Driving the streets and highways of Houston, it is nearly impossible for your senses to not be inundated with advertisements for divorce attorneys. The polite way of referencing an attorney who represents people going through divorces is a “family law attorney.” If you just moved to Texas, then your home state may have called this area of the law “matrimonial law.” Still, if you refer to one of the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan as a divorce lawyer we won’t be offended. A huge percentage of our law practice is devoted to representing and advocating on behalf of people going through a divorce.
Family law attorneys advertise themselves on billboards, benches, buildings, and on the radio. Our office is no different. We take advantage of advertising our name in a variety of places, as well. My point is that the Houston area has a relatively high number of family law attorneys. You will not suffer for lack of options when it comes to finding a lawyer to represent you in your divorce. However, whether you hire the right attorney for you and your case is a separate discussion altogether. To seek out and find the right attorney for you takes a bit more effort than switching on the radio or looking up at a billboard.
Beginning your search for a family law attorney
When you are just starting on your search for an attorney to represent you in a divorce that means you have a lot of options to be to whittle down. Choosing a restaurant at random at which to eat dinner may be an ok idea but using that same method to choose a family law attorney is not wise. Even with the restaurant example we just gave it is not a great idea to just pick a restaurant at random if you have a specific cuisine in mind that you would like to try, for example. Depending upon the divorce case you are involved in, your family, your circumstances, and the expected issues that you will be encountering you may benefit from hiring a particular family law office.
You can go online and look through the websites of different family law attorneys- including our website. When you work to figure out what attorney is best for you then it probably means going beyond surfing the web. Reaching out to an attorney to have a conversation with him or her may seem like an old-school move but I absolutely would recommend that you do this. Depending upon your age it may sound like insanity to come into a lawyer’s office to speak to him in person or even to schedule an appoint for over the phone. However, until you can do this we believe that you are receiving only a portion of the information that you need about that lawyer.
Before you reach out to our office, know in advance that we offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These are pressure-free consultations that allow you to ask questions, provide information and hear feedback from one of our experienced family law attorneys. This is where you can start to find out what attorneys look good on paper but may not necessarily match up with your expectations in real life. With that said, let’s walk through what you may want to explore when it comes to meeting with a family law attorney for the first time.
Meeting with a family law attorney
Before we go any further, I do recommend hiring a family law attorney to represent you in a divorce. Experience matters. Many attorneys will be so bold as to tell you that they are fully equipped to represent you in a divorce when, in fact, that is not true. These attorneys may be general practitioners meaning that they help people in a variety of different types of law However, when you are going through a divorce it is best to work with an attorney who practices primarily in family law, like the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our attorneys know the courts, the judges, the law, and the pace of a divorce case.
When you schedule an appointment with a family law attorney to discuss your case it is best to not stop there. If you were told by an orthopedic surgeon that you needed to have knee surgery, then you probably would not take that doctor's word for it. Rather, it is more likely that you would seek out the perspective and input of multiple doctors. Maybe there is a non-surgical option that you could still pursue. It may be that another surgical procedure could be more beneficial than the one the original doctor recommended. Due diligence is not a bad thing.
Schedule multiple meetings with attorneys if you can. A woman who is planning to file for divorce in the next four weeks is not on the same schedule as a man who was just served with divorce papers and has a temporary order hearing scheduled to take place in a couple of days. The woman in this example can be more judicious with how she chooses a lawyer. The gentleman needs to make a faster decision. In either case, it is still possible to make good decisions and take advantage of whatever time is afforded to you.
From there, prepare for the meeting. You can collect any documents that have already been filed and bring those along with you. If you are meeting virtually then find out from the attorney how to send documents to them in advance of your consultation. It will be handy for the lawyer to be able to review the documents along with you during the consultation. Arrive on time for the consult. Attorneys may carve out particular parts of their day to schedule these consultations and if you are not prepared for yours, it could mean that you lose the opportunity to meet with him or her that day.
Arrive on time for your appointment. Consider the physical location of the office before hiring the attorney If two attorneys are tied in your mind as being most suitable for your case but one lives five minutes from you while the other lives 50 minutes from you then that may be the deciding factor in hiring one lawyer and not hiring another. Being able to talk with your attorney at a moment’s notice may end up being important to you if it isn’t already important.
Talking to the attorney
Now we have finally reached the point in the process where you can sit down with a practicing family law attorney. In an interview like this, you should spend time talking and listening. Remember that you may be forming a relationship with this person and to tell if you are compatible, you should allow him to express himself and you should be allowed to express yourself. See how well the conversation goes. If you had ever gone on a blind date before you may be able to rely upon that experience in a situation like this.
