Understanding Family Law In And Out Of This COVID-19 Crisis With Tonya Toups

TBC 20 | Understanding Family Law

 

The COVID-19 Pandemic has put a stop to our day-to-day lives. For those in the litigation business, this means a delay in various processes when handling a case. Talking further about the repercussions of this unprecedented global crisis, Jason Byrd sits down with Attorney Tonya Toups. Exclusively practicing in the area of Family Law, Tonya shares how she is dealing with divorce and custody issues during this time. She talks about how she guides clients through the court process and helps them manage their emotions for a rational business mindset. Tonya also enlightens us about the factors that drive the costs of these legal battles and gives her advice for lawyers when faced with general Family Law questions.

Listen to the podcast here:

Understanding Family Law In And Out Of This COVID-19 Crisis With Tonya Toups

Thanks, everybody, for joining us again. I have one of our better and more useful guests here. Welcome, Tonya Toups. Welcome to the show.

Thank you for having me.

I’ve been wanting to have you particularly on for a while. We usually do the shows in person. With the Coronavirus spread and whatnot, we’re doing it via Zoom by about two miles apart.

I bought a little stock in Zoom, seeing where all this is going. I have no problem with using Zoom.

Have you used it for any hearings or anything official yet? I’ve only used it for podcast or basic meetings in the past.

We have not used it yet for anything official. I saw that Judge Pal in Orange County has put out an announcement that he’s moving forward and doing Zoom. Jefferson County, my Family Law courts, I haven’t heard yet other than they got things on hold.

I talked to one of the civil court judges and tried to encourage it. I got the sense they were working on it. I don’t know that they’re there yet.

That’s what I’m hearing too. Hopefully, it won’t be much longer. The judges are going to try to get us back online, so we can be as productive as possible.

It’s hard. Everybody’s affected in a variety of ways. Number one, physically in health and number two, for the people that are self-quarantining or staying at home or things like that, social distancing, it puts a lot of stop to our business. We were talking about that particularly litigation business. I’ve got the attitude that for every month that I’ve stopped, it adds four to six months because it’s like a train going down the tracks. When it stops, you’ve got to get it restarted. It’s not just the case I’m handling or the case you’re handling, it’s every single case.

The Family Law arena in particular is going to see a little bit of a different type of delay. I don’t know if we’re going to end up with totally pushing everything back or if we’re going to skip the things that were set during this particular time frame and they’re going to be pushed back. I’m not sure how we’re going to play out, but it’s an intense time, especially for my clients with children that are getting divorced. This is stressful.

I can imagine because for the most part, from what I understand, most of the kids are home, at least in Texas they are. You mentioned your kids are there, how’s that working out?

It’s funny because on a daily basis, I’m very grateful that my kids aren’t young school age, so I’m not doing the homeschooling part because I’m quite sure I wouldn’t be the best at that. They’re young adults, so they’re handling their own stuff transitioning to online college stuff. The biggest challenge with them has been convincing them that this is applicable to their lives, the whole Coronavirus thing. They’re at that age where they think they’re invincible to the world. They’re not going to get sick. There’s no big deal. Why is everybody freaking out? That’s been the biggest challenge. I’ve been vocal about the government helping us with some of these shutdown measures because I take this very seriously. Finally, some of the shutdown measures have helped. The kids are seeing that this is real and it affects us all.

You had been somewhat vocal. Why is it so important to you?

There are a lot of obstacles and hurdles to the divorce process that it generally takes longer than people think it's going to. Click To Tweet

It’s important to me because I’ve been a little disappointed too maybe in the fact that some lawyers that we all know haven’t particularly paid attention to what we’ve seen going on in other countries. I feel like our career is an evidence-based career. We deal with that. Everything is about evidence. It’s about what’s credible evidence, what’s authentic evidence, what is the judge going to believe and matter to him or to a jury. As I’m seeing all of this unfold, I’ve been in shock that we have been in so much denial about it as a nation. I get the reasons why we have and a lot of that is psychological defense measures. We don’t want to believe anything horrible like this can happen. At the same time, I feel like we haven’t been prepared because of that psychological defense mechanism.

