Vision Lab Podcast hosts Ryan Cuffee and Ryan Mosley made the trip to Fort Worth to catch up with firm owner Justin Sisemore.
Justin spoke with them about how he got into family law, what the process of divorce really looks like when it gets to the court system and how his family got into battery sales. The Arlington native discussed how he keeps his work life from bleeding into his home life and what he sees as the long-term vision for himself and his firm.
For many reasons, divorces tend to increase at the first of the year. Justin Sisemore recently sat down with Good Morning Texas to provide insight into the process and outline the main steps that are taken during the divorce process.
Jane McGarry (00:00):
January is usually reserved for kicking bad habits and keeping resolutions. Did you also know though that it is known as divorce month? Attorney Justin Sisemore is the winner of multiple awards, including Super Lawyers, The 400 Most Influential People, Top Divorce Attorney year after year, and the owner of Sisemore Law Firm in Fort Worth. And he’s here with some advice to get you through the four key steps in the divorce process. Very big deal when you’re getting a divorce. Thanks for coming in.
Justin Sisemore (00:29):
Jane McGarry (00:29):
Why is January referred to as divorce month?
Justin Sisemore (00:32):
Well, we’ve talked about it on several different segments, but basically this is a time for change physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And oftentimes at this time it’s time for reflection, where you see people not rowing in the same direction-
Jane McGarry (00:44):
Justin Sisemore (00:45):
… and not being on the same path as you.
Jane McGarry (00:46):
Justin Sisemore (00:46):
And so unfortunately, in the situation of the divorce segment, that becomes a time for change.
Jane McGarry (00:52):
So what are the four key phases of the divorce process?
Justin Sisemore (00:56):
So every divorce starts out with some form of agreement or temporary orders. Then you have discovery, you move on to mediation and a final trial.
Jane McGarry (01:04):
And what happens during the temporary order space?
Justin Sisemore (01:07):
The temporary orders is either done by agreement, so you’ll reach an agreement either outside of court or inside of court.
Jane McGarry (01:12):
Justin Sisemore (01:12):
If it’s inside of court, you’re dealing with issues of visitation and access of the children, management of the financial accounts, who controls the business, who has the house use and enjoyment of the property while the case is pending. And it’s a very important timeframe to make sure you get it right in the beginning, because oftentimes when you lead into mediation it really sets the tone and pace for the case.
Jane McGarry (01:34):
And discovery, what happens?
Justin Sisemore (01:35):
Discovery is where you get all your documents together. It’s the not fun part of the divorce process, if there is a fun part. But that’s the not fun part, but it’s basically where you gather all your evidence, get it ready for court. And if you don’t provide it to the other side in the state of Texas, you’re not allowed to use it. So, good lawyers will object if they have good discovery logs and keep you from getting vital information to the other side and out to the court.
Jane McGarry (01:56):
Justin Sisemore (01:59):
Mediation is the process where one party sits in one room, the other party sits in another room. A mediator goes back and forth and it’s the real chance for the client to control the outcome of the case without leaving it up to an arbiter, a fact or the judge. And in this situation, basically the mediation is completely binding. So you can’t wake up in the morning with buyers remorse-
Jane McGarry (02:16):
Justin Sisemore (02:16):
… and it’s a chance to really control the outcome of your case.
Jane McGarry (02:19):
And then finally, during the trial phase?
Justin Sisemore (02:21):
Trial phase is really what I call separates the really good lawyers from the ones that aren’t so good because it is where you have to gather all this information, get it in a presentable form and deliver it in a format that’s understandable in a short segment where the judge can really understand where you’re going or the jury can understand where you’re going.
Jane McGarry (02:38):
So a lot of people have sort of a do it yourself. Attitude. Don’t think you need a lawyer to handle a divorce. You advise against that.
Justin Sisemore (02:46):
Well, certainly if you have no assets or no children, there’s plenty of forms out there online. My concern has been and will always be, you have to have a lot of ancillary and closing documents that go along with the divorce decree itself. And so we see a lot of people leave that out or leave out assets or award assets that they didn’t even know they were awarding-
Jane McGarry (03:04):
Justin Sisemore (03:04):
… and you can’t come back later on and fix it.
Jane McGarry (03:07):
Justin Sisemore (03:07):
With kid issues, you don’t think about things like geographic restriction, who’s going to have the educational and medical decisions for the children. And so, you don’t really know what they mean and unless you have somebody to explain that to you, you sign away and you can’t come back right away because courts don’t like to clog up the docket.
Jane McGarry (03:21):
So what steps can people take to ensure the divorce process goes as smoothly as is possible for a divorce to go?
