Questions to Ask Your Family Attorney During a Consultation
If you find yourself embroiled in a family dispute, you should consider seeking legal counsel from an established family attorney.
A family attorney can assist with dealing in matters of divorce, legal separation, child custody, child support, paternity, restraining orders, spousal support, premarital agreements, wills and trusts, and estate planning. No matter what the legal issue may be, it’s crucial to have the right representation when you need it the most.
Before making the choice to hire a family law attorney, it’s important to conduct an interview so you may thoroughly ensure your goals for the case will be met.
The Top Questions to Ask Your Family Attorney
Because lawyers often provide a free or low-cost consultation to discuss case details and possible avenues to pursue, you should take that opportunity to ask several questions. They will help you determine not only the merit of your case, but whether that attorney may be the right one for you.
While your questions may vary depending on the type of situation you need assistance with, here are the top questions to ask your family attorney during a consultation:
What is your level of experience?
Depending on your circumstances, you may prefer to have a veteran attorney on your side. At the same time, you want to make sure your attorney is well-versed in the law when it concerns family affairs.
Find out too whether the attorney has dealt more in one type of case over another, what their track record is, and how often their cases wound up settling outside of court instead. Most importantly, make sure this attorney is not only compatible with defending your case, but also bringing something unique to it.
What type of cases do you usually handle and who is your typical client?
Relating somewhat to the first question, you will want to know if your attorney will be right for the job. For example, if your case is for an adoption, you might want to reconsider if your attorney deals primarily with estate planning.
It’s also important to find out who their typical client is, because if that attorney deals primarily with corporate clients or clients far beyond your financial means, they may not be used to handling a client like you or your best interests.
What are my options?
Another question to ask the attorneys you meet with that is related to the first one is what your options are. You should now know how the attorney or firm prefer to manage custody cases, but you should also find out if they’re giving you the whole picture.
While this might be something you will want to ask every attorney you meet with, you may want to dig a little more into this specifically with any attorney that seems overly zealous to get you into litigation.
Am I being reasonable?
Divorce is a time of extreme emotional strain. When children are involved it’s that much more amplified.
When emotions run high it sometimes clouds judgment. What you may feel is extremely reasonable in regards to your assumptions of how much parenting time you will have compared to your ex-spouse, attorneys may not agree.
I think the most important questions for a parent to ask a divorce attorney at the very beginning of a litigation is whether the attorney thinks that parent’s idea for a custody/parenting time arrangement is fair or not. Most parties come to an attorney with an idea as to what the custody/parenting time arrangement should be. If the party can provide his/her attorney with that idea and explain why they think it is fair, the attorney can then provide feedback and let the party know the likelihood of that custody or parenting time schedule being put into place by a Court or by agreement.
Getting on the same page with the attorney you hire right from the start will only make the entire process that much smoother.
How Long Does it Take You to Respond to Calls and Emails?
You need someone who is going to keep you up to date with information concerning your case. At the very least, your lawyer should be able to call you back when they miss your call or answer an email within 24 hours.
When you’re asking the lawyer about how long they take to answer you back you may also want to talk to them about their preferred contact method. Chances are that using it will get you a faster response.
Will Anyone Else be Working on My Case?
Depending on how complicated your case is, the attorney you’re talking to on the phone may not be the only one working on it. Sometimes they will bring on extra associates and paralegals. If things are really dicey then a personal investigator may get involved.
The reason why you want to ask about these individuals is that you want to make sure that they are experienced. You also want to find out how much adding them on will cost and if your attorney has dealt with them in the past.
“How Do You Charge Clients? Can You Provide Me With An Estimate For My Case?”
During your consultation, ask how the attorney typically charges clients. Is there an hourly rate? Do they work on a retainer or a flat fee? What other costs will be involved in your case (court costs, outside consultants, travel expenses, etc.)? A good family lawyer will be upfront about the costs involved and how the billing process works.
If you are thinking of hiring a lawyer for a flat-fee arrangement, find out what services are included in the scope of the agreement, and what will happen if your legal needs expand outside that scope.
If the attorney charges an hourly rate, you should ask how much cases like yours typically cost. While most family lawyers can provide you with a ballpark estimate for your case, a good attorney will also explain the many factors that could potentially affect the cost of your case, such as the behavior of the opposing party and opposing counsel, facts of the case that are uncovered at a later date, and more.
Is the lawyer someone I can relate to and trust?
If you get a bad feeling during the initial consultation, trust your gut. It’s better to get a second opinion than to hire an attorney that is not the right fit for you, a decision that you will regret later. In fact, it’s never a bad idea to consult with two or three lawyers when before making your decision. In comparing one law firm against another, think about how the firm handled the screening and intake process of your case from the first contact to the present.
For example, when you first attempted contact, did you receive prompt service and attention? Or did your call go to voicemail? Was the person that you spoke to knowledgeable about family law matters such as child support modification and child custody? Did they ask probative questions that led you to believe that they were both experienced and professional? Did they take a special interest in you? Or did they try to get you off the phone as quickly as possible? Did they promptly send you an intake form for you to complete? Did they make the scheduling process simple and efficient? After the initial consultation, did they follow up with you in any manner? All of these factors can help you assess the level of attention that you will likely receive at the law firm in question should you hire them to represent you. The best firms have professional, experienced staff members ready to assist you at a moment’s notice.