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When choos­ing a fam­ily law attor­ney to rep­re­sent you, you may be won­der­ing whether you even want to hire a lawyer. Hir­ing a knowl­edge­able divorce and fam­ily law attor­ney will indeed help you nav­i­gate the divorce and child cus­tody issues that must be addressed in your fam­ily law case. An expe­ri­enced divorce attor­ney, one who lis­tens care­fully and is respon­sive to your con­cerns, will guide you through each pro­ce­dure, will allay your fears, and will elim­i­nate con­fu­sion by bring­ing order to the process.

Not every lawyer will be knowl­edge­able enough or expe­ri­enced enough to fit the bill, how­ever, so you need to be very selec­tive. Your future is on the line. You need solid, reli­able, effec­tive legal rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Hir­ing a lawyer who doesn’t answer or return your tele­phone calls and emails, who doesn’t keep you apprised of what is hap­pen­ing in your case, or who han­dles the case in a man­ner that causes you addi­tional prob­lems, will make your life mis­er­able. Most lawyers will make you feel more con­fi­dent because you’ll get the legal sup­port you need at a time when you may be feel­ing quite vul­ner­a­ble. What we want is for you to choose the best divorce attor­ney pos­si­ble for your unique circumstances.

The Kind of Per­son You Should Choose.

Keep in mind that you are select­ing a legal advi­sor. You will be entrust­ing that indi­vid­ual with infor­ma­tion about almost every aspect of your per­sonal life — some good, some not so good. It stands to rea­son that you would want to select a lawyer with the qual­i­ties and char­ac­ter­is­tics that you find admirable, such as hon­esty, reli­a­bil­ity, sin­cer­ity, intel­li­gence, and lead­er­ship. A pos­i­tive sense of well- being flows from an affil­i­a­tion with the fam­ily lawyer who is best suited to your per­sonal needs. The lawyer you hire may pro­foundly affect the course of your life and your children’s lives, so be method­i­cal in your decision- making and do your homework.

Edu­cate your­self about the attor­ney and his or her law firm. Pre­pare a list of ques­tions to ask each lawyer can­di­date, then com­pare and reflect on the answers each attor­ney has given you. Don’t sim­ply hire the first attor­ney that you inter­view because he or she seemed nice enough. If you do, you will never be cer­tain that you made a good deci­sion. That uncer­tainty can under­mine your con­fi­dence in the attorney’s han­dling of your case. (Even if you go full cir­cle and do indeed hire the attor­ney you first con­sulted with, you will know that he or she is the right lawyer for you because you met the com­pe­ti­tion and they didn’t match your expec­ta­tions.) Don’t allow your­self to be pres­sured into mak­ing a deci­sion imme­di­ately, with­out meet­ing with a few other lawyers. Be cau­tiously selec­tive, this is one of the most impor­tant deci­sions you will ever make.

When you choose a lawyer, using the tech­niques that we rec­om­mend on our web­site, then you should be ready to take your divorce or child cus­tody mat­ter through each step in the process with less dif­fi­culty and greater con­fi­dence. By asso­ci­at­ing with a lawyer who under­stands fam­ily law, as well as human nature, you will pro­tect your men­tal and emo­tional health through­out the divorce process.

An Attor­ney Who Focuses on Your Rights and Interests.

Retain­ing an attor­ney can really make a dif­fer­ence in how the case pro­ceeds and how you fare in the end. Should you rep­re­sent your­self, your lack of knowl­edge in the law can really hurt your case. Seri­ous life- changing mis­takes can eas­ily be made and there are no do- overs in divorce. If, for exam­ple, you were to accept a set­tle­ment pro­posal from your spouse with­out ever hav­ing an attor­ney review the papers and advo­cate for your rights and inter­ests, then you could end up with much less in assets and sup­port. You could end up on the short end of the stick and never even know what hap­pened. By the time you dis­cover the neg­a­tive results of the set­tle­ment agree­ment, it’s too late — the deal is done.