Justin Sisemore (03:27):
I’m very big on the clients being very involved in getting their documents together, getting your exhibits together, your witness list. I’m huge on timelines, making sure that you’re very organized with that process because it cuts down on your cost in the process and also allows the attorney to really do their job effectively by having that information available.
Jane McGarry (03:45):
Some great insights. We have only scratched the surface though. Where can people go to learn more?
Justin Sisemore (03:50):
So you can log onto lawyerdfw.com. We have a lot of blogs. We’ve got a great staff and team that’s helped with that. And also you can call us at 817-336-4444.
Jane McGarry (04:01):
And what do people need to do in order to get a complimentary consultation?
Justin Sisemore (04:04):
Just log on, all of our information is there. You can also again, call us at the 817-336-4444 number or log onto lawyerdfw.com
Jane McGarry (04:13):
Okay. Thank you for coming in. I know it’s a very busy time of year for you.
Justin Sisemore (04:16):
It is. Thank you very much.
Jane McGarry (04:17):
Call 817-336-4444 or go to lawyerdfw.com for more information. Don’t miss your chance to get a complimentary consultation. That’s until January 31st, just mention GMT.
When faced with divorce, the first steps can have a huge impact on how your case turns out. Watch Justin Sisemore’s recent interview with Good Morning Texas to find out the key first steps you should take if you find yourself in this situation.
Jane McGarry (00:00):
… served with divorce or custody papers or your significant other or ex tells you they’re going to file, you may feel paralyzed and unsure about what to do next. What you may not know is the first few steps could have a huge impact on how your case eventually turns out.
Jane McGarry (00:14):
Attorney Justin Sisemore from the Sisemore law firm joins me to give you some hands-on advice. A little hand-holding is really good at a time like this.
Justin Sisemore (00:22):
Jane McGarry (00:22):
Good morning. Nice to have you here.
Justin Sisemore (00:23):
Jane McGarry (00:23):
You’ve earned a lot of nominations and awards year after year. We’re looking at some of them on the screen right now. Why is that type of recognition important for clients?
Justin Sisemore (00:33):
Well, there’s a lot of great lawyers out there, and I think that it’s really important for the viewers to understand that when you have the diversity of these kind of awards, it’s a recognition of a good business practice and also good lawyers. It’s just helpful to help you get through the weeds a little bit in the process of selecting an attorney.
Jane McGarry (00:50):
A selection process.
Justin Sisemore (00:51):
Jane McGarry (00:52):
Narrowing it down. Okay. What are the first four steps that viewers should take to avoid costly mistakes when faced with a divorce or a custody battle?
Justin Sisemore (01:00):
Well, first and foremost, it’s very, very important to consult a lawyer. There’s a lot of pitfalls that people face when they’re first going into a divorce or child custody case, protecting your finances, making sure you secured your bank statements, your credit cards, all of your income. People often get left out by themselves with no help or assistance whatsoever because the other side cuts off their credit cards. Your finances are very important to know where they are and how you can secure them.
Justin Sisemore (01:27):
As far as your home, protecting your home and your evidence, very important to understand you don’t just get to come into a courtroom and conclude. You must absolutely have evidence to back it up.
Jane McGarry (01:36):
Justin Sisemore (01:37):
A lot of people step out of the residence. They don’t take any of the stuff with them that they need to show the courts and they don’t get a chance to go back in there oftentimes for six or eight months after a temporary hearing.
Jane McGarry (01:46):
Okay. Your first advice was to consult an attorney right away. If our viewers already have an attorney, but are not happy with them, is it a good idea to consult another lawyer, potentially switch? What’s your advice on that?
Justin Sisemore (01:59):
I don’t recommend an immediate switch. I think it’s very important to understand we are here to help you. We’re here to help the viewers. If your attorney’s not answering questions and not coming up with clear strategy, think about the timing of when to switch, before trial or mediation. Right before may not be the best move, but that’s the purpose of the consult. That allows us to come in there and really see if we can help.
Jane McGarry (02:20):
I think what you’re saying is really interesting because these first few steps may not seem significant because you’re caught up in the emotion of the time. But at the same time, what you do in the first few steps is critically important for you, for your kids’ lives.
Justin Sisemore (02:34):
Jane McGarry (02:34):
For the rest of your life.
Justin Sisemore (02:35):
Absolutely. We deal with the situation all the time where clients just exercise self-help, what they think is helping or helpful, and oftentimes it becomes a disaster in a courtroom.
Jane McGarry (02:46):
Okay. You gave some great advice. We can only touch on the topics. How can viewers learn more about these various topics?
Justin Sisemore (02:53):
We have great blogs. We have great Facebook presence, and there’s a lot of information on our website, lawyerdfw.com. They can log on there and really get some good insight. Google’s very helpful in gathering some key information, but log on to sisemorelawfirm.com, www.lawyerdfw.com.
