Family law is the branch of civil law dealing with all areas of domestic law. Cases predominantly involve family-related issues that arise during marriage and divorce, including child custody, father’s rights, spousal abuse, adoption, surrogacy, child abuse and paternity. In the case of divorce, a couple may choose to use one lawyer to save costs, but it’s imperative that the lawyer be objective.
The process of getting divorced is frustrating and expensive. If you can find the right family law firm to assist you through the process, without incurring unnecessary stress and expenses, that’s half the battle. There is an unlimited supply of family lawyers available, but the true challenge is finding one that meets your individual needs.
When choosing a family lawyer, take the following into consideration:
1. Ideally, you want to pick a family attorney with whom you can build a long-term relationship, and who can cover all aspects of your family law needs.
2. Many family law attorneys practice in other fields. Family law is a specialization, so choose a lawyer that focuses on family law.
3. Since domestic issues are governed under each state’s law, what constitutes "family law" may vary from state to state.
Choose a family law attorney you can relate withAll family attorneys offer a consultation which is usually free. This is an opportunity to interview your candidate, but it also gives the attorney an opportunity to evaluate you and your case. Your first instinct is usually correct, so let the lawyer do the talking while you decide whether he or she seems dedicated, trustworthy and accessible. On your part, be honest and allow the lawyer to decide what is or is not in your favor.
Prepare yourself with questions when meeting with family law firmsA lawyer's time is valuable and you're probably being charged for every minute you consume. List all your questions and concerns prior to your meeting. Questions should include: how the lawyer communicates (phone, email, etc.), length of the process, and family law mediator options if they are needed. The lawyer can not and should not guarantee specific results, but pay attention to the analysis behind the lawyer's response to your case. It's important you understand what you need to do to make your relationship with your lawyer a successful one.
Ask about costs and additional fees for family law servicesHave the lawyer clearly explain any costs and additional fees that apply to your case. Your case may require experts, such as appraisers, actuaries, accountants, social workers or psychologists. Additionally, you may be charged filing fee, process server fees, administration costs and the like. Many costs are outside your control, but don't be afraid to ask about costs and fees at the initial consultation and throughout the process.
- If you hire the lawyer, you should expect to sign a retainer agreement that covers how you will be charged. Read and understand the document before you think about signing it. From the lawyer's point of view, a client who is unwilling to pay a retainer may be just as unwilling to pay for it down the road.
- If necessary, ask your family law attorney if payment plans are available.