No is the answer. In fact, it may be very expensive not to consult a lawyer. And I’m not saying that just because I am one.
Take, for example, a recent case in the state of Kansas. There, a lesbian couple wanted to have a child, and they wanted it to be their own (i.e. sharing their own genes, or at least one set). The design of nature being what it is, they found it necessary to search online for, and eventually locate, a sperm donor. Enter Mr. William Marotta, a strapping 46 year old male, willing, if not eager to participate in the success of the couple’s goal.
The three entered into a written agreement whereby Mr. Marotta would supply the requisite sperm for the ultimate production of a child. The facts of the reports are not specific, but the indication is that an artificial insemination kit was employed and eventually a daughter was born to the couple. The mother of the child applied for state aid for the child’s expenses and did receive funds from the state.
This prompted the state of Kansas to seek out the father of the child in order to recover those expenses, as well as future child support. At that time the child was three years old and the expenses sought by the state amounted to $6000.00. The state filed an action against Mr. Marotta seeking to recover the expenses and future child support.
Apparently, the couple is siding with Mr. Marotta. However, Kansas must be like Florida, and is a state where if a parent seeks aid from the taxpayers, to wit: the state treasury, the parent automatically assigns their right to child assistance to the state, and the state may pursue whatever remedies are available.
If the state is successful (and from all appearances, it will be), Mr. Marotta will be required to pay the $6000 in expenses, plus child support, plus his attorney’s fees. My guess on the fees would be between $2500 and $5000, let’s call it $3500 (it’s going to require a lot of research to see what other states are doing in these circumstances that might yield a defense).
As to the child support, let’s guess that Mr. Marotta is netting $3000 per month. Again, if Kansas is like Florida, Mr. Marotta will be paying approximately $600 per month plus probably ½ of daycare for a number of years, plus probably ½ of health insurance for the child. So we are looking at roughly $9500 plus retroactive support (depending on Kansas law), and about $1000 per month in child support for 18 years. For those of you who are not math wizards, like me, we are talking some BIG bucks at $12,000 per year.
Now, for the uninformed, including Mr. Marotta, there is a state law in Kansas that covers just these types of situations. It simply provides that in order to effect artificial insemination for a potential parent, you must have a doctor perform the requisite procedures, then the donor is absolved of any parental responsibility.
Which brings us back to the original question. Would it have been expensive for Mr. Marotta to have consulted an attorney? As they say, “expense” is relative. It is also relative. Obviously, Mr. Marotta would have been way ahead of the curve moneywise had he consulted an attorney at the beginning of his adventure. He may even have made a profit. After all, he did not have a great deal invested in bringing his product to market.
One way to look at consultation with an attorney is that it is insurance against the unexpected. We pay approximately $1000 per year on car insurance to protect us against unexpected property loss, or greater still, liability loss. Fortunately, only a few of us have had to call on that insurance for reimbursement despite the sizable sum we have paid over the years.
Likewise (home insurance, the price of which is escalating as you read in this article), is roughly $1000 to $2000 per year. Again, many folks have paid for years, with few reimbursements to come close to equaling their premiums.
So we pay a lot to play it safe. Are we as cautious with our potential legal entanglements? Far too many times a client presents himself or herself with the proverbial ball of twine that has become all tangled up, wanting the attorney to untangle the mess. Wouldn’t it have been much less stressful, to bring in the twine when it could have been wound in a more permanently orderly fashion?
You get my drift. A visit to your friendly attorney for a half hour or hour’s conference for a few hundred dollars is a small premium to pay for what may save you thousands of dollars (and a huge headache!).
For instance, say your ex wants to move with the child back to the grandparents spread far away. You are served with a petition that requires a response in 20 days. You think you are ok because you have talked with him or her, and you are sure you can work it out. The 20 days runs and, unfortunately, you are the only one who is out.
Another scenario, you and a friend purchase a lot in both names from another friend with a quit claim deed. You both think that if one of you dies, the other will automatically own the whole property. Not so, but if you had consulted an attorney beforehand, the desired result could have been achieved inexpensively.
Still more, you and your bride-to-be have discussed a pre-nuptial agreement, but the stigma of a lack of trust scares you away. Now, wouldn’t it be enlightening to at least learn what your rights and responsibilities would be if you entered a marriage without such an agreement, so that you could properly evaluate the decisions that you will make after the marriage.
I can go on and on about how people wind up paying attorneys lots of money because they don’t want to spend what would be a lot less in the beginning, to get an idea of what their rights and responsibilities will be if they followed through on a planned course of action.
Bottom line – if an action you are about to undertake seems like it might involve legal entanglements, contact your friendly lawyer and let him save you some money and a lot of heartache.