A family law lawyer specializes in matters relating to issues that surround the family. These can include marriage, divorce, child support, spousal alimony, guardianship, adoption, domestic violence and child abuse.
Choosing a family law lawyer is an important decision, especially when dealing with child abuse and domestic violence. These legal issues are highly-charged events that require attorneys who are well-versed in domestic relations law and child advocacy.
Divorce can also be an emotionally-volatile arena that requires lawyers who can help both parties work through their differences while obtaining a fair settlement. When children are involved it is important to work with attorneys who will fight for the rights of minor children to ensure adequate child support is provided.
Issues related to family law often require clients to work closely with their chosen lawyer. It is best to determine what qualities you prefer before interviewing attorneys. Do you prefer a male or female lawyer? Do you require an aggressive attorney or one who remains calm? Do you need a lawyer with years of experience of would a recent law school graduate suffice?
It can be helpful to create a list of questions, concerns, and the desired outcome. Organize all records pertaining to the legal issue. For example, divorce lawyers will require financial records, real estate deeds, automobile titles, current and previous years’ tax returns, and information surrounding minor children.
It can be beneficial to interview three or more attorneys to determine which is best suited for your needs. Most law firms offer gratis meet-and-greet consultations while others assess a minimal fee. When arranging appointments inquire about initial consultation fees and what documents should be brought to the meeting.
During the meeting it is important to determine cost estimates. Family law lawyers normally require clients to provide an upfront retainer. This typically ranges between 25- and 50-percent of expected costs.
Legal fees are usually assessed at an hourly rate, but some cases are charged as a flat fee. Cases requiring extensive research and court appearances are typically billed hourly. Cases involving minimal work, such as a legal name change, are billed at a flat rate.
Law firms also assess backend fees to cover the cost of phone consultations, court filing fees, copying and faxing documents, and postage fees. Some attorneys deduct these costs from the retainer, while others remit monthly invoices.
The majority of family law lawyers require payment at the time services are rendered. However, some will allow clients to develop a payment plan. It is important to determine payment schedules to ensure you can comply. When payment plans are allowed, it is smart to obtain the plan in writing so that all parties understand payment amounts and due dates.
Individuals who require services from a family law lawyer, but cannot afford legal fees may qualify for pro bono services. Much depends on earned income and circumstances surrounding the case.
If possible, obtain family law lawyer referrals from family or friends. This can minimize time spent searching for or consulting with attorneys. Those unable to obtain referrals can utilize the Internet or telephone directories to locate law firms.
Another source for locating reputable attorneys is the American Bar Association website at abanet.org. The ABA does not offer recommendations, but instead publish a list of nationwide family law lawyers who are in good standing with the organization.