In the divorce, you are a party to a law­suit and you have an adver­sary. You may still place trust in your spouse’s abil­ity to do the right thing for you, but this is not the time to rely on his or her good will. Actu­ally, doing so would be fool­hardy. Here are three good points to remem­ber: First, the other party may be con­sult­ing with a fam­ily law attor­ney (you’d be bet­ter off mak­ing that assump­tion, even when your spouse denies hav­ing done so). Sec­ond, do not go into a divorce believ­ing that if nei­ther of you has an attor­ney, it will be a fair fight. Third, don’t assume that your spouse’s set­tle­ment offer is fair and equi­table because he or she says it is.

We’ve pro­vided a lot of legal infor­ma­tion for you on our web­site. Look for the answers to your ques­tions as they occur to you, and keep learn­ing how the law applies to your case. We strongly rec­om­mend that you meet at least once with a fam­ily law attor­ney to make sure that your under­stand­ing of what the law is, and how it applies to your case, is the cor­rect under­stand­ing. As you would expect, your mis­taken assump­tions about the law could also hurt your case.

Don’t Delay – Meet the Attorney.

You may find your­self want­ing to put off mak­ing that ini­tial appoint­ment with a lawyer. Pro­cras­ti­na­tion only inter­feres with your access to the legal advice you really do need, and need now.

Attor­neys under­stand the emo­tional aspects of divorce, which can be an over­whelm­ing expe­ri­ence. There are feel­ings of hurt, anger, grief, jeal­ousy, sor­row, denial, and even dis­may. An expe­ri­enced attor­ney will fully Don’t put off meet­ing the attor­ney – sched­ule the ini­tial meet­ing early on. appre­ci­ate how dif­fi­cult it can be for you to seek help from a per­fect stranger on per­sonal mat­ters involv­ing your family.

But delay­ing a visit to the lawyer is, more often than not, a very big mis­take. Maybe you are in denial about the end of your mar­riage. Do any of these neg­a­tive thoughts ring true for you?

My mar­riage isn’t so bad. I’m cer­tain that things will get bet­ter soon.”

Lawyers scare me to death. I’d feel too intim­i­dated to meet with one on my own.”

I can’t talk to a com­plete stranger about every­thing I’m deal­ing with, I’ll just fall apart.”

I can­not cope as it is. There is no way that I can afford the fees that lawyers charge.”

Well, neces­sity is the mother of inven­tion. Once you’ve decided that you need a lawyer, you should be able to find ways to over­come the men­tal, emo­tional, and finan­cial bar­ri­ers, and get the best legal rep­re­sen­ta­tion you can for yourself.

How the Attor­ney Will Help.

If you don’t under­stand what lawyers do, or don’t under­stand why you might need to hire one, then you are unaware of the spe­cial­ized knowl­edge and skills that set attor­neys apart from non- lawyers. Fur­ther­more, you need to appre­ci­ate that fam­ily law prac­tice is loaded with highly tech­ni­cal rules. If you don’t under­stand all of the rules involved and how they affect you as a party to a law­suit, then you are unlikely to get the results you want from your case.

You might be under the impres­sion that the only time you need a lawyer is when you go to court. But prop­erly timed legal advice may pre­vent prob­lems from occur­ring, cut­ting off unwanted results. Well- timed legal advice may also dimin­ish the scope of exist­ing issues, or pre­vent issues from becom­ing more divi­sive. Using the ser­vices of a good lawyer as a pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sure may save you time, money, and grief. Once you’ve decided that you need a lawyer, make the appoint­ment. Don’t pro­cras­ti­nate, sched­ule the meet­ing for as soon as possible.

The Process of Find­ing the Right Lawyer.

Choos­ing an attor­ney is an impor­tant deci­sion for you, but it isn’t your first impor­tant deci­sion and cer­tainly won’t be your last. Think of the selec­tion process as a problem- solving chal­lenge. You can do this, and here are a few tips to help you along the way:

1. Deter­mine what your pri­or­i­ties are for the legal ser­vices you’ll seek.

2. Deter­mine how you will gather infor­ma­tion about lawyers, the long list, and then nar­row that down to those who are most likely to meet your expectations.

3. Ded­i­cate the time and effort nec­es­sary to find a lawyer who will do the best job for you.

4. Ask your friends or fam­ily mem­bers for a per­sonal refer­ral to an attorney.

5. Learn the lawyer’s rep­u­ta­tion for spe­cial­ized skills.

6. Learn the law firm’s rep­u­ta­tion in the community.

7. Deter­mine whether you can trust this per­son with your future.

Gather Infor­ma­tion About Fam­ily Law Attor­neys in Your Area.

