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9 Questions to Ask Yourself and the Divorce Lawyer Before You Hire Them

Choosing an attorney to represent you in your family law matter may be one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. It is important to be selective when you are choosing a divorce attorney.

By doing so you will be more confident the representation and in the legal proceedings. By choosing the right Texas divorce lawyer for your case you will increase your chances at obtaining favorable results for yourself and your children.

It important for you to understand how you will be charged. However, you should not base your hiring decision on cost alone. Some questions we encourage you ask when hiring an attorney include:

  1. Does the Attorney Offer a Free Consultation?

I have placed this one towards the top of the list not because it is the most important thing when it comes to hiring a divorce lawyer but because I think it is an important tool for helping you to find the right attorney for your divorce case.

One of the best ways to find a divorce lawyer is to interview attorneys. However, this can be a costly thing if the attorney charges a consultation fee. Attorney consultation fees can be range from $150-$500. This means if you interview 3 attorneys you may have spent $450-$1,500 just interviewing divorce lawyers and the has not even started yet.

I and several other divorce lawyers I know offer free consultations. I do this as a chance to get to know prospective clients and for them to get to know me. This allows us both to find out if we want to work together.

A question to ask yourself when you are interviewing divorce lawyers is do they provide you with information to help you make your decisions or do they hold back? When you come, and meet with the lawyer at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC we will take time and answer as many of your questions as we can.

At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, we believe it is important for clients to have as much information as we can give them to help them make educated and informed decisions with attorney guidance.

Once the client makes the decision, it is the attorney’s job to advocate for that decision. Some attorneys believe that they should make the decisions. It’s your case and your life – you should make the decisions.

  1. Do you feel Comfortable with the Lawyer?

I believe one of the most important requirements for choosing a divorce lawyer is that you need to feel comfortable with that lawyer. Some people have it in their heads that they need a “bulldog,” or an attorney with 50-years of experience.

I believe it is more important to have an attorney that is compatible with you who will listen to you, someone you feel comfortable with, someone who has a practice with a focus on divorce and family law, and most importantly, someone you can trust.

You need to believe in them and and believe in their advice. If it takes several consultations to find that comfort level, then so be it. It is better to spend time up front finding a lawyer with whom you click than getting into court and not feeling like the person sitting next to you cares about you or your children.

  1. What are Your Credentials and is Your Law Practice Focused on Divorce and Family Law?

The most important thing to look for in selecting a divorce or family lawyer in Texas is that they are licensed to practice in the State where the case is ongoing.

I sometimes get clients who have a case in a state other than Texas. Unfortunately depending on the circumstances, I am unable to help them and need to refer them to an attorney licensed to practice in that State. Other times I can help them because the facts of their case are such that we can open a case in Texas and move forward.

The next important thing to look for is an attorney whose practiced is focused on Divorce and Family Law. I sometimes run into attorneys who try and do all areas of the law. I believe this is a disservice to their clients.

The one constant in the law is change. Texas courts continue to interpret laws differently, and our Texas legislatures continue to pass new laws and change existing ones. The Texas Rules of civil procedure, evidence, and local court rules vary from one judge to the next.

All lawyers in the state of Texas are legally able to do divorce work, but you should look for someone who does only family law or for whom family law makes up most of their practice.

It is important to look for a lawyer who has handled many divorce cases, has worked with complex asset divisions, has handled contested custody matters, and has been successful. That attorney will guide you through your divorce fluidly, efficiently, and competently.

At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, we focus exclusively on family law practice, including divorce, child custody, parenting establishment and paternity. 99% of our practice is devoted to family law. We have earned respect within the legal community for our trial skills, our knowledge of complex asset and property divisions, and our handling of child custody matters. We have been at this for many years, and we never lose sight of our clients’ goals and needs.

  1. How Much Will the Legal Representation Cost?

Ask how much you will be charged for legal services and how much of an up-front fee is required. Find out what the attorney’s billing practices are, because you need to know how and when you will be billed.

In family law, most attorneys charge an hourly rate. In the Houston, Texas area, this usually runs from $150 per hour to $500 per hour or more. At our office, we have several lawyers that we bill out at different rates. We can match one of our attorneys to help accommodate your budget.

At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, we charge by the quarter an hour or in 15-minute increments. So, if you call on the phone and have a five-minute phone call, we could charge for a 15-minute phone call.

Most the time for our clients we like to facilitate communications so if the client has a quick 5-minute question we will take and document the phone call on their invoice but not charge them. However, if this client calls us 3 or 5 times a day then those calls will be lumped together and billed.

A normal case may have expenses and fees, such as filing fees service fees, expert fees, or even document copying charges when documents are sent to a copier service. It is important to look at the fee agreement and see how you will be charged.

