Whether you’re considering divorce, working on custody and support issues or planning an adoption, the right family law attorney can make all the difference. Your lawyer will become your partner in the process, helping you achieve the outcome you want within the boundaries of the law. But with so many attorneys out there, how can you find the best one for your needs?
Ask friends, colleagues and neighbors for referrals. Personal recommendations are often accurate and can help you avoid the most common mistakes people make when hiring a family law attorney. But don’t rely on them solely, as you should do some research as well. Read online reviews of attorneys to get a better sense of the strengths and weaknesses of their practice, as well as how they interact with their clients.
It’s important to find an attorney who is comfortable discussing the sensitive issues that arise in a family law case. This is particularly true of child custody cases, where a bad custody agreement can have long-term, negative effects on a family’s relationship. Find out if your prospective family law attorney has handled child custody cases before and what kind of outcomes they achieved.
In addition to asking about previous experience, you should also find out if your prospective family law attorney is familiar with the specific rules and procedures of the county where you plan to file your case. Attorneys who have a lot of local experience will be familiar with judges, court staff and other lawyers involved locally in family law cases, which can benefit you immensely.
Finally, you should find out if your prospective family law attorney does both settlement negotiations and litigation. While most family law cases settle out of court, it’s a good idea to have a lawyer who is equally at home in a courtroom if your case does end up going to trial.
At the initial consultation, you should also pay attention to how the lawyer’s office staff behaves. Generally, it’s the staff who will handle most of the day-to-day tasks for your family law case, such as answering phones, returning calls and preparing the pleadings to be filed with the court. Find out if the office staff is friendly and knowledgeable.
During your first meeting, you should remember to bring any documents that may be related to your case, such as your tax returns or paycheck stubs. It is also a good idea to leave your children at home, as most attorneys will not be able to discuss your case with you while they have your children present. And, of course, you should be prepared to answer any questions the prospective family law attorney might have for you. You should expect your consultation to last for at least an hour. However, the more complex your case is, the longer it will probably take to resolve. The longer the case takes, the more expensive it will be, so it’s best to find an attorney who is honest and up front about their fees from the start.