Gath­er­ing infor­ma­tion about fam­ily lawyers in your area starts eas­ily enough. You start by ask­ing ques­tions. Ask the peo­ple you trust and respect for leads to lawyers, or leads to other peo­ple who may have attor­ney rec­om­men­da­tions. Talk to your rel­a­tives, your friends and neigh­bors, your co- workers, and even your busi­ness con­tacts about their attor­neys and about attor­neys who have rep­re­sented peo­ple that they know. Clergy and men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als who pro­vide mar­riage coun­sel­ing or cou­ples’ cri­sis coun­sel­ing are often good sources of infor­ma­tion as well.

Do you know peo­ple who have been through a divorce? They may be your most valu­able asset when choos­ing an attor­ney. After all, they’ve been in your shoes, they know what you’ll be going through, and they under­stand what you’ll need from your attor­ney, par­tic­u­larly in light of an oppos­ing coun­sel. Also, ask­ing for attor­neys’ rec­om­men­da­tions is very use­ful in gain­ing insight about a fam­ily lawyer’s rep­u­ta­tion in the legal community.

State Bar of Florida, Vol­un­teer Lawyers, and County Bar Asso­ci­a­tions. One of the first places to find a lawyer is through the State Bar of Florida. Through the state bar’s web­site, you can select the type of law and the geo­graphic region for a list of attor­neys who sat­isfy your search cri­te­ria. The State Bar of Florida also has a Fam­ily Law Sec­tion with attor­ney mem­bers statewide who share an inter­est in the law of domes­tic relations.

The Vol­un­teer Lawyers Pro­gram (VLP) may be another lawyer resource for you. Lawyers vol­un­teer their time to assist indi­vid­u­als who have signed up for VLP legal ser­vices. These attor­neys pro­vide their time pro bono, that is free or at a reduced rate, and some do take on fam­ily law cases. Because the vol­un­teer pro­gram has min­i­mal resources, you shouldn’t rely on get­ting free legal assis­tance. There are more requests for VLP ser­vices than there are attor­neys avail­able to pro­vide help.

Addi­tion­ally, many local bar asso­ci­a­tions have lawyer refer­ral ser­vices. The Dade County Bar Asso­ci­a­tion has a lawyer refer­ral ser­vice. Check with your local county bar asso­ci­a­tion for pos­si­ble attor­ney refer­rals in your com­mu­nity. Cour­t­house Per­son­nel, Legal Ads, Direc­to­ries, and Brochures. A good place to get infor­ma­tion is from the cour­t­house per­son­nel who reg­u­larly inter­act with local attor­neys. Although court per­son­nel can­not make spe­cific rec­om­men­da­tions or offer legal advice, they can help point you in the right direction.

Another resource is the Martindale- Hubbell Law Direc­tory of lawyers. Adver­tise­ments and direc­to­ries pro­vide addi­tional infor­ma­tion about the kinds of cases a lawyer han­dles, where he or she attended law school, and the col­leagues asso­ci­ated with the lawyer’s prac­tice. When you begin vis­it­ing lawyers at their offices, always ask for a firm brochure to take home with you. Firm brochures will give you addi­tional insight into the firm’s oper­a­tions and what it aspires to accom­plish for clients.

Be sure their prac­tice is focused on Divorce and Fam­ily Law.

You want advice from the lawyer who stays cur­rent with changes in the law of prop­erty, asset and debt dis­tri­b­u­tion, child cus­tody and vis­i­ta­tion, child sup­port, and spousal main­te­nance (alimony). Legal advice from a fam­ily law prac­ti­tioner will be custom- tailored to your needs and goals. An in- depth under­stand­ing of domes­tic rela­tions law results in more cre­ative and more flex­i­ble solu­tions to prob­lems as they arise. You need to tar­get the most com­plex issues in your case before set­tling on the lawyer who could most prop­erly advise you.

Look­ing for the Best Match.