That’s certainly your prerogative. On the flip side of that, under the Constitution, you have a right to say what you think about, how you feel about it and how you feel the government’s response to things are. I don’t particularly disagree with you. I’m here at the office, but there’s nobody here and the front door is locked. Christy is here, but we’re separated by several rooms. She picks up the phone and tells me what to do, my paralegal.

That’s what we all have to do to get us through this. My husband is up at the office too. Several of the lawyers are up there too. I don’t think that’s inherently dangerous by any means. We have to be particularly careful. That’s it.

Your kids are a little older. My oldest and your youngest are pretty close in age. Your other two are older and mine are younger, so there’s not that much crossover. I can report to you that the homeschooling was rough. I told a friend of mine that’s a principal, “We now have something new in common. I feel like a principal because I came home and I got three referrals, one for each.” We tried and I’ve been telling Jennifer, “I’m not going to micromanage it.” You know how I am. You need to get a schedule and provide some regimen where they can follow it. I said, “Not Norman Schwarzkopf charging Baghdad, that kind of rules but some scheduling.” We worked on that. We’ve got a chalkboard wall in one of the corners and we’ve got it all written up, “Here are your times, what classwork you need to work on, your chores and this,” and trying to provide some normalcy. I stopped home at lunch and it was iffy at that point. I got texts from three of the four of them all afternoon. It was a rough shit show.

God bless teachers. What they deal with, they’re wonderful people. We’re all going to come out of this with a serious appreciation for teachers.

There’s something to be saying when it’s your own kid too. Your own kid can uniquely torture a parent in a way that most of them probably won’t to a teacher.

Your kids are always better for other people than they are for you.

At least that’s what we try. Tonya talked about she feels bad for clients. They were having divorce issues and custody issues on top of everything that’s going on. For you all that may not know her, Tonya, you exclusively practice in the area of Family Law. For all intents and purposes, that’s what you did. God bless you for doing it.

It’s strange to say I enjoy this work, but I do enjoy it because I like to give people a sense of hope that this is a horrible time in your life when you’re getting divorced. Most people would rank it as one of the worst things that they go through. By the same token, I like to encourage people and lend them a little more of a viewpoint that it’s a little more business-oriented, which is a little bit of a relief to them when somebody brings that business perspective to them, something that is emotional for them. I do enjoy it.

How do you do that? It’s always driven me, but it’s driven me away from ever wanting to do any Family Law work for the past many years. It’s emotionally driven. How do you make people see that without giving away too many tricks of your trade?

When people come in and talk to me, I want them to be very comfortable. I want them to tell me exactly what they’re going through. I want them to express the emotions because that’s important to feel like they have a sounding board and can give you the full landscape of what they’re feeling and dealing with. I usually steer them back to what my role is with them, which is to take them through the court process. Tell them that when you’re getting a divorce, the thing that the court’s going to look at, they’re going to take a little bit more of a business approach to it. There are two issues in every divorce. One, their children and two, property division. If you can get your mind looking at it like that, a lot of times, it helps you make rational decisions, not strongly emotion-based decisions. Obviously, if there are children involved, people get a lot more emotional about that. They also get very emotional about dividing their property too. It helps to direct them back and to ask them to think about things from a rational business mindset.

You mentioned two things there. You mentioned effectively a parent-child relationship and property division, which you did not mention was who was the bad guy in the relationship. Whenever I’m at a cocktail party or we’re meeting random people and they have a Family Law question because it invariably happens all the time. I get Family Law and Criminal Law questions. I don’t practice either area. I’m not of much help, but the questions I get is angled in such a way as well, “He was the bad guy or she was the bad one.” What does that play typically in the divorce in Texas? What role does that play?

It can play a role in a divorce. First of all, the party has to plead for it and they have to say, “Basically this divorce is this person’s fault totally.” They are asking the court for a disproportionate division of assets based on that. In Texas, most people plead for a no fault-based divorce, which means it doesn’t matter whose fault it is. A lot of times, we can’t get along. In a situation like that, the court is going to divide everything up, adjust and write division, which typically in Texas means 50%. Everybody takes half of the community, not necessarily you don’t get half of what your spouse inherited. You would get half of what is considered part of the community estate. Unless there is something egregious and you have a lot of evidence about that egregious behavior, typically it’s going to be a clean approach to divide an asset.

