Choosing the right Family Law Attorney for your situation can have multiple variables, depending on your case. For example, if your case is a high-value divorce with only the division of property at stake, you may want a lawyer with a lot of experience on complex accounting matters. If the parties are not working together well, then an attorney who can encourage less adversity to get the matter settled might be a better fit. Regardless of your individual circumstances, here are the top four things you should always look for in a Family Law attorney.
There is a reason it is called the “practice” of law, and there is also a reason that lawyers generally pick a specialty on which to focus their career. The longer a family lawyer has been practicing, the better they are. They have seen enough cases to anticipate the best strategies and can predict with increasing reliability how the case will end. When cases become complex, chances are they have done something similar in their long career and will know the right strategy to take. But always make sure that the bulk of their experience is in Family Law. Many attorneys will claim to have Family Law experience when in reality their practice is primarily criminal defense with a few uncontested divorces thrown in.
Of course, experienced Family Law attorneys can often be some of the most expensive and busiest lawyers, meaning you might feel as though your lawyer is not as available for the amount you’re paying. This should be addressed in the first few meetings. If your lawyer will be unavailable in court for a few days (a very common occurrence with Family Law attorneys), who can you speak to about your case? Perhaps there’s an associate attorney or senior paralegal? There are some compromises you may have to make in order to get an incredibly experienced attorney on your side.
Family Law is inherently awkward. Your personal details will often be on display, and there can be some uncomfortable truths that must be told during your case. Is the lawyer someone you can trust with these deeply intimate secrets? Do you feel that they are there to help you and not judge you, and keep your best interests in mind? It’s important to have good rapport and communication with your lawyer. It is the best way to build up trust between the two individuals. The lawyer can trust that their client is being honest with them, and there will not be any embarrassing surprises in front of a judge at a final hearing. And the client can trust the lawyer enough to open up to them about some of the more embarrassing aspects of their lawsuit if they exist.
Your lawyer should make you feel that you can open up to them and be straightforward about the facts of your case. Some things that can help this is their behavior: are they looking at you when you talk? Or are they typing out emails or reviewing documents? Do they frequently interrupt you, or do they let you tell your story? Check your gut when meeting with them to see if they are the right match for you.
Lawyers, above all, should be consummate professionals, keeping in mind all ethical guidelines. It can be difficult for you to know if the lawyer is a true professional in one meeting; but remember to check some basic things. Is there someone there to greet you? Are they prepared for your meeting? Are they giving you realistic outcomes and a full explanation of all your options? Beware of the lawyer who promises you a quick case or guarantees an outcome. It is a lawyer’s duty to manage your expectations and tell you the truth – even if they know it is not what you want to hear.
When it comes to their reputation, do not be afraid to do some homework on the lawyer. Check out their state bar history – have there been any disciplinary actions? If so, what were they about? How recent were they? Do other lawyers speak highly of them? Are there any reviews online about how they treat their clients? All of these would go to the professionalism of the attorney and can give you a good idea of how they would treat you during their representation.
When meeting with your attorney, remember that you are the client that will be paying the attorney; they will be the person helping you. Therefore, do not hesitate to ask some probing questions about their practice. Hiring a Family Law attorney is not cheap, but it can be a very smart investment – if you make the right choice. Do your homework and follow your instincts, and chances are you won’t go wrong.
Technology is changing all industries, and Family Law is no different. Make sure that your lawyer is up to date with the latest technology that can help you manage your Parenting Plan after the divorce is complete. Some of these tools may be a necessary part of parenting post-divorce. Examples include:
A solution to help divorced parents manage all the details that come with shared parenting. This application includes a co-parenting calendar, message boards, and expense logs to reduce the stress of managing communication and family plans across separate households.
A remote alcohol monitoring system to support accountability for sobriety and child safety in cases that involve Alcohol Use Disorder. This comprehensive breathalyzer system includes technology such as tamper detection, facial recognition, and real-time alerts to ensure sober and safe parenting time.
A good Family Law attorney will be aware of and recommend tools such as Our Family Wizard and Soberlink. Not only do these tools reduce litigation for your attorney, giving them more time to focus on your case, they also make life easier for you, which is beneficial during this already stressful time. Don’t forget to ask your attorney about their knowledge of the latest Family Law technology.
Danielle Prado, an experienced family lawyer licensed in Texas, England, and Wales.
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