One of the parts of going through a divorce that can be unnerving for a lot of people is deciding whether or not to hire an attorney. For whatever reason(s), some folks don't get excited at the idea of paying a person hundreds or thousands of dollars to represent them in a legal case that they wish they didn't have to deal with (sarcasm ends here!). While going through a divorce can be painful enough, paying another person your hard-earned money to help you with the process seems like adding insult to injury.
Before we get into the topic of today's blog post, what it means to hire a lawyer and the different ways a lawyer can assist you in your family case, I would like to share some perspective that I have on what it means to hire a lawyer in a divorce or child custody case.
Let's begin by thinking about the hiring process like anything else that is unpleasant in life. We all do things in our day to day lives that we don't necessarily like, but we understand on some level that it is necessary. After a year of social distancing, mask-wearing, isolating, etc. I think we all understand what it means to do things we don't like that ostensibly will benefit us in the long run. Not all of the things that we do in life provide us with immediate gratification or are something that we get overly excited about. I wish I had something profound and enlightening to say about this subject but I don't. Hiring an attorney and a family law case is a good idea.
When you have a toothache do you perform self-examinations and then pull your tooth if necessary? If your car breaks down in the driveway do you pop the hood up and then fix the vehicle yourself? What about when the air conditioning breaks in your home do you fix it or do you call someone to come in and help? I think you can see where I am going with this. The reality of the situation is that you are likely not an expert in family law, nor should you be. You have a life of your own and have your concerns. A family law attorney has a single-minded focus on helping people just like you and whatever family law matter you find yourself involved in.
There is nothing wrong with asking another person to help you or taking the advice or perspective of a person who has been there before. If you consider your work I think you would agree that it not only takes knowledge of information to be able to be a success but also experience. Theoretically, you could spend a month going to law libraries and doing online research and you would probably understand the basics of family law and what is going to be relevant to your case. However, there are no how-to guides on how to manage the procedures and real-life situations of an actual family law case. For that, you would need to defer to another person's expertise and experience.
Hiring a family attorney to represent you in a divorce or child custody case does not mean but you don't get to be the person who makes decisions. Quite the opposite. An attorney is not there to dictate to you what should be done in your case but, rather, you can gain perspective and an outlook that you would not ordinarily be able to possess due to your lack of experience in family law cases. With that perspective in outlook, you can then make better decisions for yourself and your family.
Notice that I did not say that attorneys make decisions for clients. Attorneys act as a navigator throughout your family law case. The best family law attorneys, like those with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, Take the time to teach and educate their clients on the issues that they are facing so that the client can arrive at their conclusions and make decisions based on those circumstances. Keep in mind that your attorney will never know your circumstance in case better than you do. However, if you and your attorney communicate well and you all are willing to engage a team in your case you can achieve great success together.
If you are uncomfortable with the idea of having an attorney or in deferring to another person when it comes to important aspects of your case you should write down your concerns and then address them with an attorney during a consultation. Hiring a lawyer is not as simple as driving up and down the street and selecting an attorney whose sign or building you like. Hiring an attorney is more like conducting job interviews where you are the employer in the attorney is the potential employee. you need to be able to interview an attorney to determine whether or not you and the lawyer are a good match.
Consultations with a family law attorney
If you plan on hiring an attorney for your family law case then the first thing that you need to think about is interviewing lawyers. That sounds like the least appealing activity on earth but I can assure you that it is important, nonetheless. I recommend that you come prepared with questions, information, and some patience, as well. I say that you need to be patient because you should not plan on hiring the first attorney you speak to just because you need one. Plan and take the time you need to interview multiple lawyers to determine who suits you and your case the best.
The first thing I would do when beginning to interview attorneys for your family law case would be to think about what questions you have. If you don't know anything about family law and have never been involved in a family law case before then this should not be difficult for you to do. You will need to consider what information will be needed to begin a case, what steps are needed to file a lawsuit as well as any other steps that you can perform to make your attorney's job easier. Consider that, typically, the easier you make your attorney's life the less expensive your case will be.
Once you have a list of questions ready to ask the attorney that you are meeting with the next thing you should do is consider what information you should bring with you to the consultation. I do not necessarily mean that You should bring in file cabinets worth documents but I do mean that you should have some specific information as far as the length of your marriage, the ages of your children, your employment status, your income history, and any other specific information that an attorney is likely to ask you about in the consultation. While the attorney you were meeting with at that point is not your representative he or she will need to be able to learn a little bit about your circumstances to provide you with general information.
