When I am interviewing potential new clients of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, I will typically ask the person if they have ever hired an attorney before. The answer is usually "No." Next, I will ask if that person has ever been to court before and filed a lawsuit against another person. Again, the answer is typical, "No." My response is that the person has led a good and likely happy life if they have never been involved in a legal matter before and have never had to see the inside of a courtroom.
The fact is that nobody likes the idea of having to hire an attorney. You probably have somewhere between one and three-dozen things that you would prefer to spend your money on instead of doing so on an attorney. However, if you are planning to file for divorce or have been forced to respond to a divorce petition filed by your spouse, hiring an attorney to assist you in that process is essential, in my opinion.
Suppose you have never been through this process before. You may have never even interacted with an attorney in your life. How can you know how to discuss your case with an attorney to determine whether or not it is worth your time and money to hire the lawyer's services? In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, we will discuss this subject in some detail. Very few people shop for a new car without knowing what you want your new car to have as far as amenities and features. Likewise, you do not want to make an even more critical decision without having some information to operate off of before you begin the process of hiring an attorney.
How should you go about hiring an attorney?
Getting a recommendation from your friend who has gone through a divorce or any other referral system is not a bad idea at all. It would help if you listened to people you trust and have been through the process before. If you have never been through a divorce or hired an attorney, you will have more trust in what a friend says than what a lawyer you've never met has to tell you. Listen to those close to you and whose judgment you trust and value.
The next step is to test the recommendation to see if it makes sense for you and your circumstances. Once you have a recommendation, you need to do a little research on the attorney. What do other people say about how the lawyer did in their case? Read through online reviews, but you need to be careful even here. Many websites' reviews of attorneys can't be trusted because they do not verify that the client submitting the review had an attorney-client relationship with that lawyer. This can make reading the reviews a little dicey, but it is better than nothing.
Not all divorces are created equal. Yours may be one where you and your spouse do not have much in the way of income or assets, but you do have four kids that will be the centerpiece of your divorce. As a result, you will want to hire an attorney who seems to understand children's issues and can provide you with assistance regarding custody, visitation, and child support.
Likewise, if you and your spouse are older, have no children (or all your children are over the age of eighteen), and have a substantial amount of wealth and assets to divide in your divorce, you will need to look into hiring an attorney with experience in high-income/wealth divorces. The factors are different in this sort of divorce than I described in the previous paragraph. In this sort of case, your attorney should be experienced in helping clients divide marital estates.
How should you not go about hiring an attorney?
In the world of attorneys, many of my brothers and sisters in the law believe that any ol' attorney can put on their fancy suit and march down the courthouse and represent you in a temporary orders hearing or trial for your divorce. This is not the case, however. Just as with any specialized area of the law, there are certain traits and experiences that family law attorneys embody regarding knowing the nuances of the Texas Family Code and how to apply those nuances to your case best. Secondly, family law attorneys are adept at communication and negotiation with opposing parties. There is a fine line between advocating for a client and completely alienating the other side. Family law attorneys know how to walk on that thin line without going over.
You need to hire a family law attorney to represent you in your divorce. Make sure the person has handled many divorces (of all kinds) before yours. Young attorneys need to get their start somewhere, but I would not recommend letting your case be that "somewhere." Go with an attorney who has experience handling a variety of divorce cases. Ask them to talk to you about prior cases and how you helped your client achieve their goals. If you are not comfortable with the attorney's level of experience, there is nothing wrong with going in another direction. I would recommend that you do exactly that.
Do not hire an attorney only because of the reputation that they have built up in your community. Indeed, an attorney with an excellent reputation, exceptional history of results, and the ability to educate you on the process and your case should be considered. However, if all you go off is the person's reputation without attempting to find out more, you could be making a massive mistake in hiring that person.
If the attorney tells you that they have never been to court, do not take this as a positive without asking more. Maybe that means the person's reputation allows them to swing deals that otherwise would cause you to wind up in court. On the other hand, it could mean that you are talking to an attorney who is scared to go to court and, therefore, would not be an excellent option for you if negotiation fails and litigation is the best option to pursue.
Finally, if you have hired an attorney and find that your phone calls and emails are not being returned in a reasonable amount of time, you should not remain with that lawyer. It is unrealistic in many cases to have your attorney return your phone calls or emails with an hour of your sending them (in most cases). However, I have set up a rule to return all phone calls and emails within twenty-four business hours of receiving a message. I think this is reasonable. If your attorney can't communicate with you, this is a problem that you need to address.
Talking to your lawyer and your spouse- a how-to guide. Tomorrow's blog post topic
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, appreciates your interest in today's topic and hopes you will return tomorrow to read more about divorce in Texas. If you have any questions for one of our licensed family law attorneys, please do not hesitate to contact us today. We offer free of charge consultations and can speak with you six days a week.