TBC 20 | Understanding Family Law
Understanding Family Law: Your kids are always better for other people than they are for you.

 

A handful of text messages that one party maybe shouldn’t have said to somebody or an email or this or that, does that morally typically drive as you’ve seen in your experience, the court’s decisions and division of assets? It was my understanding that I could give a pretty egregious course of conduct, substantial drug use and continued drug use, for example, or the other grounds of cruelty or adultery but very egregious, not just here and there?

It’s got to be very egregious, very substantial to result in a disproportionate division of assets. Some of that stuff can come into play if child custody is a big issue. If both parents are fighting over, wants to be the primary custodian, a lot of times, I’ll use nasty text messages in court. I’ll use something that will show that one parent is not acting in the best interest of the child. Sometimes different things can come in. It’s hard to set out like, “This is never going to be important.” I tell my clients to save things. If you’re looking towards getting divorced, you need to save all this electronic evidence. You bring it to your lawyer and you say, “Is this relevant? Do you need this for my divorce?” Your lawyer makes a decision whether or not it’s going to be useful in court.

When people have asked me, “Why won’t you do Family Law work?” I said, “I don’t like fighting over kids.” It’s bigger than that. I get that. It sounds like you’ve got a level-headed approach as far as trying to make it as business-like for people as possible. Divorce is a tough time for people and it’s costly, financially. How do they need to be prepared for the expenses of that type of litigation? For example, I’m very familiar if we’re going to go to sue an insurance company for a breach of duty to you over a contract. I can tell you about here are the experts we need, what it’s going to cost, the time involved. How do the factors involved in the typical divorce drive those things?

A child custody battle is going to be costly. That’s something that a lot of times my client can’t control. Telling somebody how to prepare financially is difficult.

What are the factors that drive that cost? That’s what I’m more gauge that, “What do you charge?” Let’s say if Jennifer and I came to you and said, “Twenty-two years, everything’s in agreement. Let’s go down there.” That’s not a lot of work probably involved compared to, “We hate each other and we’re fighting over the kids. I’ve got some bad stuff on her. She’s got bad stuff on me.” What are the factors that drive that? I don’t even know how the dots would work with the family court. That’s what I’m trying to figure out.

Every practitioner may charge differently. Generally, people are either going to do it on a flat fee, but I’ve seen them do it on a flat fee and broken up into segments. If they have many hearings, they charge a set amount. If they have discovery, there’s a set amount, if there are modification hearings and so on. I charge hourly. Depending on how involved your cases, how many hearings you have, if I’m getting a lot of correspondence from the other side, if we’re having a lot of conversation with my client, the opposing counsel and we have to go back to court on continuous issues. Let’s say the other side is not producing their discovery. I have to file motions to compel and go back. All these things are going to drive the cost up. Let’s say we go to a mediation. We spend all this time prepping for mediation. We’re still unable to reach a settlement. We have to prep for trial and go to trial. It’s hard to ever extrapolate on what the cost is going to be. I don’t know if you’ve ever done any work on your house, but the contractor comes in. It depends on what we see when we get in those walls.

I appreciate that approach to this type of litigation. Certainly, the more you fight, the more stuff gets expensive. I have a law degree. From somewhat of an outsider’s perspective, I appreciate that because I see folks who operate differently. Here’s the example that I’ve given you before is prospective Client A walks in. They have a moderate middle-income job. They quoted a flat fee and that’s what it cost. It’s some kind of rape. The same guy, Client B comes in. He’s worth $20 million. You may not know it, but once you start digging, the same amount of work and fight is involved for that guy but magically, now the price is ten times as much. I don’t find that ethical. I know you don’t do that, but people do it all the time.

You see it around. My work is my work. It’s an hourly fee. The way that I do bill is on an evergreen retainer. I require a retainer up front and I bill against it. I provide my clients with invoices, showing all the work I’ve done and all the work I’ve built. If I reached zero balance, they replenish. We continue that way. I am one of those people that if there’s work, if we complete a case and there’s still money in the trust fund, the client gets that money. It’s their money. Unless and until I’ve earned it, it goes back to the client. It’s a simple thing for me. It’s the work that’s done and the work I charged for and that’s it.

