When it comes to protecting your legal interests, you are your own best ally. You bear the responsibility of doing your own research and finding out what processes you will have to navigate to achieve the desired outcome of your case.
Even so, you still may need to partner with an advocate who has the skill, experience, and time to represent and argue for you in and out of the courtroom. You can get the legal expertise you need and look forward to the best resolution of your family law case by knowing how to look for and hire the best family law attorney.
Identify the Specific Areas of Family Law
Before you put a lawyer on retainer, you should first know for sure if you need a family lawyer or another type of attorney to represent you. Family law actually encompasses numerous aspects of this legal specialty.
Some of the most common cases that are filed and argued under the heading of Family Law include:
- child custody and guardianship
- child support
- cohabitation, domestic partnerships, and civil unions
- reproductive rights
- emancipation of minors
- domestic violence (such as filing for a Protection from Abuse order)
- foster care
- child abuse
- surrogacy and artificial insemination
If the nature of your case falls within one of these specialized areas of family law, you should look for and retain a lawyer who practices in this legal specialty. You especially want to hire an attorney who has taken on and successfully argued cases similar to yours so that you know you have competent and qualified legal counsel representing you in the proceedings.
Because there are so many different areas within family law itself, you may not be sure what type of case you need to file or what avenue to pursue in court. Rather than risk hiring the wrong lawyer or an attorney who has not handled your type of legal matter, you should do ample research before meeting with and putting an attorney on retainer.
Researching the right lawyer to hire can give you the results you want. Your research does not have to be time consuming or expensive. You can do most if not all of the research you need to locate the best family attorney at home and with the people in your life whom you trust the most.
Take Some Time to Research Your Family Law Attorney Options
Depending on where you live, you may have dozens of family attorneys from which to choose to represent you. How can you know what attorney to choose, however, and what would make that lawyer more qualified than others?
You can get your answers by devoting a few days to researching the family lawyers who practice in your city or surrounding area. You should first consider a local family law attorney rather than one who is located in another state because you want your legal counsel to be well-acquainted with the family laws where you live and in which your case will be filed.
An out-of-state lawyer may have to spend time brushing up on local mandates and figuring out what laws directly apply to your case. You do not want to risk your case being tied up in court or additional expenses for research and travel being added onto your legal costs. You can get the results you want and the skillful representation you need by retaining an attorney who practices family law in your immediate area.
Another reason to hire a family lawyer who is located in your city centers on the fact that this individual will presumably be familiar with the judges, mediators, prosecutors, and others who may play a role in your case. Your attorney will know how to contact these individuals as well as what tactics to use to negotiate on your behalf in and out of the courtroom. An attorney from outside your area may not know the courthouse personnel and could run afoul of local judges while your case is being heard and decided.
Finally, a local family lawyer will know what resources are available to you as your case goes through the legal system. For example, if you are the victim of domestic violence, your attorney may be able to refer you to advocacy groups, safe houses, and other resources that can protect you and your children.
Likewise, if you are suing your spouse for custody of your children, you may be referred to counselors or therapists who can meet with you and back up your claims in court of abuse, neglect, or other trauma inflicted on you by your spouse. An out-of-state attorney will not know about these resources and could actually endanger your physical and legal safety.
Schedule and Take Full Advantage of Free Consultations
After you narrow down a list of local family attorneys you want to consider for your case, you should then make contact with each one and schedule a free consultation if possible. In fact, many lawyers in all specialties offer free first meetings with potential clients. This initial session gives both the client and the attorney the chance to get to know each other better on a formal level and also allows both to realize whether or not they can work together to accomplish the goals of the case.
With that, you should use this first meeting, which could last for as long as an hour, as an ideal opportunity to thoroughly vet your potential legal representative. You want to get as much information as you can so that you can decide if this person has the legal savvy to take on your case and give you the results you want.
As such, it would not be out of line for you to ask for the lawyer’s win record and how well he or she has represented clients in cases like yours in the past. You want to know that you have the highest chance of winning without having to refile or appeal your case. The best way to find out this important detail centers on asking the lawyer to tell you if he or she can successfully argue for you and secure the favor of the judge or jury.
