Family law cases involve complex legal, financial, and emotional issues. You should take the time to find an attorney who is right for you and your case. Consider the following questions when selecting an attorney.
Family law is a nuanced area of law and you are best served by an attorney who is well versed in family law and who thoroughly understands the specific family law rules. An experienced family law attorney is also familiar with family law professionals and judges, and can best refer you to specialists such as a child counselor or forensic accountant, or can advise you on how your judge may rule. Avoid an attorney who practices in many areas of law and only handles divorce cases occasionally.
Ask, “How much of your practice is family law?”
You want an attorney who is experienced, but that means more than how many years they have been licensed to practiced law. An attorney practicing criminal law for twenty years who occasionally handles divorce may not be as good as an attorney who has practiced exclusively in family law for ten years. Likewise, an associate attorney who works under the managing partner may have practiced for several years but never handled a case on their own. A good family law attorney will know the law, rules, and judges, but will also have had the experience of independently representing many individuals in contested court hearings.
Ask, “How many times have you been to court in a family law case?”
During your case, you will work closely with your attorney on very private and personal matters. You will need to be open and honest with him or her, so finding an attorney you trust is the most important factor to consider when hiring an attorney. Attorneys have different personalities and approaches to their work. You should feel comfortable asking your attorney about his or her approach and discussing any concerns you have.
Many people mistakenly believe you need an aggressive “bulldog” attorney to “win” your case. In practice, this attorney may increase conflict which increases the both the animosity between you and your spouse, as well as your costs. A good family law attorney will work to resolve problems first, using court as a last result, instead of fighting just for the sake of fighting.
Ask, “How will you handle my case?”
One of the biggest expenses in family cases are attorney’s fees, with Americans spending $15,000 on their divorce on average. Although it is tempting to choose an inexpensive attorney, consider why their hourly rate is so low. An attorney with a low rate may be inexperienced and need to charge less per hour to attract business. Or they may take longer to accomplish work, thereby costing you just as much money over time. An attorney who quotes you a flat fee for a lengthy divorce may take a large volume of cases to cover his or her expenses. They may be unable to dedicate the time needed for your case. A
good attorney will be upfront with you about costs and will help you conserve your resources, but they will never compromise your case to save you a few dollars.
Ask, “What are your billing practices?” and “How can I reduce my expenses?”
Another consideration is your access to the attorney and their staff. You may have questions about the status of your case or need some guidance on how to respond to your spouse’s email. Some attorneys hire outside companies to answer their phone lines instead of a dedicated staff who knows you and your case. A paralegal or legal assistant can answer your non-legal questions without delay, with full knowledge of your circumstances. Some attorneys do not respond to emails and take days to return
phone calls. An attorney should be able to let you know about his or her process for keeping you informed throughout your case, and an expectation on how quickly calls will be returned.
Ask, “How do we stay in touch during my case?”
Rachel Borntreger is an experienced, knowledgeable, and honest family law attorney who cares about her clients and works hard to achieve each client’s goals. If you would like to schedule a consultation with Rachel, call our office at (850) 694-1411 or email her legal assistant, Alison, at