Choosing the right attorney for you is one of the most important elements in any family law matter. Here are a few things you may wish to consider:
#1) Depending on the nature of your case, you must have a very good working relationship with your family law attorney. A good working relationship with your attorney may help you achieve a better result, and do so more quickly. Thorough and honest two-way attorney-client communication is one essential element for getting good results, and moving on.
There is no way around it. You will likely spend considerable time communicating with your family law attorney. If you don’t get a good feeling during your initial meeting, speak to another attorney. If you are not comfortable, you are certainly entitled to, and frankly should, meet with another attorney before hiring anyone. You are free to consult with as many attorneys as you like prior to hiring one.
Consulting with an attorney to see if there is a good fit does not mean you must hire the attorney. Some attorneys may charge a reduced fee for an initial consultation. Some attorneys offer a free initial consultation without really getting to know the details of your family law matter. Never feel pressured to hire an attorney. Choosing an attorney is an important decision that must be made with care.
Consider this: if you needed major surgery, you would probably get a second or even a third opinion. Going through a divorce or other family law issue is an important life event. Search vigorously, choose wisely.
#2) Every family law matter is somewhat unique. It is important to have a plan of action and set goals early in the process. You do not want to get aboard a runaway litigation train.
Nobody ever goes into a marriage expecting to need to find and hire a divorce lawyer. It is normal to be confused. It is normal to have your emotions turned upside down. You will have many questions along the way. This is perfectly normal. Your lawyer should guide you through the sometimes foggy legal landscape. Relying on advice from a friend or loved one is usually not a substitute for hiring an attorney.
Many people are ambivalent about getting a lawyer involved. It is easy to understand why. I do not take it personally. Unfortunately, if a divorce or other family law matter seems imminent, the longer you wait, the messier things may become. In the context of a divorce, preparation is important. Setting an early course of action, guided by a client’s realistic goals, is very often a successful formula. A good attorney will be pragmatic, will be honest with you, will help you keep things in perspective, and will keep the process moving forward while zealously advocating for your interests. All while keeping you informed.
#3) Make sure you and your lawyer see the forest from the trees. You must try to work toward the same goals from day one. Making the process more difficult than it needs to be is almost always counterproductive.
In a divorce action, be sure you understand all of your options. Divorce Mediation, Collaboration, Binding Arbitration, Litigation, etc.
Pick your battles wisely. As I mentioned in another post, the more you and your (soon to be) ex-spouse can agree on, without unnecessary conflict, the less financially and emotionally draining the divorce process will be. Burning the earth for the sake of winning a relatively unimportant battle can be counterproductive, while increasing your costs. Sometimes a fine line exists between zealous representation to protect a client’s interests and acting like a junk yard dog. A skilled family law attorney need not act like a junk yard dog to get excellent results.
#4) Ask questions. Stay informed. Get educated about the process. It will help you overcome fear and move forward.
Some counties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have a free law library. If you live near a law school, perhaps you can pay a nominal fee to use their law library. Some law schools have a family law clinic. Many courthouses have a law library for public use for a nominal fee or free. Sometimes being well-informed relieves stress, allows for clearer thinking, and helps move your legal matter to a successful conclusion.