Likewise, you want to know how much experience the attorney has in family law. It is not uncommon for family law attorneys to practice other legal specialties on the side. For instance, a lawyer may also specialize in personal injury or collection law or another closely related specialty.
Before you put the attorney on retainer, you should find out what percentage of his or her practice is devoted to family law. Even if the attorney practices other legal areas, you want to know that a valid amount of time and effort will be devoted to building and winning your case.
Finally, you should learn what other clients have to say about the attorney so that you get an idea of how well he or she has represented people in your situation. You can find lawyer reviews online an any number of legal or professional review websites. You can also ask for the input of friends, family members, and coworkers who may be familiar with the family lawyer you are considering hiring for your case.
Come Armed with a List of Questions to Ask
Before you go to an initial consultation with a potential family law attorney, you should make up a list of questions to ask to help you with your research. In fact, most lawyers fully expect possible clients to ask as many questions as they deem appropriate during that first meeting. They typically are not offended if your questions are earnest attempts to find out key details that could make or break your case or help you feel comfortable with your legal representation.
As such, you should consider asking the family attorney questions like:
- How long have you been a practicing family law attorney?
- How much of your practice do you dedicate to family law?
- What is your win and loss ratio for cases like mine?
- What is your win and loss ratio for cases like mine?
- What is your typical family law client like and what do you expect from clients?
- How much time will you personally spend working on my case?
- How much of my case will be worked on by your paralegals or assistants?
- How quickly will you return my phone calls and emails if I try to contact you?
- Do you have any disciplinary infractions on your record and for what were you disciplined?
All of these queries should be fair game when you meet with a potential family lawyer for the first time. They give you the basis for building a trust that is crucial to maintain throughout the duration of your legal proceedings. You should listen carefully to the lawyer’s answers and determine if he or she is the right family law attorney to represent you in court.
Of course, if the attorney is anything but forthcoming with the information you are trying to ask for during the initial meeting, you should take his or her reluctance to answer as a warning sign. You should also contemplate looking for another lawyer if the family law attorney indicates that he or she will not be directly involved in building your case or readily available to you during the proceedings. These behaviors will make it difficult for you to build trust with your lawyer and could jeopardize the desired outcome that you want to achieve with your particular family law case.
Discover Pricing and Payment before Hiring a Family Law Attorney
Out of all of the questions you may want to ask a potential family law attorney, the most important one could be the lawyer’s pricing and payment policies. Of course you must find out how much the lawyer charges and in what form you are permitted to make payments before you put the attorney on retainer.
After all, what would happen if you hire the attorney only to find out that you cannot afford his or her services? You risk having to withdraw your case or being sued in court for legal expenses that you cannot pay. More importantly, you could lose the advocacy and help of a family attorney who is best suited to take your case.
With that, before you sign the contract putting the attorney on retainer, you must find out what kind of fee schedule you will be looking at as a client and how much the actual retainer is. Do not be surprised to find that the attorney may charge upwards of $100 or more per hour for his or her services. This price range is typical for this legal specialty. It also does not mean that you cannot afford to hire a family attorney to help you.
Many family lawyers know that people today cannot afford to pay the typical legal bill out-of-pocket. Most clients need some sort of payment or finance options made available to them. Your own family lawyer may offer such financial help, allowing you to get your case filed while giving you affordable options to pay off what you might owe the attorney or law firm.
Some of the more common ways that lawyers make available to legal clients for paying what they owe include setting up monthly installment agreements. The agreement would allow you to pay a set amount each month. The amount that you pay may be based on how much you earn or what kind of assets you have available to you.
You also may be allowed to surrender your future tax refund to the lawyer to settle your account. If you are filing your case in the summer or fall, for example, but expect a sizable tax refund in January or February, you may be permitted to offer the refund as collateral for the legal fees that you owe now. Your lawyer will ask you to sign a lien contract giving him or her access to that money first before any remainder of the refund is sent to you.
You also could use a credit card or take out a bank loan to cover your legal expenses. If you plan to use either of these payment options, you should ask for written proof of your legal fees so that you can secure the right amount of financing.
