The fact of the matter is that even though no two fact patterns are the same and of course, some situations are unique, a truly experienced family law attorney is going to have a good knowledge of the law and its different parts and how best family law works. So even if the family attorney being considered has not handled a case before that is “exactly” like the one you have, they will most likely have handled one that is similar in some sense and will be able to develop a solid plan to take it best forward.
You want to understand upfront just what the retainers are going to be, both billable and non-refundable. You want to know what the hourly rates are. You should grasp exactly what these rates cover and a close approximation of what the final cost is going to be. Of course, there are those not overly concerned with the cost of legal fees, but the truth of the matter is that everyone does have a limit to expenses! And you should also know whether you are going to be receiving a general bill or a detailed bill explaining the time spent working on the matter/ telephone fees/ LexisNexis fees/ mileage/ copies and any other costs. You should also know whether you will be billed for specific time invested or if they have a “minimum time increment,” a term told to us by laughlinlaw.ca/ can be a real sticking point. The point here is that you will want to understand precisely what it is you will be paying for!
There are those times that the case will be pretty much a straight forward one, things like a consent order for child custody and support that is an amicable one. Then, of course, there are those other cases such as equitable distribution for example, which might depend on the marital property amount and also be driven by local rules and might take anywhere from 4 months to 2 years to be resolved.
Also, your personal goal of achievement in a case might be a realistic one or not so. A good example of this to consider is something like custody. The majority of judges- absent any serious alcohol, drug, large distances between the homes, etc.- are not likely to place an order for SOLE custody. They will more likely present an offer of shared custody, which will not necessarily be 50/50 but will just not be 100% to 0%. The final ruling will, however, be judge and case-specific, so if you have a good idea of what outcomes are possible, you can better determine if the law firm under consideration agrees with you are both goals wise and financially thinking!
Unless in advance you have completely agreed on everything, family law reality is that there are going to be some compromises to be made. And keep in mind also that if you are appearing before a judge, that judge will be making those compromises for you. Of course, there ARE those certain cases where one side has a truly realistic approach and may get all that they are asking for. This occurs in instances where the other side has perhaps “misbehaved” or possibly not even showed up. Just be wary at all times because if things sound too good to be true, they probably are.
Always keep in mind that it is ADVICE that you are paying for and not “specific answers.” Your attorney is not in control of what the judge or the other attorney does. They are, however, in control of offering you the best guidance that can lead you to achieve those goals you are seeking.
Are you the attorney handling my matter, or will it be someone else in your office? Do you prefer receiving phone calls or emails? What is an average time lapse on my receiving communication from you on a matter? When I need to reach you, who should I contact to get the job done? And do receive my emails and messages directly, or do they go through someone else first?
Some problems are going to exist in almost EVERY case. This is why you should be concerned a bit if your attorney does not acknowledge this possibility in your first meeting with them. Of course, you should also understand that problems can indeed be efficiently dealt with, and many are not serious ones at all. An example of this is an uncontested divorce, which is a case as simple as it can be. The important thing to keep in mind is that if your side is handled properly, it greatly helps in reducing the size of any possible issues to be faced.
We truly hope that what we have shared here with you will be of value in your seeking out a family lawyer and just what questions you want to pose to them. The good news in Piedmont Triad and the counties surrounding it is that you have a good listing of outstanding family law attorneys to select from. Take the time to get that one who will work with you closely and who truly understands your goals and your limitations.