Things to Consider When Hiring a Family Law Lawyer

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.

Is a Lawyer Required for Every Workers Comp Claim?

The overall purpose of the workers compensation laws in Pennsylvania is to provide a means to ensure workers are fairly compensated for the expenses associated with workplace injury, without identifying blame for an accident. As such, many workers can obtain immediate medical attention after an injury at work as soon as the employer is notified of the accident. It is common for a worker who requires basic medical attention for relatively minor injuries to receive full care without ever completing a claim form or paying a bill.

Unfortunately, not all workplace injuries are straightforward. Many involve serious injuries that require extensive time away from work. When injuries are significant to severe-or in cases where claims are not considered valid-injury victims need the help of a Pennsylvania workers comp lawyer.

When a lawyer may be needed

The following are just a few examples of cases when an injured worker may need experienced legal assistance to help with a claim:

Denied claims. Your employer or the insurance company may deny your claim if they believe it to be invalid. In fact, state law does define claims to be invalid under certain situations-such as if they believe your injury was intentionally self-inflicted, or you were engaged in illegal activities (use of illegal drugs is a common allegation). Although the burden of proof is on the parties making these allegations, you need an experienced workers comp attorney to ensure your rights are protected.

Reduced claims. While the fact of your accident may not be denied, your employer or the insurance company may only approve a portion of the expenses cited in your claim. Skilled workers comp lawyers can help you collect the evidence required to prove the full value of your claim and either negotiate a fair settlement or appeal the decision.

Occupational injuries and illnesses. Not all workplace injuries are the result of a specific accident. Many employees-from office workers with repetitive stress injuries to laboratory workers exposed to toxic chemicals-develop their conditions over time. State workers comp law provides a complex set of schedules that identify covered conditions. You typically need a skilled attorney to navigate the rules and develop a case that proves your claims to be valid under the law.

The bottom line is that anyone experiencing problems with a claim or uncertain of how to proceed should seek advice from an attorney specifically experienced in Pennsylvania state law. In many cases, an initial consultation is free, after which many attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis. You pay no legal fees unless you receive compensation for your case.

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No Lawyer Required – Small Claims Court

Your best friend, or someone you thought of as a friend, asked you for a loan of $2,500.00. You had the money, and you liked the guy, so you said okay. Two months have passed, and he bought a new house. You know he’s not hurting. You called him after you heard about the house and asked when he was going to pay you back. He said he had huge expenses now because of the new house. He said soon. Two weeks later you called again. Again he said soon. You just put the phone down. You’re tired of calling. He said soon again. What to do next?

This situation sounds like a case for small claims court. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Letter

Write your friend a letter. Tell him that he has two weeks to pay you back. Tell him you want to resolve his payment to you in a friendly manner, but if you do not receive a check within two weeks, you will see him in small claims court.

We’re hoping that the letter resolves the non-payment problem. If it does not, you’ll have to continue to step two.

2. File a claim

Go to your local small claims court and complete the forms. You can probably download the forms from your county’s small claims website. Submit the forms to the small claims court. The court will schedule a hearing.

3. Service of process

Your friend has become the defendant. He must be served at least 15 days before the hearing date if the defendant lives in San Francisco county. If the defendant does not live in the county, s/he must be served at least 20 days before the hearing date. A capable adult must serve a true copy of the claim. You cannot serve the defendant.

4. Evidence

You next gather all evidence to submit at the hearing. Evidence would include a copy of the cancelled check that you gave your friend and dates and notes of all phone calls that you made to him. You may want to take a photo of his new house.

5. At the hearing

Small claims courts are generally much more informal that other courts. The judge will ask you questions, and then s/he’ll ask your friend, the defendant, questions.

If you have presented the situation with evidence, the judge will probably rule in your favor.

You’ve won your case, and your friend is now going to pay you back, but suppose he doesn’t. Suppose he is a real jerk and has decided that he wants you to have to work just a little harder to get your money back.

6. Collecting a judgment

You have to collect the judgment. The defendant may pay the amount directly to the court. If the defendant does not have the money, the defendant may have to pay installments.

If your friend refuses to pay, you can complete an Application and Order for Appearance and Examination which would require your friend to appear in small claims court to have his income and resources examined.

You could also consider wage garnishment by completing a Writ of Execution. This writ could also levy your friend’s checking or other bank account.

If your friend has a business with a cash register, a sheriff can go to the business for a till tap. The sheriff can take enough money from the cash register to pay the judgment debt. The typical sheriff’s fee for a till tap is $85.00. We hope your friend doesn’t put you in this situation, but if you are ever in this situation, the purpose of small claims courts is to resolve small problems without the expense of an attorney. This is the do it yourself legal remedy.

Disclaimer: This article is not to be considered legal advice. If you need legal advice, seek out a licensed attorney. Remember that small claims courts do not require an attorney. If, however, the losing defendant appeals the small claims court’s decision, the new venue is a superior court. In a superior court, you will need an attorney.

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