One of the most critical characteristics that I think an attorney should possess is the heart of a teacher. When it comes to how teachers and attorneys are viewed by the public you probably can't think of two careers that are thought of more differently. Teachers are the people who have devoted their lives to educating children. Attorneys are not thought of as highly by most people- at least in my experience. So, how can a lawyer display characteristics which are usually reserved for teachers?
Having the heart of a teacher means that the attorney will have the patience and the ability to explain what he is saying to you in a while so that you understand it. Have you ever been in a situation where someone was talking at you rather than with you? Their words come out of their mouth at a rapid-fire rate. You have trouble understanding all the concepts that he may be trying to share with you. This doesn’t make the attorney a bad person, but it does make him a bad fit for you and your case. An attorney who takes the time to walk through the complex issues of your case with you is the attorney that you want to hire.
You can provide the attorney an opportunity to speak to you about your case by asking questions. See how the lawyer responds. Being patient and thorough in their response is what you want to see. Rolling their eyes and checking their watch every two minutes is what you do not want to see. At the end of the consultation, you should thank the lawyer for their time. You can see whether the attorney has anything that you can take home with you to help in the attorney search.
For example, the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan can provide you with a guide to divorce, links to YouTube videos on divorce, and links to our series on Do it Yourself divorces. We have folders, mini-books and so much more that we can give to you to help you decide for yourself which attorney you are going to hire in your case. For someone who is trying diligently to learn as much as he or she can about the divorce process, these handouts can be a great advantage to have at this stage of the hiring process.
Then, go out and meet with at least one other attorney. This allows you to get a feel for what an attorney can do to help you during your divorce. If you don't have time to meet with another attorney that day or if you are fatigued from the first meeting schedule something for the following day. Repeat the process with Attorney #2 and even Attorney #3 When you have performed as much due diligence as you think it is necessary you can then decide about hiring a family law attorney.
Contacting the attorney after a consultation
Once you think you know which attorney you want to move forward with you can reach back out to him. You can let him know that you would like to go over pricing, attorney's fees, and things of this nature. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan has financial ambassadors who will provide you with a detailed overview of those subjects. This is meant to help you answer your more detailed questions about attorney's fees. However, your attorney will also be available throughout the case to walk you through where you are with your fees and what additional payments may be necessary considering what steps in the case are coming up.
A retainer is the initial payment that is made to an attorney. Depending upon the circumstances of your case this retainer may be as little as a couple thousand dollars or even more. There are situations where you have a hearing the following day or something where your attorney will have to prepare quickly where more money may be needed. This is since family law attorneys bill by the hour. The more work that is necessary in your case the more money that you need to pay. Hearings, mediations, and trials require a great deal of work to prepare for and to attend.
Attorneys bill by the hour based on several different factors. More experienced attorneys may bill more by the hour than less experienced lawyers although this is not always the case. Some attorneys charge more money because they have debts, employee overhead, and other conditions that require them to charge more money. Getting a firm grasp on the money situation with your lawyer is critical to your success as a client and to the success of your relationship with your lawyer. Feeling like the attorney pulled the wool over your eyes or misled you with money is a terrible way to start a relationship. Rather, you should be sure that your attorney has answered your questions about this important subject before hiring him.
Signing a contract and moving on with your case
You will become an official client of an attorney once you sign a contract. You can and should request to view the contract that you will be expected to sign before doing so. That way you can ask questions about the document and understand better what your responsibilities are and what those are of your attorney. Ask questions and receive clarification before you agree to sign anything.
Depending upon what step is next in your case your attorney will help you to prepare. If no divorce has been filed yet then your attorney will work with you to draft an Original Petition for Divorce. Filing a response to your spouse's petition for divorce means an Original Answer and possibly a counterpetition must also be filed. Hearings and mediation may be upcoming, as well, and preparation will be necessary.
Having an experienced family law attorney by your side during a divorce can provide you with numerous advantages but there are some things an attorney cannot do for you. First, an attorney does not exist within a divorce case to make decisions for you. Rather, you will be responsible for making decisions for yourself based on the information provided to you by your attorney. This is a major reason why we recommended that you hire an attorney who has the heart of a teacher. All the good advice in the world cannot benefit you unless you understand what that advice is.
These are the sort of pointers that we think are practical from the outset of your divorce case. Of course, no attorney can predict exactly where your divorce case is going to end up but your chances of success increase when you hire an experienced family law attorney. When you are intentional about how you select an attorney, it increases the likelihood that you will be intentional during the divorce case itself. Staying in regular communication with your attorney is another thing that you can do to help yourself achieve your goals during a divorce.
There are straightforward steps that you can take to prepare your case for a divorce. These steps begin with hiring an experienced family law attorney. In Houston, the best and most experienced family law attorneys work for the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. To learn more about our office, our approach to representing people in divorce and to have your questions answered please contact us today.
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