[I]n continuing with my series on 6 Tips to Hiring a Child Custody Attorney, you have already Listened for Good Attorneys in Court, and you have visited and asked several parenting groups or organizations for their recommended lawyers. From this research, you have narrowed your search to five and you are ready to call and set up free consultations in person or over the phone. So what ten questions should you prepare to ask your future divorce or paternity attorney?
Grab a spiral and write a brief outline of the details and history of your case. Next, compile a list of your burning inquiries. On your list, consider some of these questions:
1. What are areas of specialization do you have in family law? What counties do you regularly practice in? How many divorce cases have you handled? Will I be working with YOU specifically or are there others in your office I will be spending most of my time with?
2. How many fathers have you represented? How many cases like mine have you specifically won and why?
Do you really want a lawyer just out of law school or someone representing you who has successfully represented a majority of cases like yours? When I picked my attorney, he had over 25 years’ experience, was very hands-on, and very successful representing fathers in custody cases.
3. How well known are you with my judge, my court, my Ex’s attorney, this hearing and/or this type of proceeding?
4. What do you offer that is different than any other attorney?
A good attorney is a good start, a great attorney is well known locally, in your specific court, and has a good reputation and history with your judge. Although your attorney represents you, he works daily with judges, other attorneys, caseworkers, court reporters and filing staff. You want her to be well known and liked.
5. Am I being realistic with my expectations? What are my chances of getting what I want? How long will this process take?
6. Outside of legal advice, what else do you recommend I do to get ready for my case?
These are perhaps the hardest yet most important questions to ask. Can YOU listen and take direction from this attorney? Will she give you advice beyond legal representation? My attorney on day one said it would take about four years. Furthermore, he advised me to immediately start taking parenting classes and have my friends and family start taking pictures of me with my daughter.
7. What specific pieces, aspects, or tasks can I help accomplish to minimize fees and maximize your time?
8. Can I see copies of your sample bills or invoices? How are you paid, how frequently, and how often? Do you offer long-term payment plans?
You have to have the money talk. You need to know exactly what you are paying for, how you are being charged and what elements can you do yourself to minimize the cost. My attorney showed me how to file and set a court hearing. Then he instructed me on how to hire a process server. Doing some of the basic legwork saved many thousands of dollars over the years.
9. Do you volunteer or have times that you work free in organizations I could attend?
10. What is the best way to get in touch with you? Phone, cell phone, email, text, emergencies?
Several of the attorneys I considered did provide free hours at father’s groups. Had I hired one of them, I would have met with them during their free time to save cost and go over paperwork. You must have clear methods for contacting your potential attorney. See if they have email accounts or will provide you with their cell numbers in case you have an emergencies.
Finally, in addition to asking the right questions, to the right people, to get the right answers, you must ask yourself… “Do I like this attorney’s personality? Is she approachable? Was she willing to answer all my questions? Could I work closely with this person for long periods of time? Do I trust this person to represent me well? Will I listen and heed advice from her?” Your attorney, like no other, needs to be someone you can communicate with effectively.
What important question would you add when interview a child custody attorney?
Fred Campos is father to three and primary custodian to his daughter Caitlyn from a previous relationship. Image courtesy of winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.