Selecting a family law attorney for cases involving things like divorce, alimony, child custody and support, paternity, adoptions, and domestic violence is a critical decision, one that can have life-changing consequences. Family law cases are often complex and charged with emotion. It is imperative that you always have a legal professional that you trust to help you understand your rights and protect the interests of you and your family. Making the wrong decision when choosing a family lawyer can have serious, life-long consequences in regards to family separation and finances, causing years of headaches and heartaches. Given this, here are 5 tips for selecting a family law attorney, that can help you make the best choice for your needs.
- Do Your Research and Create a Short List
When searching for a good family law attorney, always start with doing your homework. You would not choose a home-services professional without first researching them, so why would you do anything less for a family lawyer to help you with your legal issues?
Begin by asking your friends and colleagues for their recommendations. If they have had a good prior relevant experience with a certain family law attorney, does that mean they are right for you? No, but it increases the odds and provides a much higher degree of confidence than say, a firm you might be familiar with through marketing and advertising. Continue with your research, taking notes as you go and making a short list.
Ask another attorney. They are great referral sources who are likely to have professional knowledge of a good family lawyer with the right qualifications to assist you. You can also contact your state’s bar association by visiting the Florida Bar Association.
As you create your short list, research your prospects thoroughly. Visit their website, read their online reviews. Google reviews are only one place to look. You can also visit websites like Avvo and FindLaw to find family law attorneys in your area with relevant experience and check out their profiles, reviews and more.
- Select a Family Law Attorney with Experience and Expertise
Key to your research is finding a family law attorney with the specific expertise and experience you require. Never make the mistake of assuming that a generalized law firm or a big one is the right one for a family law case. Always choose a family lawyer, ideally one with strong relevant experience in the specific area you need help with whether that is dissolution of marriage, child custody and time-sharing, parental rights, domestic abuse or something else.
Carefully examine how long each attorney on your short list has been practicing family law, as well as where they have been practicing it. The laws are different in every state and local family lawyers will often have better ideas how their courts tend to view certain information and how those kinds of things tend to affect outcomes.
Review the attorney’s honors, awards and citations, their positions of Leadership. Look at their websites and online reviews. Do they seem intelligent, competent and professional? As you continue with your research, you will ultimately be communicating with this individual. Do they seem to have strong grasp of your situation? Can they articulate a legal strategy? Can they provide you with example cases and outcomes and/or a personal referral?
- Choose a Family Lawyer You Feel Comfortable With
Because family law cases are so often complex and filled with emotion, it is imperative that you select a family law attorney you feel comfortable with. You will likely be sharing sensitive, personal information with this person, in some cases a lot of it. You want to find someone you like, who seems honest, with high degrees of compassion and empathy, but also with the experience, acumen, wisdom and sound judgement not to let emotions interfere with smart decision-making. In short, you must be able to trust this person, professionally and to a high degree, personally for emotional support. You may be spending a lot of time communicating and interacting with your attorney, and you want someone who makes that experience as positive as it can be, all the way around.
- Meet with Your Family Law Attorney Before Making a Final Decision
Of course, simply receiving a referral, researching your family law attorney’s credentials online and/or reading positive reviews, etc., is not enough. Even speaking on the phone can fall short of ensuring yourself that you are making the right choice. For this reason, it is recommended that you always meet with your family lawyer before making a final decision. Use the time to get answers to important questions about relevant qualifications and cases, current workload and timing, fees and billing practices, point of contact, communication, and potential outcomes, legal strategies and approach. Be sure to bring important documents with you to the meeting for the attorney to see. Take notes and don’t be shy about asking for a referral.
When you meet with the attorney, also take notice of how you are treated by support staff. Do you get a good feeling about them, as well? This is important, as you will likely be interacting with them, also.
- Carefully Review Your Engagement Letter Before Formalizing Your Agreement for Legal Services
After you’ve completed your research, met with the family attorneys you are considering, and made a tentative decision, make sure to carefully review the final, formal engagement letter for services that your chosen lawyer provides you, before signing and returning it. Be sure that all terms are as you discussed previously. If there are discrepancies, point them out and ask that they be amended. If there is any wording or agreement terms that you do not understand, ask the attorney to explain them. Do not attempt to correct the engagement letter yourself and sign, but rather, have the attorney adjust it and re-send a new corrected copy for you to sign and return.
By following these tips and performing your due diligence when selecting a family law attorney, you significantly improve your chances of having your case handled in the most professional, competent, least stressful, and most successful manner, possible. If you need legal assistance in a family law matter, contact the family law attorneys at Parra Harris Law. We are deeply experienced in most matters of divorce, custody and other complex areas of family law. Call us at (904) 900-1617 or email us at [email protected].