I know it sounds silly to say I appreciate that, but I do. I do primarily plan this work. It’s commercial litigation mostly. Not a lot of PR but some here and there. I ended up, over the years, knowing a lot of small business people. I’ve had a few in the past because we’ve got a good relationship and a trust in that clause. I said, “I’ll help you on a divorce here because I can do it.” It’s probably on an hourly rate. It costs him more than if you did it. I knew if someone else got ahold of him, that’s something that might’ve been $5,000 or $10,000 magically would have been $50,000. I don’t like that.

I’m not crazy about that. You hear different stories out there.

I’m not trying to call any names out or anything like that and make you uncomfortable, but I wanted to tell you I appreciate it how you did that. The funny thing about, Tonya, another reason I’m excited to have you on, I rarely talk to you although we live right down the street. I know my daughter’s been over the house. You’re right there. I see you and Mitch walking all the time. I was trying to ride my bike and get some exercise in because with this Corona situation, for instance, my mind says, “Eat cookies.”

I could tell you all the desserts I’ve made at night in the past. Exercise is important. I hear you.

In the month of March, which I started the month up poorly and I’ve probably gained 10 to 15 pounds.

Different clients have different goals and needs. Click To Tweet

You’re good to get on a scale because I refuse to get on the scale until this settles down. I don’t even want to know. I’ve got my head in the sand.

I have to. If I don’t, it will get out of hand, which I’ve let it happen in the past. I’ve got to get on this. I’m doing yoga in my backyard, whatever. I’ve got to do something, riding the bike or I’m doing this because it doesn’t look like the eating is stopping anytime soon. I know your youngest is a senior.

In high school and I’ve got one in college.

I knew the baby was senior. I call my daughter by nickname too. What’s going on with the seniors because it doesn’t look like they’re probably going back to school?

I don’t anticipate they’re going to go back to school. We’re grief stricken about her senior stuff. They were going to have prom, May 3rd, and I’m sure that’s probably not going to take place. I don’t know what they’re going to do about the commencement exercises. Hopefully, there are some ways to do it. I don’t know if we’re going to be in for any mass gatherings as a society for a while. Neches River Festival, that was supposed to be late April, so we’ll see what happens with that. This is the one time though I procrastinated. I promised all of my kids that when they were seniors in high school after graduation, I would take them wherever they wanted to go in the world. Jacqueline wanted to go to Paris, so I had not booked that flight, any of the hotels or anything. This is probably the one time that my procrastination has been paid off, so to speak.

Your oldest is Alexandra. She’s a senior at UCLA. These kids are getting big or I’m getting old. You’re holding up a little better than I am. Your son is a sophomore age?

He’s a junior.

I knew he was sophomore or junior, somewhere in there. Your own school situation is not that bad.

Here’s my homeschool situation. My daughter put the cat in our bedroom at 1:30 AM, so I woke up and went into the kitchen. I could hear my son playing video games at 1:30 AM. He’s 21, so it’s not like I can complain about that because there’s nothing that he has to do other than his online classes. He appeared to be taking care of that. Our life is a little bit different with these older kids.

I was doing a lot worse than that at 21. We’ve got the same thing. I haven’t been sleeping well, partly dogs, cats. We now have baby chickens in our bedroom. They’d been threatening to get chickens for a while. We’ve got an old potting shed I’d call it, an area where you could look an old shed on the backyard. The kids and Jennifer have turned into chicken coop. They’ve got baby chicks, but they’re not big enough to live out in the coop yet. They’re only a month and a half. They’re little, like holding your hand with. There are five of them in there. She got one for each of the kids. She got two for her class. She went back to work in January. I told her it’s bad timing. The kids had gotten a little bigger.

I don’t think she was wondering she had time to do stuff and it’s good for her. She’s running kids around and being involved with that. That’s great. Some outside life is good. She started subbing at a middle school where my boys go to school. I thought that would last a week. She loved it, particularly with the age group, middle school. She’s teaching Agriculture, which she went to college for to teach in middle school. She got two of the chickens for her class, which didn’t count right now because they’re not in class. Soon enough, we’ll have fresh eggs. When we have the fresh eggs, I’ll let you know. Over a week’s time they’ll produce quite a bit of eggs.