Listen to Your Own Judgment
Finally, in choosing the best family lawyer for you anyone else involved in your case like your children, you should listen to your own good judgment. Only you can decide if an attorney is worth the money as well as the time and commitment that you must put into that professional relationship as the case progresses. Only you can know for sure if this person is someone with whom you can work and trust to represent you competently in court.
If anything that the family law attorney says or does causes you worry, you should not dismiss your concerns but instead act on them. Ask for clarification or point out possible mistakes but do not overlook them simply because the attorney has a law degree and you do not.
You know how you want your case to play out and what you need from your lawyer. Do not accept anything less than those goals.
Some of the worrisome behaviors from your family law attorney that you might be on the lookout for include:
- not showing up to court dates
- not answering communications like emails or phone calls
- charging you more money than what you were quoted without explanation or receipts
- outright lying to you or denying information he or she told you in previous meetings
These actions indicate that the lawyer cannot be trusted and does not have your best interests at heart. You should take them as signals that it is time to fire the attorney and find another one to represent you. Your case may be delayed; however, you may be assured of a better outcome than what the first lawyer could give you.
If you fear that you may dismiss your worries or downplay your concerns, you should take some proactive steps to either prove or disprove them. You can ask the local courthouse for your attorney’s disciplinary record. You can also look online to find out what kinds of client reviews the attorney has garnered from people whom he or she has represented in the past.
Family law cases require a certain level of expertise and competence that lawyers outside of this legal specialty may not possess. You do not want to entrust your marriage, divorce, child custody, or other type of family law matter to a lawyer who specializes in bankruptcy, commercial, real estate, or other areas of law.
Instead, you should take the time to research and find a family law attorney who can take your case and give you the results you want. Before you hire a lawyer to represent you, you should use these measures to vet the family law attorneys in your area and discover an attorney who will be a valuable and knowledgeable ally for the duration of your case.
Affording the Legal Fees for a Family Attorney
Hiring a lawyer may take money that you do not have in your budget right now. Depending on your circumstances, such as if you are going through a divorce or the victim of domestic violence, you may not have any money to your name at all. How could you possibly afford to hire a family law attorney to help you win your case?
In fact, you may be surprised to learn that you have different payment options available to you when it comes to retaining a family lawyer. You can pursue your case and get the legal help you need by learning more about payment methods that may family law attorneys make available to clients.
The most common arrangement that some family law attorneys offer is a monthly payment agreement. A monthly installment arrangement lets you pay off what you owe to the attorney or law firm in equal amounts until your account is settled in full.
This option can be used as well if you have some sort of collateral to back up your legal debt. For example, your family lawyer may put a lien on a life insurance policy or retirement savings that can be liquidated in case of default.
Likewise, you could surrender claim to your tax refund or settlement if you are suing a spouse or partner in court. These options may be made available to you as long as you can pay the attorney’s retainer fee upfront.
If you find yourself in a particularly stressing legal situation and have little money in your bank account, you may qualify for legal assistance through charitable agencies in your city or state. These agencies help you retain a family lawyer and also cover your legal expenses. These resources are typically reserved for domestic violence victims or the financially destitute.
If you do not qualify for financial help from such agencies, you may consider using a credit card or taking out a small bank loan to cover your legal expenses. You and your family lawyer can discuss payment options during the free initial consultation that should be made available to you before you put the lawyer on retainer.
You may have numerous options for paying for a good family lawyer. You can use these financial methods to get the legal help you need with your family law case.
Tips for Locating the Best Family Lawyer
Many everyday people have no reason to hire a lawyer on a frequent basis. You may only be vaguely familiar with some of the family lawyers in your city. Your primary means of knowing their names could be from seeing their commercials or listings in the phone book.
However, there may be a time when you do need to hire a family law attorney to represent you in a delicate legal matter. If you plan to adopt a child, get divorced, create a prenuptial agreement, or pursue another type of family law case, you need to know first how to find the right lawyer to represent you.
Use the Internet
The go-to source for any kind of information for many people today continues to be the World Wide Web. The Internet can be your most valuable resource in your pursuit of a skilled, assertive, and affordable family lawyer.
When you go online, you should head to professional and legal services review websites that list and categorize lawyers by specialty. You can then read client reviews, discover disciplinary information, research fees and pricing schedules for local attorneys, and more. Once you find a lawyer that interests you and with whom you might be able to feel comfortable, you can contact that attorney and set up a first meeting.