Some attorneys do not send out invoices to their clients for months at a time. Ask the attorney how they will bill their time on your case. Other law firms charge a minimum of 12 minutes for any task, regardless of whether the work required 3 minutes. Furthermore, some firms charge a higher rate for appearing in court than the rate for other tasks.

When you arrive to meet with us at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, we will discuss the cost of legal representation before any representation agreement is signed. We will explain our billing system and when payments are due – there will be no hidden expenses and no surprise legal fees.

We want you to make an informed decision and be completely comfortable with our fee structure. Each month when you receive a billing update from our firm we encourage you to review it and if you have any questions regarding any charge we encourage you to call us and ask. We never charge you to discuss your invoice.

  1. Have You Ever Been Sanctioned for an Attorney Ethics Violation?

Attorneys are held to high ethical standards regarding how they practice law and the customer service they provide to clients. The State Bar of Texas regulates its members and, when necessary, disciplines attorneys with sanctions to punish for acts of professional misconduct.

A grievance filed against an attorney can lead to reprimand, probation, suspension, restitution, and revocation of the attorney’s license to practice law within Texas. You need assurance that the character and competency of your attorney justifies your decision to hire. If you have concerns about an attorney, you can look them up on the Texas Bar Website.

At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, practicing law with the highest degree of ethics is at our firm’s core. Not one of our attorneys has ever been found in violation of an attorney ethics rule. We take great pride in our reputation for high professional standards, and successful, experienced family law representation for our clients.

  1. What Kind of Online Reviews Do They Have?

I am sometimes surprised when certain lawyers get hired. This is because a simple search online of the attorney’s or firm’s name would reveal either an ethics violation or that previous clients have had a bad experience with that attorney. Some places to check out a lawyer’s reputation with clients includes Google, Yelp, or Avvo.

  1. Will I Receive Copies of All Documents in My Case?

Ask how the attorney will assure that you will have access to your documents whenever you need them. There can be nothing more worrisome than not knowing what has transpired in your case, or being asked to respond to a document in the case that you have never seen and know nothing about.

Unfortunately, some attorneys fail to provide their clients with copies of the documents filed with the court, orders issued by the court, or correspondences between the attorneys.

It is the policy of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC to copy clients on all communications with opposing parties and opposing counsel. This means if an email is sent to other side our attorney’s and paralegals will copy you on those communications so you know what is being discussed.

If a document is filed with the court by our firm, we will send you a copy of that document. If we receive a document from an opposing counsel, we will forward you that document so you will have a chance to review it.

This is your case and you are entitled to know what is going on in your case. It is our policy that you are always entitled to a copy of your file or anything in your file upon request.

  1. How Responsive are You to Answering Emails and Returning Phone Calls?

When you are looking for a divorce lawyer one of the things you should consider is do you feel like the lawyer will be responsive to your needs and able to respond to your questions in a timely manner?

Some attorneys will not return your telephone calls within a reasonable time. This is something that many attorney’s struggle with is communicating in a prompt manner with clients.

Part of the problem for family law and divorce lawyers is due to the nature of their practice they are out of the office more than many other types of lawyers. Divorce and Family Law Lawyers are often in Court or in Mediation which means they are not in the office to answer calls and it can be difficult to respond to emails as well.

This can be especially difficult for attorneys who do not have a support staff to help them. The reality is that your attorney may not always be available. He or she may be in court on another person’s case and focused on that case. That is fine, because when it is your turn in court or mediation or some other time you will want the attorney devoted to your case.

At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC we strive to return client’s phone calls promptly. We are constantly seeking ways to improve our clients experience and make it easier for clients to communicate with us.

At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC one way we have sought to deal with this problem is our attorneys work in teams. Most or our cases have a Senior Attorney and a Junior Attorney assigned to them. This gives clients access to two attorneys who they can communicate with regarding their case.

An example of how this can be beneficial is if one of the attorneys assigned to their case is in court, mediation, or on the phone. Then the other attorney should be available to answer questions. We are constantly striving to give our clients outstanding customer service.

A good question to ask prospective divorce and family law lawyers is how you will be able to contact them and how long it will take them to return your call?

  1. How Much Experience Do You Have with Complex High Asset Property Divisions, and With Finding Hidden Assets?

With some divorces, the property division may be complex and contentious. Adding to the tension is the reality that some spouse will attempt to conceal assets. Before deciding to hire a lawyer, you need to know whether the attorney is experienced in dealing these matters.

When one party deliberately conceals assets, direct and swift action must be taken to bring those assets before the court for division. It is important to have a lawyer who has experience with high asset divorce cases and knows how to search out clues to hidden assets. Not all divorce attorneys have experience with business valuations, stock portfolios, finance matters, tax and debt issues, or how to uncover hidden assets.

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