Thinking about Family Law and I mentioned that I get Family Law questions all the time in passing. I have some rudimentary knowledge because I went to law school. I can read and I have friends like you. What advice would you give to lawyers like me when they get these types of general Family Law questions. Is there any short answer, some basics that we can tell people or we need to tell them to call people like you? That’s what I’ve always struggled.

The best rule of thumb would be to refer them out to consult, an information gathering or meeting. Say, “I know quite a few people in town that do this and I know they’d probably be willing to do a free consult or whatever.” I’m always an advocate of information and getting information. It’s very beneficial to sit down with somebody if you’re considering divorce or if you’re having problems and saying, “What can I expect if I do file for divorce or if my spouse filed for divorce?” That’s very wise to come in with a list of questions to somebody and say, “Tell me all about what would happen.”

TBC 20 | Understanding Family Law
Understanding Family Law: One of the reasons that divorce is painful for people is that it generally takes longer than they think it’s going to take.

 

I understand the law in most of the statutes, maybe not the down and dirty details. I know how to find it. I know theoretically how it works. I know how most situations are going to end up. What folks like me don’t know is the day-to-day, the practicality of getting from Point A to Point B and what are the stresses there. That’s where I get locked down. Those are the types of questions people have. “He’s going to get this and you’re going to get that. Ultimately, here’s how it’s going to work out.” What’s going to happen until it gets there? I don’t know. How are we going to get there? I don’t know.

I’ll tell you too that one of the reasons that divorce is painful for people is that it generally takes longer than they think it’s going to take. Unless they come in with their agreement with the spouse completely logged down and ready to go, it generally takes a while. That’s usually painful. A lot of people don’t understand the way the court system works, the way you have to get schedule hearings with the other side and with the court. There are a lot of obstacles and hurdles. It generally takes longer than people think it’s going to, which is that is difficult emotionally on people. When people come in, I do try to let them know that this is not a perfect system. It’s not going to happen. It’s going to take a little time and you’re going to have to be patient. I do try to communicate with my clients. I give them my cell phone number. I like them to feel like if they have a question, they can reach me or my legal assistant because there is quite a bit of handholding that you do in this particular arena. I would say that if people are asking you questions, what they probably need to do is sit down with somebody and take a list of questions in.

How long do you tell people does divorce typically take around here? I’ll give you an example. There are certain kinds of cases that I’ve had dozens of. There are certain kinds of cases I’ve had thousands of literally. I’ll tell people, “Typically, this is going to probably take 9 to 15 months,” in one type of case I’m thinking about. That being said, I’ve gotten them done in three months and I’ve had them take two and a half years too or three years without an appeal. Those are the outliers. The bill curve over 3,000 cases would tell you somewhere in about 1 year to 1 year and 15 months. Do you tell people something similar or are there too many variables?

There are a lot of variables, but a lot of people think that the Texas Family Code requires a 60-day waiting period. Once that’s up, they should be divorced. It rarely works that way. If somebody comes in and they’ve already got their agreement worked out with their spouse, there have been times that we’ve been able to get them close to 60 days, outside of 60 days. You’ve got to hit that 60-day mark to even have the court hear you. For the most part, I can’t extrapolate on how long it’s going to take a case. Most cases I would say are 6 to 12 months.

There’s always the parent-child relationship and those issues. You also mentioned property division. Texas is a community property state. That’s what you meant by typically a 50/50 split on assets gained during the marriage. That’s a 50/50 split of debt obligations too. I hear that all the time, “I get half of this. I get half of that.” People don’t like to think about what’s the half of what’s owed on everything.

It’s always funny to me when somebody says like they’re bragging, “I got the house.” I’ll try to explain this to clients. You have to put all of your assets and your debts that you both have acquired on one spreadsheet. Everything has a value to it. You can shift things around and figure out, but you’re dividing the values. Do you want the house? Are you going to be able to afford the house? You’re going to be able to sell the house. There are a lot of things that go into these decisions on what you want and how this property should be disposed of in a divorce. All of these cases are very fact intensive. Different clients have different goals, different needs. It’s a neat area of law to practice because it is very custom-driven.