Now that you have a list of pos­si­ble attor­neys, it is vital that you meet any attor­ney who was rec­om­mended to you before you make your deci­sion. Your first con­tact with the lawyer’s office will prob­a­bly be by decid­ing on a fam­ily law attor­ney can leave you with many ques­tions. tele­phone. Some­times the tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion alone is suf­fi­cient to deter­mine whether a face- to- face con­sul­ta­tion should be sched­uled. If you decide to attend an ini­tial meet­ing, plan to con­duct your own inter­view of the lawyer. You need to assess whether your needs will be under­stood and ade­quately addressed by this par­tic­u­lar lawyer. No mat­ter how won­der­ful the rec­om­men­da­tion of a par­tic­u­lar lawyer was, your selec­tion of coun­sel is a highly per­sonal mat­ter. This is your deci­sion, your case, your life. When you hire an attor­ney, you entrust that per­son to safe­guard your rights and inter­ests at a time of emo­tional upheaval for you. The attor­ney you decide to hire needs to struc­ture a set­tle­ment that is as favor­able to you as pos­si­ble, and needs to advise you on highly tech­ni­cal mat­ters, such as the poten­tial tax con­se­quences of any pro­posed settlement.

Your per­cep­tion of who the lawyer is as a per­son will be extremely impor­tant in pre­dict­ing how much and what kind of atten­tion the lawyer will give to your case. The Ini­tial Con­sul­ta­tion. Imag­ine that it is your first meet­ing with the attor­ney. If he or she doesn’t strike you as some­one you can be con­fi­dent in, then keep look­ing. If the per­son doesn’t seem to be one who will zeal­ously rep­re­sent your best inter­ests, then keep look­ing. If the lawyer doesn’t appear to be some­one who can help move your case toward a res­o­lu­tion effi­ciently and sen­si­tively, then keep look­ing. If the meet­ing was stilted and you never had a sense of rap­port, or the lawyer wasn’t very atten­tive to your ques­tions and con­cerns, then keep look­ing. You do not want to hire a lawyer who is obvi­ously dis­or­ga­nized, who is dif­fi­cult to under­stand and log­i­cally fol­low, or who you sus­pect does not know the field of fam­ily law very well.

You Should Trust Your First Impres­sions. Our first impres­sions are often our last­ing impres­sions. If at the first meet­ing you feel uncom­fort­able or put off by the lawyer’s per­sonal style or prac­tice phi­los­o­phy, then you prob­a­bly won’t change your mind as time goes by. Select­ing a lawyer is a mat­ter of per­sonal taste, and you need some­one you can relate to. You know that your fam­ily law case will sig­nif­i­cantly affect you, both emo­tion­ally and finan­cially. Don’t make a chal­leng­ing time in your life more dif­fi­cult by choos­ing an attor­ney that you really don’t like and don’t con­nect with.

Attor­ney Fees and Firm Poli­cies. Pay very care­ful atten­tion to the lawyer’s responses to your ques­tions about the firm’s poli­cies and attor­ney fees. The attorney’s billing and col­lec­tion poli­cies should be clearly explained to you:

– Will you be billed at an hourly rate? What is that rate? Does it vary among per­son­nel in the law firm?

– Are dif­fer­ent rates charged for office work and court­room appearances?

– How will expenses such as pho­to­copy­ing, sec­re­tar­ial time, postage and the like be billed?

– Are you to pay in advance of receiv­ing services?

– Is there a retainer fee (ini­tial advance deposit)? Is it refund­able if the work is ter­mi­nated or com­pleted before the entire retainer has been used?

– Is a flat fee (fixed price for a spe­cific legal task) avail­able for any services?

– Will the billing state­ments be suf­fi­ciently detailed for you to iden­tify the exact work that has been performed?

– What will be included in the writ­ten fee agree­ment between you and the attorney?

With divorce cases, when issues are so often emo­tion­ally charged, clients are fre­quently under great stress. Under those cir­cum­stances, issues over legal fees can really poi­son the attorney- client rela­tion­ship when mis­un­der­stand­ings and mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tions are not cleared up promptly.

You should know from the very begin­ning pre­cisely how you will be charged for work done on your case. What addi­tional fees might be nec­es­sary to your case, and how you are expected to pay your bill. Vague answers to your ques­tions about fees and costs are unac­cept­able. All lawyers should be able to tell you about costs involved with han­dling your case, and an expe­ri­enced lawyer will tell you every­thing you need to know about fees so you can rea­son­ably make an edu­cated hir­ing decision.

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