Jane McGarry (03:10):
You, in fact, have a complimentary consultation. What do viewers need to do in order to take advantage of that?
Justin Sisemore (03:15):
We do. I spend a lot of time on consultations themselves. This month through the end of the month, we’re offering a complimentary consultation to help them get through and navigate their key legal issues.
Jane McGarry (03:26):
All right. Thank you so much-
Justin Sisemore (03:26):
Jane McGarry (03:27):
… for being here this morning and offering that consultation to our viewers. You can call (817) 336-4444 or go to lawyer.dfw.com for more information. Don’t miss your chance to get a complimentary consultation until September 30th. All you have to do is mention GMT.
Justin Sisemore (00:01):
So when I think about making this video, I was thinking about if I were you, in your chair, what that would be like. How do I determine who my lawyer should be, where to even start looking? What questions do I ask them? What things do I need to bring to a consultation? And I want to break those things down for you specifically, so that when you get here to the Sisemore Law Firm, you know and you’re confident that you are at the best law firm to handle your case. You’re going to see exactly how I walk through the case, and I’m actually going to answer most of your questions before you even ask them. And I’ve done this thousands of times, so I can tell you from experience exactly where you need to be.
Justin Sisemore (00:37):
But when you get to the consultation, I’m going to have you fill out some information. That information is going to help guide me to guide you on exactly what the process looks like. In the beginning of the consultation, I’m going to walk you through exactly whether it’s a marriage, divorce case, whether it’s a child custody case, an adoption, a paternity case, an enforcement, a modification, a grandparent’s rights case. Those are some of the key areas that we focus our attention on. And sometimes you’re not going to know exactly what that is. So I’m going to have you fill out some information, and then I’m going to walk you and steer you right into where you need to be. The purpose of the consultation, really for me, is to gauge you and how you’re going to react, so that we’re the right fit for you, and you’re the right fit for our firm.
Justin Sisemore (01:23):
I’m very big on our brand. I’m very big on making sure that you refer everyone to us. And you only do that if we do a good job for you. So when we have this consultation, I’m going to ask you some key things. Those things help me team you up with the right team in our firm to make sure that I and my team serve you the best.
Justin Sisemore (00:01):
So when is the right time to change your lawyer? You need to really think hard about that decision. It’s not something you make immediately. You need to interview with other lawyers. You need to talk to your family and friends. You need to think about the whys and the hows, and the reasons behind why you’re doing this. It’s very important that you look at the facts of your case. You look at the lawyer. You look at what’s been going on. Are you being communicated with? How are you being communicated with? When are you being communicated with? Why are you being communicated with?
Justin Sisemore (00:34):
Sometimes situations arise, emergencies arise. Vacations happen, people don’t get back with you within the first eight minutes. And sometimes there’s situations where there’s just bad communication. If it’s the latter, we need to sit down and talk. Your case is all about a timeline. It’s a timeline of events that have happened in your life, and you’ve got to be able to get those organized and express those to your lawyer. Get feedback, talk to your lawyer about the strategy. If they’re not getting back with you on the when, why and how of what needs to happen, it’s time to talk. It’s time to sit down with another lawyer.
Justin Sisemore (01:08):
When you come in and you have good facts, and obviously you’re going to have a lot of bad ones, but if you start making progress, these judges are going to watch a transition that’s going to happen for you, that’s going to get you the result that you want. I’ve been to a bad dentist before. I spent time with him forever, and I kept getting bad results, and at the end of the day, I switched dentists. I still don’t dislike my old dentist, he just wasn’t as good as the other guy.
Justin Sisemore (01:33):
So our goal is to make sure that we assess the situation, look at it, see if we can help you. And if it is the right fit to make a switch for you, it’s the best thing in the world that we can do to really have that interaction one-on-one. And it’s important for you, it’s important for us, because we’re not going to always be your savior. And sometimes we will be your savior. And we’re here for you.
I was looking over some of the footage you shot last Tuesday, and when you and Justin kind of started getting into it up by the window and he started going on a roll, there’s a clip that ends with him, literally just going… He’s talking, he’s like, “I want her mic’d up.” And then I cut, and so that’s a perfect cold open for…
You went through divorce yourself, so you understand what this means, and you’ve worked here so long as you have seen pretty much anything imaginable and you know what kind of crap can come up in divorce, and at the end, it’s all going to be okay.
First things first, we got to mic you up. So go ahead and you can set this probably in your lap, the box in your lap.
And then just thread that up.
