the necessary legal documents. For example, you may request that GFLO handle a consent divorce or a consent guardianship. Usually, for consent matters, GFLO requires all legal fees and costs to be paid in advance. As the Legal Services Agreement between you and GFLO clearly states, once the GFLO attorney has prepared the documents for a consent matter, the legal fee has been earned and may be transferred from the trust account into the regular GFLO bank account. None of the legal fee will be refunded even if one party changes his or her mind and refuses to sign the document(s). This is always a possibility with consent matters. For this reason, clients should be very sure that the other party will cooperate before they ask GFLO to prepare the documents.
In a local Guam consent matter, the only portion of the retainer that may be refunded is that portion to be used for paying the court filing fees, assuming the matter has not been filed with the Court. However, once the attorney has completed the documents, any other time he spends on the case because of some difficulty that has arisen through no fault of the attorney, such as a spouse refusing to sign documents, is billed at the normal hourly rate of $225. This includes phone calls, emails, and meetings with the client. These additional legal fees will be collected from the retained court fees. Any remaining amount will be refunded to the client. On the other hand, the client will have to pay GFLO an additional amount for any deficiency.
An exception to the general rule that GFLO will refund for court fees where a matter has not yet been filed is a 7-Day Residency Divorce. Since this is an all-in-one payment, there is no reimbursement/refund for any amount of the retainer should the matter not be filed with the court. HOWEVER, we will fully refund the total retainer should a judge reject a 7-Day Residency Divorce even after the client fully complied with all GFLO instructions on processing the divorce. However, GFLO will not be responsible or liable for the transportation, hotel, car rental costs or any other cost incurred in traveling to and staying on Guam.
In a contested matter, the client also deposits a retainer with GFLO. On a monthly basis, as the attorney provides legal services for a client, a sum of money representing the cost of those services is transferred from the client's trust account into GFLO's bank account. Frequently, the retainer is not enough to fund the entire case to trial and the client will have to make additional payments to GFLO to pay for the legal services as the case progresses. However, there are instances where some money remains in the client's trust fund after all legal services are completed. In such instances, the remaining balance of the trust account will be refunded to the client.
GFLO certainly wishes to amicably resolve any funding dispute that may arise. We therefore encourage our clients to ask their questions or communicate their concerns to us as soon as possible. We in turn will attempt to immediately resolve the matter. We pride ourselves on the quality of services we provide our clients. Through open dialogue with our clients, we will strive to continuously improve upon our services.
Please take this information into consideration before retaining an attorney.