Ask Loved Ones for Advice
Along with doing research online, you should also get the input of loved ones whose opinions you value. It is not out of the question that someone in your circle of friends or family has retained a family lawyer in the past. You should ask these individuals for their thoughts on what attorney in the immediate area might be the best choice for your case.
If you cannot get the advice and help you need from your friends and family members, you can always call the state bar association for a referral. The state bar association typically maintains a list of attorneys by specialty as well as those who practice in your city. The referral should be free and available to you anytime during normal business hours.
Before you choose a family law attorney to put on retainer, you should put a fair amount of research into finding the best one for your legal matter. These tips can guide you toward family law representation that you can feel comfortable with and trust.
The Commitment and Availability of a Good Family Attorney
Entrusting your case to a family lawyer can be a challenge that you have to overcome. After all, how you can trust someone you just met with a case that could be of utmost importance to you and your family?
You may find it easier to relinquish control of the more important aspects of your legal matter by knowing that your lawyer is dedicated to your case and readily available to you during the proceedings. Before you hire a lawyer to represent you, you should learn why this level of commitment and availability is important to you as a client.
Commitment to Your Case
You naturally want a lawyer who will dedicate his or her time to your legal matter. A family law attorney who has a direct hand in building your case from the ground up will make a better argument in court and have the best chance of getting you the legal results you want.
Before you pay the retainer fee, you should ask the attorney how much time he or she will dedicate to working your case and how much of the case’s tasks will be handed off to paralegals or assistants. While this peripheral staff undoubtedly plays a key role in your success, they cannot take the place of a skilled family lawyer. Even more, you are not paying primarily for their services but rather those of the attorney.
If your lawyer indicates that he or she will not be directly involved or demonstrates anything less than a total commitment to your case, you may be justified in seeking counsel with another attorney. A committed family lawyer will be a better investment of your time, money, and concern.
You also want a family lawyer who is available to you on a regular basis. Your attorney is presumably very busy throughout the typical work day. You may not be his or her only client being represented in court.
Still, it is not unreasonable to expect the attorney to return your phone calls or answer your emails within 24 hours. If the lawyer delays in getting back to you or outright ignores you, you should consider hiring another attorney to take your case.
A committed and available family law attorney can be your best ally during your case. Before you pay the retainer for legal representation, you should learn why dedication and availability are crucial to a good client-attorney relationship.
The Importance of Retaining an Experienced Family Lawyer
Lawyers practice in specialized areas of the law. Once they graduate from law school, they can practice bankruptcy, commercial, real estate, criminal defense, DUI, and other types of law and dedicate their entire careers to handling cases in those specialties.
Because the different legal areas differ in key ways, it is important that you choose an experienced lawyer who practices family law if you plan to get divorced, adopt a baby, enter a domestic partnership, or pursue another case in this specialty. You can hire the right family law attorney and get the results of your case that you want by realizing the advantages that come with hiring experienced representation.
Knowledge of State Family Laws
Every state has different laws when it comes to family legal matters. The mandates found in one state may not apply to the state in which you live or plan to file your case. Because the laws always seem to change, you may not know what the newest regulations are or how they apply to your particular legal matter.
Instead of running afoul of the judge or jury by assuming old laws are still in place, you can get the experience and knowledgeable representation you need by hiring a family law attorney. The attorney should know the state regulations and how they can be used to your advantage. You avoid following laws that are no longer in use and could put the outcome you want at risk.
Knowledgeable of Local Resources
An experienced family attorney also should know what local resources are available to you during your case. Your lawyer can refer you to a safe house, for example, if you are the victim of domestic violence. You could get a referral to therapeutic services that can help you identify and document traumas that you need for evidence.
Your attorney can even help you save money while your family law case goes to court. For example, he or she should know the most affordable courier services to use or how to file the least amount of paperwork with the clerk so you avoid having to pay higher court costs. A novice attorney may not know these little tricks that can make a big impact on your case.
An experienced family law attorney offers you advantages you cannot find with lawyers outside of this legal specialty. You can get the fastest and most productive outcome by choosing an experienced family lawyer.