My name is Robin. I’m the office manager here at the Sisemore Law Firm. I’ve actually been working here 12 years. I have gone through divorce myself. Justin handled that for me and did an amazing job. And just because I work here and worked here during my divorce doesn’t mean I liked it or it wasn’t a bad, stressful time. I got very frustrated with Justin when he would give me direction that I did not agree with, but it was best for my case, or just didn’t want to do. The document requests that they wanted me to do, discovery that comes in from the other side, it’s all necessary, but it can be extremely stressful and just not fun to do.
Yeah, no. She couldn’t stand me. So we spent many a days arguing, fighting, making up and over the years, it’s just been kind of like, “Man, how did we get through that?” But we did.
He was compassionate when he needed to be and listening when he needed to be. And on the other side, when I wasn’t being compliant, I wasn’t following his direction or freaking out about something that wasn’t even a big deal, he would sit me down and explain to me what’s important, what we need to focus on, what matters and what doesn’t in court and out of court. And just in general, how to make it through to the other side in one piece with our children in a position where they can thrive and have a happy future.
Ashley Iovine (00:03):
All right. So my name is Ashley Iovine and I’m an associate attorney with Sisemore Law Firm. I’ve been here for just over a year, so I’m one of the new attorneys here. And my job is pretty much doing all the things behind the scenes. So I do a lot of consulting with the clients on a daily basis, I do a lot of the research, I do a lot of the drafting as far as pleadings are concerned, and attending court as needed. I act as second chair on a lot of the divorces, child custody’s, adoptions, modifications, basically anything that has to do with family law.
Ashley Iovine (00:36):
So when I moved back to Fort Worth, I really was looking for a law firm that was welcoming, had a vibe that was a little bit younger. As my previous law firm was a firm where it was an old boys club, they wanted to do things by the old rules. Whereas Justin’s always looking for new, innovative ways to divide property, to come up with unique possession arrangements as far as what the child is concerned. And it was really a lot of welcoming arms that I felt coming here that was different from a lot of other law firms that I had interviewed with.
Ashley Iovine (01:08):
I think one of the most rewarding experiences with being with this law firm has been helping people who really didn’t think that they had a chance. We had a client once who is the aunt of a child at issue in a case and this aunt is the one that’s been caring for this child for the child’s six years of life. And so when the parents came and tried to attempt to get their rights back, we didn’t think that we really had a shot. But we did a lot of the research, we really fought for her. And when the verdict came back that the child was going to remain in the aunt’s care, it was one of those feelings of just absolute euphoria and there were hugs and thank you’s all around. So that’s been something that’s been very helpful, realizing how you can help people in that way.
Ashley Iovine (01:50):
So for anybody that is afraid to come in and begin this process of either a divorce, child custody arrangement, modification, adoption, I can promise you that we will welcome you with open arms here at the Sisemore Law Firm. And based on my own personal experiences with dealing with these people every day, I can promise you that we will hold your hand. And you will not only have the best legal team in the state of Texas, you will also have people that you can really rely on emotionally.
Mike Torraca (00:18):
There you go, sir.
Mike Torraca (00:19):
Oh, the little microphone. Here we go.
We’ll try to figure this out together.
Mike Torraca (00:23):
Help me out with this.
There’s no [inaudible 00:00:25] she can do it for sure. So I told you downstairs when you first walked in how much I truly appreciate you being here. It’s families like yours that make this business my favorite thing to do in the world. I feel like it’s what we’re called to do. I just wanted to bring you here to talk about your experience, just totally raw. How did you get here? How are we as a firm? What was it like for you to make the decision so that we can help others understand this process?
Mike Torraca (00:51):
We had gotten possession of our grandson, because when he was born, his mother had mental illness. And so we acquired the baby when he was three days old. And we had been raising him for five years in our home.
Gloria Torraca (01:08):
Yes, we did everything for the baby, and took him to school when it was time, and everything for the baby, just like he was ours.
Mike Torraca (01:19):
And the father was hit or miss, in and out, part time father situation at that. Then the situation began getting worse, and he started using the child as a weapon. He came and took the child out of school and disappeared with him for a week at a time, he’s staying in hotels, and things like that. And we decided that it was time to act. The first lawyer was number one, offered very little hope of success, and was totally preoccupied with other cases. Every time we tried to communicate, whether she was either gone, not in the office, failed to return phone calls. We would literally get in the car and drive to her office and wait to see if she was there.
Gloria Torraca (02:12):
Well, that was a nightmare, I tell you. Emotionally, it was terrible for me, because I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who to call, because I knew that she wasn’t going to answer my telephone. But Mike was smarter than me, so he find you guys. And that was a blessing when that happened. That was the best of everything missing. God had it planned that way. So we called you, and we would make an appointment, we came over here, and we talked to you guys. And then when you came in, I was just felt ah. I felt like everything was going to be all right, and it was.