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How to Find a Family Lawyer

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What Does a Family Law Attorney Do?

Family lawyers can assist with domestic relations issues, such as: marriage (prenuptial agreements, for example), divorce, child custody arrangements, alimony, adoptions, surrogacy, juvenile law issues (legal proceedings relating to minors), child protective proceedings and paternity proceedings.

Often, lawyers will specialize in one of these areas, rather than work with all of them. This allows them to gain particular expertise. For example, a family law attorney may work primarily handling divorce cases, and gain a reputation as a divorce lawyer.

They may also handle the most closely related types of cases, such as those dealing with alimony and with child custody and visitation arrangements. A lawyer should be clear on exactly what types of legal issues they will handle for you. So how do you find a family lawyer? What questions should you be prepared to ask them?

What are Some Questions You Can Ask a Family Lawyer?

If you are searching for a family lawyer, it is important to determine the quality of the lawyer, and their ability to represent your interests.

First, you should ask the lawyer about their experience handling cases like yours. If they handle child custody cases, for example, you might ask them about how many years they have been handling custody cases, and how many custody cases they’ve handled overall, as well as what their rate of success has been.

You may also want to ask other people about the lawyer’s reputation, and research them online. Feeling comfortable with your attorney is important, not only because they represent your interests in a very important matter, but because you will need to pay them a significant amount of money.

Second, you should ask the attorney if they have a history of being disciplined for unethical conduct. You can also check for yourself whether the attorney has any history of disciplinary action.

Attorneys are liable to their state’s board of professional responsibility, and if they have been disciplined for inappropriate behavior, it is a matter of public record. A search for the attorney’s name on your state board of professional responsibility website should reveal any such disciplinary history.

Third, it is very important to be clear about legal fees upfront. A reputable lawyer should be clear about this for you. However, there are several types of fee arrangements to be aware of:

  • Hourly Rate: this is the type of fee arrangement that is most likely with a family law attorney. The lawyer will have a typical hourly rate. Whenever they work on your case, whether it be for a phone call, writing a letter on your behalf or representing you in court, they will charge by the hour.
  • Contingency Fee: these are arrangements in which a lawyer agrees to take a percentage of the monetary settlement their client eventually receives in court. It should be noted that these are very rarely used by family law attorneys.
  • Retainer Fee: attorneys will often charge fees upfront to retain their services. Work they do subsequently will then be deducted from the retainer at their hourly rate. If they do more work than what is covered by the retainer fee, they will then begin billing you by the hour.

Lastly, some of the questions you ask your attorney will differ based on the type of legal issue you need them for. For example, in a divorce case, you may want to know how many of their clients have received alimony. In a child custody case, you may want to know how many of their clients have received full custody.

The Importance of Family Mediation

Some lawyers are also trained as mediators, or can refer you to a mediator. Mediators can be specially licensed in family law issues. This type of mediator can help you to work out your legal issues without going to court.

Not only can this be less stressful and less contentious for the parties involved, if they are able to work together, but it may be less expensive than paying attorneys for both parties to take the case to court.

Many family courts will first make the involved parties attend mediation, before they go to trial. Since it is proven that mediation makes family issues less stressful, many judges want the parties to make a good faith effort to solve their issues through mediation before coming to court. If the judge does not require mediation, it is still a good idea to try it first. Ask your lawyer if they can help you explore mediation as your first option.

How Can I Get the Most Out of a Family Law Attorney’s Help?

Your attorney can do a better job for you if they have all the information. Hiding information from your lawyer that would be damaging to your case will likely come back to bite you, as the opposing party (often a spouse) may use that very information to damage your case, anyway. However, if your lawyer knows all the facts, even those that are damaging to you, they can take steps to remediate the damage.

Documentation is another important way to get the most out of your attorney. This means keeping records of phone calls, texts, emails and any other documentation that will prove your side of the case. These things can be invaluable when it comes to proving why you deserve the outcome you are seeking with your legal case.

Avoid making rash decisions, financial or otherwise, once your case. Particularly in divorce cases, you may be accused of hiding assets or squandering money from jointly held accounts, in an effort to keep a soon-to-be ex-spouse from getting the money. A court will look on this unfavorably, and it will make your attorney’s job more difficult.

Once you have picked a lawyer you are comfortable with, be sure to follow their advice. An experienced attorney can advise on what to do and not to do to make your case go more smoothly.

How Do I Find a Family Lawyer Near Me?

Family lawyers can cover a wide area of law, so most family lawyers specialize in one or two areas. Like, a divorce lawyer deals in pre-nuptial agreements as well as handling any separation. A child custody lawyer deals with parental custody and any issues with visitation.

So whether you have problems with divorce or want to adopt a child, contact the nearest family law attorney near you by submitting your case today.

Photo of page author Katie Hamblen

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 08-17-2018 12:54 PM PDT

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