Tips For Choosing The Best Family Lawyer
Choosing the best family lawyer during your divorce is very important, helping you reach the best outcome, understand the process and make the most appropriate decisions.
The right family lawyer can mean a faster, less expensive and less emotionally taxing process. To make the choice for the best family lawyer, you need to know what to look for.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when choosing the best family lawyer for you:
Start Looking As Early As Possible
Deciding which lawyer you want to help you through this significant and often difficult life change is not something you want to do in a rush. As soon as you think you might need a family lawyer, start searching for one that suits your needs.
Ask Around or Check Reviews
Approach the search for the best family lawyer as you would the search for any other professional: ask friends and family members whether they know any lawyers that they can recommend.
Interviewing Potential Attorneys
Once you’ve narrowed down your list to a handful of attorneys, you’ll want to meet with each lawyer in person. Be aware that some attorneys charge an initial consultation fee. You should bring relevant divorce paperwork and information to your first meeting with a lawyer. An attorney needs to understand your circumstances to make an accurate assessment of your case.
Any attorney you hire should practice in your local community. Family law cases often require courtroom appearances, and almost all attorneys bill for their travel time. You should also consider how much the attorney charges and whether you can afford it. (To get an idea of what other people have paid in attorneys’ fees, see our survey results on how much divorce lawyers charge and our study on hourly rates charged by family lawyers around the country.)
Ultimately, the attorney you hire should be someone you’re comfortable with. You should like your attorney’s style and general demeanor. A good attorney will explain the process for your case and create a plan that’s tailored for you.
Ask yourself: “Do I like this lawyer?”
You must be able to get along with your lawyer. The initial interview is as much about deciding if you can have a working relationship with your attorney as it is finding out about how the law applies to your case. If the lawyer you are meeting with is abrasive, distracted, disorganized, or acts in any other way that does not give you confidence, consider how you will feel later on in the case if you chose this lawyer.
Who will I be working with?
Will you personally be handling my case, and/or will other attorneys in your office be handling the case? Do you prefer emails or phone calls? What is an expected turn-around time on communication (i.e. how long do I need to wait to get a phone call back if I call?) What about support staff or day-to-day contact? Knowing who to call (or when to call), is important! In most firms, day to day communication will be through the attorney’s paralegal, but the office will know how to get ahold of the attorney if a truly urgent situation pops up. Does the attorney check their own email or does a staff member check them?
What are the major problems you see in my case?
EVERY case has its own problems. If your potential attorney can’t share the bad news with you about your case in the first meeting (such as telling you there are no problems in your case), be concerned. Now – not all problems are serious, and almost all problems can be overcome, some easier than others. For example – uncontested absolute divorce is about as easy as it gets. However, you have to have good service, so a potential minor, but important problem would be if the other side doesn’t want to get served (by a sheriff, by certified mail, etc.). A court cannot grant a divorce if the other side hasn’t been served, so knowing what the costs would be if the other spouse doesn’t “cooperate” in getting served is good to know (before you get a bill).
Make your choice.
The divorce attorney you choose to represent you is local, professional, knowledgeable, responsive and communicates well. This attorney is someone you trust and feel comfortable with. This attorney supports your basic philosophy toward divorce and has a style that works for you. This attorney recognizes the importance of your children and puts them first in the legal process by not making unreasonable child support demands or custody arrangements. This attorney is affordable. Divorce is a highly personal and emotional process, the outcome of which can have a significant impact on your life. This is an important decision, and there are no guarantees in this process. However, if you follow these steps, you’ll find the right one — the one who listens to what you want, advises you well and has your best interest at heart.