It allows you to be creative to some degree. That’s why I do like civil litigation because in some of my commercial stuff, it’s a double-edged sword. For me, in some of my commercial cases, I’ve had things that are similar. Nothing is the exact same, which is fun because it keeps me engaged. Otherwise, I get bored fast. We talked about that. The flip side of that is it requires me to work. I have to think and hammer stuff out there.

You have to be very engaged. In my area, I have to know what my client needs, what the circumstances of their life are driving at that point in time. Let’s say if I have a homemaker wife who’s getting divorced and she doesn’t have a lot of experience even in managing the finances. A lot of times, I’m going to customize or give her advice and opinions that I’m not going to give a male who has been the breadwinner in the family, who’s been in charge of all the finances. Everybody is going to be very different in the advice that I’m giving. It totally depends on what the needs are and where the person is coming from and what they’re looking forward into the future for.

You mentioned one scenario, the housewife scenario, what that brings to mind is alimony. We’ve all heard that term in the media or on TV or horror stories, from men’s perspective is, “I’m paying this lady for twenty years.” What is that?

It’s spousal maintenance. You qualify for spousal maintenance depending on the years of marriage. It’s still a little bit trickier than that because even though the Texas Family Code sets out that you can qualify for it, you have to have been married for at least ten years. It can’t exceed a certain percentage of the other spouse’s monthly income. The motive behind it is to get that person who has not had a career during this marriage to put them in a position to get back on their feet to earn money. Even with all of those terms though, sometimes our courts will not order it.

If the spouse can make a minimum wage, 40-hour a week job, I’ve had cases where the court won’t order it because they didn’t meet their minimum reasonable monthly needs based on a minimum wage job. It’s not what people typically think of when they think of alimony. That’s one of the realities that my clients and I discuss, is it worth it to pursue this? Is it worth it for you to pay me, for us to pursue this? Depending on whether or not the court would even consider ordering it.

There are situations where it does make sense. I give a silly example of me and Jennifer. I’d say now if we got divorced, she spent seventeen years not working, raising our children. A maintenance request would be reasonable in that situation. I’m not asking to get divorced. That would be a reasonable request. Whether it was granted or not, who knows? We got married and I went to law school.

That’s one of the things you would want to plead for. If you are representing your wife in that situation, you would want to plead for it and ask the court for that relief. A lot of times, you might look at the property division to assist in that manner. The property division can be also malleable and worked in a manner that might support a spouse who has given up prime career building years.

If something is weighing on us, it's nice to have that sounding board to lean in with some objectivity. Click To Tweet

What’s the hardest part of practicing Family Law? You’ve got to have good days and you probably have bad days too. Consistently, what makes it difficult if ever?

The hardest thing for me is when I disagree with the court’s ruling, especially concerning conservatorship, basically custody. If I get a ruling that I think was shocking or upsetting or that kind of thing, that’s the hardest thing for me. I feel like the money stuff, property division, it truly at the end of the day is a material thing. We can all deal with those blows a little bit easier than we can deal with the blows concerning our children. That’s always the hardest thing for me.

You’ve been a lawyer for a while. My mileage may be a little higher. You’re holding up a lot better. Have you always practiced in this area?

No. When I graduated from law school, I clerked for Judge Fischer. He didn’t hang around that much longer after me. I clerked for him from ‘94 to ‘95. I worked for a company doing insurance defense work for three years. I had my oldest child. I retired until I got divorced. I got divorced in 2007 and started doing Family Law solely in 2009.

How does it compare to the insurance defense work you did?

Insurance defense was a lot cleaner.

It was less emotion, unless you’re dealing with some crazy person like me.

It was totally different.

I could see this being more rewarding though.

This is much more rewarding.

I don’t mean financially. I mean as a human being, trying to provide a service to help people.

It’s definitely more rewarding. Having gone through a divorce myself, a child custody fight and a child custody modification action too, I totally identify what my clients are going through. I recognize for them to have me understand what they’re dealing with because I know. There’s a lot of panic involved. There’s a great amount of fear. I totally get it. I understand. I want them to know that. I want them to know, “Believe me, I’ve been right where you are.”

