When you are about to start any kind of family law matter—divorce, modification or enforcement of a prior order, prenuptial or partition agreement, child support collection, visitation, paternity, grandparent access, etc.—you need to have an attorney to help you. There are some things that people can do without attorneys, including divorce, but there is a risk that important issues can be overlooked or mishandled. At the very least, you should have an attorney review the situation and look over your paperwork to help you avoid problems.
Just as in most other important matters, it is often helpful to seek recommendations from people or organizations you trust. You can talk to family members, friends and others you respect to find attorneys who have worked well with, and been effective for, others in the past. A good source is other attorneys you may know, even if they don't work in family law. They can usually recommend someone who is a quality attorney.
Once you have some leads, you can look on the internet for Web sites and directories to find out about the attorneys.
Most attorneys will have a website, many will use LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media, and a few will have blogs. You should actively investigate any prospective attorney on the Internet because you can learn a lot about the attorney and his or her approach to practicing law. If an attorney does not have a significant presence on the Internet, he or she is losing an opportunity to communicate with prospective clients and to provide useful information for them. You should make sure that the attorney is comfortable at an appropriate technology level to work with you.
In addition to this website, including the blog, please check our other two blogs: Texas Collaborative Law Blog and Divorce and Family Law in Tarrant County, Texas.
Once you make the decision to hire an attorney in a family law matter, there are several factors to consider in selecting the attorney to work with.
If your legal issue is important to you, it is usually best to find an attorney who is a Board Certified Specialist in the field, such as Family Law. Being Board Certified means that the attorney has practiced for at least 5 years, has had substantial experience in the field, has been recommended by judges and attorneys and has passed a rigorous exam. In addition, it is appropriate to ask if the attorney has handled similar cases in the past. More experienced attorneys will not only know the legal issues, but how the local judges generally handle such cases. If there's already an attorney on the other side, an experienced attorney can probably tell you how that attorney approaches cases. In other words, they can give you an educated opinion about what to expect in many different ways.
Generally speaking, the more experienced and qualified your attorney is, the more the representation will cost. There are many fine attorneys who charge lower fees, so there is not an absolute correlation between the fees and quality. This is just to say that a Board Certified Specialist with a lot of experience will be expensive. Be sure to have a discussion about cost at the initial meeting with the attorney you interview. Make sure that the amount of money you are about to invest is appropriate to the objectives you have in mind and your ability to pay. Because there are so many attorneys available and a wide range of fees, you should make sure you are comfortable with the fee agreement for now and into the foreseeable future as your case proceeds.
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No matter how qualified and skilled your attorney is, if he or she can't communicate effectively with you, you will not be well represented. It is essential that the attorney actively listens to what you are saying. The attorney should be able to give you direct answers to simple questions. A good attorney can speak plain English and not fall back on legalese. If the attorney cannot translate legal concepts into everyday language, it can interfere with your representation and decision-making. Check the attorney's written materials, including the fee agreement, hand-outs at the office and the material on his or her website. If you cannot get a clear understanding of what you are reading, expect problems down the line.
When you meet someone, there is an intangible feeling or impression you receive. For whatever reason, some people just automatically make you feel comfortable and with others, you may have a lingering doubt or concern that is hard to express. Some refer to that as their “gut feeling”. Others use different terms, such as intuition or instinct. Whatever you call it, you should pay attention. Usually, when you hire an attorney, it is for an extended time and it is expensive. Make sure you feel very comfortable and secure in that relationship. If you have doubts or something doesn't feel right, you should check with other attorneys. One size doesn't fit all, and an attorney who is a great match for a friend of yours may not be a great attorney for you. The bottom line is that you want to hire someone who feels like a good match for you.
Hiring the right lawyer is important in your efforts to achieve certain objectives through the legal system. You shouldn't rush or be pressured when choosing a lawyer. Your outcome will be better if you select an attorney who meets your needs and with whom you feel comfortable. You can probably find several attorneys who are technically competent and able to do what you need to be done, but you should look beyond the basic competence and consider the factors mentioned above in order to find the best lawyer for you and your case.
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