Next, when you go to the consultation with an attorney you should be prepared to listen just as much as you speak if not more so. The reason why you will want to pay attention in listening as much as possible in these consultations is that the attorney will not only be providing you with basic information about your particular kind of case but will also be speaking to you in the same way that he or she will likely speak to you if you choose to hire him or her. If you feel comfortable with the attorney and their approach in a consultation you are likely to feel comfortable with him or her during their time representing you. It will be difficult for you to learn how you feel about the lawyer if you do not take the time to listen to his or her answers.
Another aspect of this discussion is that I can tell you from experience most people in the consultation are very eager to tell me their side of the story almost as if the attorney in that consultation is the judge deciding their case in court. If you feel like your back is against the wall in that you have been taken advantage of in some way by your spouse or partner then I can completely understand wanting to get some things off of your chest. However, you should pull back the reins on spending the entire consultation providing information to the lawyer most of which is not important or relevant at that time.
Rather I would spend some amount of time discussing the specifics of your case with the attorney but would spend Lion’s share of your time in this hearing talking about what the process is like filing a family law case card what information you should be gathering and organizing and a projected timeline for the case. This is the sort of real-world, boots on the ground level advice that you will need to be able to be successful in a family law case. This is also the sort of advice and perspective that I nor any other attorney on the Internet can provide to you since I don't know anything about your specific circumstances.
As I mentioned a moment ago, you should plan on meeting with at least two or three attorneys before deciding as to which attorney is right for you. Certain attorneys and their personalities will conflict with you and yours. This is not dissimilar from getting into a relationship with an employer or even a spouse. Not every person clicks with you in vice versa. While I am not saying that you need to feel like the attorney could be your friend you do need to feel like you have trust in what the attorney is telling you as well as a level of comfort sharing information with him or her.
The relationship between an attorney and a client is extremely unique. Especially in a family law case, where personal information is shared a great deal you will need to be able to provide a certain degree of information even in a consultation situation that you may ordinarily share with nobody else. As a result, you should feel like the attorney is attentive and a good listener. Attorneys have a reputation, sometimes, of not being good listeners but if you can find an attorney who not only provides you with honest information but the incredibly rare listening ear.
An attorney that you hire should have the heart of a teacher rather than the heart of a salesperson. If the attorney provides you with very little in the way of practical information but rather presents you with a sales pitch from the beginning of the consultation until the end I would be wary if I were you. By the same token if the attorney takes the time to explain issues to you as thoroughly as time will permit, makes eye contact, and listens then you likely have a promising match in that attorney.
The last piece of advice that I would give to you regarding hiring an attorney is to be crystal clear on how that attorney operates as far as billing and attorney fees are concerned. You do not want to leave a consultation with a good feeling about a lawyer only to find that you have some degree of misunderstandings regarding how that attorney bills. Typically, family law attorneys are billed by the hour and charge an upfront retainer for representation. To avoid misunderstandings and problems pawn trying to hire him or her I would want to leave that consultation with a crystal clear idea of how the attorney bills, what their policies are on payments, what methods of payment are accepted as well as an estimate of what your case can end up costing in the long run.
Types of representation offered by attorneys
Family law attorneys are typically very flexible in terms of the type of representation that they can offer to you. Signing up with an attorney does not mean that you are committing to hiring him or her for a long period. For most people, an attorney in a family case begins representation when the case is filed in that period of representation ends when the final order in your case is signed by the judge. The vast majority of people do not hire family law attorneys on an ongoing, retainer basis.
The benefit to having an attorney representing you in your family law cases that you will be able to rely upon him or her for advice, counsel, negotiation with opposing counsel as well as their presence in any mediation or court appearance that becomes necessary. There are distinct advantages to having an attorney representing you in these scenarios and in my opinion, no degree of research done into family cases can duplicate the sort of assistance that can be provided to you by a lawyer.
With that said, family attorneys can typically represent you in what is known as a limited scope arrangement. For example, you may hire a family law attorney just to provide you with information, advice, or help when it comes to filing documents. You should speak to the attorney about your desire to have a limited scope arrangement like this and he or she will let you know whether or not that is something that can be done considering their practice. Before committing to a relationship like this you should read through any attorney-client contract to determine the extent of the relationship and the help that can be provided by the lawyer.
Another type of limited scope arrangement that you may have with an attorney is to hire a lawyer simply to review documentation and also draft paperwork for you. Keep in mind that the decisions of a family court judge or what is settled upon mediation are important but they are only as good as the orders that are written based on those decisions. It is incredibly important that your family court orders mirror what is decided in court or mediation. Therefore, if you do not want to hire an attorney for the day-to-day advice he or she can provide you should be able to find many attorneys who are willing to represent you insofar as when you need documentation drafted or paperwork reviewed.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations can go a long way towards helping you learn more about your specific circumstances as well as family law in general in the state of Texas.