In a lot of ways, maybe that’s helped you choose this path.

TBC 20 | Understanding Family Law
Understanding Family Law: Family Law is a neat area of law to practice because it is very custom-driven.

 

For sure, it did.

There’s one thing, unfortunately, you probably stay busy because the stats are still half of us get divorced. That’s unique to have not only you from being in a position where you had been divorced, you had some contested issues. Not everybody has that. A lot of people have divorces, but truly contested child custody in whatever issues. I don’t know the details. It gives you a unique perspective that if I ever needed, you would sell me on you. I would tell people to call you over that if nothing else.

Thank you. I’ve sat in the courtroom waiting on judges’ rulings that will affect and alter the course of my life. I get it. I understand.

In a lot of ways, that’s probably harder being a lawyer in that position too. You have some knowledge. You have some training. You have some education, but it’s mixed in with that emotion. It’s like lawyers are my worst clients. Some doctors can be more difficult. Being a great surgeon and having to go into surgery, that could do the same thing to you. You’re married to a lawyer. How does that work?

It’s great. He can never retire. I told him because he would drop me completely batty. It works well for us. We can talk shop. I don’t do what he does, so I don’t understand all the law. I’m not looking it up in an in-depth manner, which obviously he is.

Jennifer’s obviously not a lawyer and I don’t know if that would work, although I do tell everybody she’s the tougher one at the house. I can be difficult and tough when I need to be, but she’s the tough one at home. I like not talking about work. Rarely while I talk anything about, in fact, it’s funny I’ve had clients in the past, they’ll run into her and mention something and she has no idea what they’re talking about. People would assume we talk about your cases and I don’t. The only time I talked to anybody about my cases is with another lawyer, “Tonya, what do you think about it? Tell me what you think. I’ve got a question. I’m not sure. How would you handle this?” Legitimate, bounce off another colleague advise. A lot of these guys are my friends, but they’ll talk about their cases. We see it all day. I don’t want to talk about it.

We have a good balance. If something is weighing on either one of us, it’s nice to have that sounding board because Mitch is going to lean in with some objectivity and a little bit of legal analysis too, which I appreciate. I like to have somebody to bounce things off, especially if I’m trying to think out of the box or what a judge may do, how the judge may perceive something. That’s good. We have plenty of other subjects too to keep us talking all the time. We’ve got all the kids around here. We’ve got a lot that keeps us busy and a lot of outside interests too.

We’ve been talking a whole lot about Family Law. You practice here in Jefferson County. Do you practice all over the state or how does that work for most family?

I do not. I practice mostly in Jefferson County. I also take cases in Orange and Hardin and that’s it, in that triangle area.

I’ve had cases and I know Mitch is similar. We’ve got stuff we travel all over for. From what I’ve always understood is it’s a little more difficult to do in the family and criminal law courts, by the way they’re run procedurally.

I’ve had kids at home and with him traveling, that’s enough to have one of us on the road. I have to limit my docket to an area that’s easier to get to.

If someone in one of those counties wanted to talk to you about any of these things, how can they find you?

I have a website and you could google, Tonya Toups Attorney or I’m on Facebook as well. I can be reached by email.

I’ve checked out your website. It’s good. It’s informative. I tried to look at it from a perspective as if I know I was looking at a potential Family Law lawyer. I like it. If you need to talk to her, check it out. Lastly, I’m going to tell you, sometimes I do a little preparation, sometimes I don’t do any, but I hadn’t talked to you in so long. I thought, “I’m going to do a little preparing,” but I fell down a rabbit hole. These kids were sending me these videos. The next thing I know, I’ve discovered TikTok. I went out about 45-minutes to an hour rabbit hole.

TikTok will pull you down if you get on that app.

It was so horrible but so awesome at the same time. I got a real kick. Mallory and I are going to do a TikTok video here. We’ll see how it goes. Thanks again for coming on. I wanted to talk to people. I haven’t had anybody who’s an expert like you in Family Law. It’s something that touches all of our lives. I appreciate your knowledge and your time being here. If you have questions, don’t call me on this because I’m going to tell you to call her.

Thanks, Jason.

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