Finding the right family law attorney can make a massive difference in not only the outcome of your case but how you fare during an emotional time as well. It’s best to find an attorney that you feel you can build a trusting relationship, as you may have to impart sensitive information to them. On their side, the attorney should both understand your needs and be actively moving your case forward to its conclusion.
But first, let’s cover the basics.
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What is Family Law?
Family law is a branch of civil law that is completely separate from the criminal justice system. If you’re considering adopting a child, require a prenuptial agreement, or are looking to file for divorce, you can benefit from having a good family law attorney in your corner.
When Do I Need a Family Law Attorney?
There are several cases where the guidance of a family law attorney would be both welcome and warranted. If any of the following apply to you, you can benefit from a good family law attorney.
- You’re considering adopting a child
- You need guidance on child support and/or child custody
- You need to modify an existing divorce agreement
- You’re considering divorce or legal separation, including annulment of the marriage
- You’re considering a pre-or postnuptial agreement before a marriage
- You need assistance with a restraining order
How to Find the Right Family Law Attorney
The first step to finding a good family law attorney is knowing where to look. For this step, that means determining the venue — or where you’ll be filing your case. For most cases, this will either be where both parties live, or where the opposing party lives, though there are some exceptions for those residing in more than one state or those who are active military.
From there, you’ll want to know what your options are. You can do this in several ways, but some of the most reliable are:
The American Bar Association. The ABA maintains an active database of local bar associations. Many include a free consultation, and most will have referral services that will recommend qualified attorneys for your consideration.
Your state’s bar association website. Each state also keeps a database of attorneys on their bar association website. Many of these are searchable through a variety of filters. They may also list any disciplinary actions that were filed or otherwise taken against an attorney for improper conduct.
Referrals. If you’re already in contact with an attorney, you can ask for a referral to someone they would trust to handle your case.
Once you have your top choices listed out, you can do some additional research by looking up any public-facing information you can on them. This includes social media accounts, websites, and any mentions in the local news. This will help you get a better feel for who they are as a person as well as their communication style, both of which will be important as you build a working relationship with them.
From there, it’s time to start interviewing potential attorneys. It’s important to remember that the lawyer you choose will be your partner throughout your case, so take your time with this process. Make sure you choose an attorney you can communicate well with, as you’ll be sharing personal information with them throughout the case. Ask yourself questions such as “Do I feel that I can trust this person?” and “Did they explain things in ways which made sense to me?” after interviewing potential attorneys.
Always choose a lawyer, not a law firm. While there’s nothing wrong with having a professional relationship with a law firm, a relationship with a law partner, in particular, will serve you the best in the long run. Additionally, ensure that the lawyer you choose is prompt about appointments and willing to work within your budget before committing.
It’s okay to ask questions, such as what training and experience a potential attorney has. It’s also a good idea to ask if they feel they could handle your case in court if attempts at settlement should fail. In the end, you hold the power here — make sure you’re getting the expertise and experience you deserve by working with a professional law firm that can provide you with excellent legal representation.
Many of the reasons for needing a family law attorney are inherently stressful and emotional. You can help take some of that stress off of your shoulders by hiring a professional attorney with whom you feel you can trust and can communicate well throughout your case. Start by determining the county your case will be held in, then use trusted sources to create a shortlist of potential attorneys you can then interview.
When interviewing attorneys, be sure to ask any pressing questions you may have about their fees, their expertise, their training, and any other professional areas you feel are important. It’s also a good idea to ask yourself questions such as “Do I feel I can trust this person?” after the interview.
In the end, while it’s always useful to ask for advice, it’s important to make your own final decision. If everyone you’ve asked suggests a lawyer you don’t feel good about, don’t feel pressured to choose them over one you communicate well with. You deserve solid, professional representation from a lawyer you feel you can trust.