When you have a toothache, would you ever consider pulling your tooth or filling a cavity? When your car doesn't start in the morning, are you more apt to try and open up the hood and see what the problem is yourself, or would you be more likely to have the car towed to a mechanic to have them take a look at the problem? These are the type of questions you should be asking yourself when you begin a Texas family law case. The fact is that while you do not need my family law attorney as far as the law is concerned, when you file a case having a lawyer by your side can be extremely beneficial to you and your case. In short, an experienced family law attorney offers you the potential for a great return on a short-term investment.
Family law attorneys are well suited to help guide you through your case and provide you with the knowledge and expertise that can help you accomplish your goals and create goals in the 1st place. As I am fond of saying: you can wander into a family law case, but it is tough to wander out of one and achieve any level of success. That is why I wholeheartedly recommend having an experienced family law attorney assist in stand by your side through thick and thin. In today's blog post, I would like to share my thoughts on why it is critical to hire an experienced attorney in family law before beginning your case.
Get your case started on the right foot by hiring an experienced family law attorney.
One of the things that may surprise you about practicing family law is that many of our clients began their family law matter without an attorney. These folks may have met with us for a free-of-charge consultation but then decided to file the case on their own to see if they could go about getting it done without a lawyer. Or, they began working on a case without an attorney in having never consulted with one either. You may have several different reasons you are not interested in hiring a lawyer for your family law case. You may think that an attorney is too expensive. You may think that an attorney is unpleasant to deal with, the period you may think your situation doesn't need a lawyer. Any of these are valid concerns to have and, for certain people, in certain cases, may be accurate.
One of the things that I mentioned to people going through divorce or child custody cases is that you should look at your case and decide whether or not an attorney is needed. Keep in mind that the law does not require you to have an attorney to file your case. Some people file for divorce and work through the process independently without a lawyer and can get out with the divorce they saw. However, many others are not as fortunate and find themselves struggling once their case is filed to meet the demands of the divorce process.
Like anything else, a divorce or a child custody case has a series of steps that need to be followed to complete the case. The world of family law is not a choose your adventure book where you can take multiple paths to get to the same destination. Rather, you must follow the steps and do so within a certain period. If you are unable or unwilling to do so, you will quickly find that the time and money spent preparing and filing your case was not. I have seen many people's divorce or child custody cases dismissed by a judge due to their inability to follow the simple steps and procedures that are a part of a family law case in Texas.
The reason why this happens, in my opinion, most frequently is because you as an individual do not have the time to follow through on your case. Think about it: you have a job, you have a child, you have interests, you have your day-to-day life; it doesn't exactly lend itself towards filing paperwork and doing research on drafting documents. This is not to mention any of the actual meat and potatoes legal issues of your case that you will need to sort through to make sure that you are defending your rights and asserting yourself properly.
Many people who file their divorce or child custody case find that there are limited resources available for people who are not attorneys to learn exactly how to go about proceeding with a family law case. That's not to say that there aren't resources like this blog where you could develop a strategy for proceeding with a divorce or child custody case. However, I would not recommend going into a case that will be contested in having all of your knowledge based on blog posts from our law office or any other. There are certain things that you cannot learn just from the Internet.
The advice and practical know-how that an experienced family law attorney can provide you in your case are invaluable. While you can always hire an attorney partway or midway through your family law case, I would not recommend doing so if you can help it. Rather, I would recommend hiring an attorney from the outside of your case so that you know your case will get off on the right foot and there will not be any problems associated with the case as far as making mistakes early on that can cost you time and money. Having to file and then re-file documents that contain mistakes will not cost you an arm and a leg, but it will cost you time and motivation.
The more mistakes you make at the beginning of a case, the less likely you are to want to proceed with the case, in the less likely you will have time to develop goals and work out solutions with your opposing party. As such, I couldn't recommend more hiring an experienced family law attorney from the very beginning of your case. While an attorney will cost you some money, the attorney will also allow you to spend time with your family, focusing on your career, and will provide you with the knowledge and steps necessary to enter into your case knowing that you have a clear end goal in mind.
Interviewing an attorney for your case
If you drive through the city of Houston or look online, you will surely find many attorneys out there who will advertise that they can take on the responsibility of representing you in a divorce or child custody case. One thing that our city does not lack is attorneys. You can find a lawyer at every major intersection and advertising on many billboards around town. That's to say nothing of the Internet in the different resources made available digitally and virtually by attorneys during this pandemic. With so many options to choose from, it can become confusing as to which attorney is right for you and what lawyer you should hire to represent you. Be mindful that you may have little experience in legal matters; you may have even less experience when it comes to hiring a lawyer. This should not dissuade you from hiring an attorney but should give you some pause when it comes to making a decision.
The first point I would make when interviewing an attorney would be to go through the steps of doing so. I think many of us have gotten a bit used or complacent in speaking to other people during this pandemic. Being told about the social distance repeatedly has made us hesitant when it comes to interacting with other people. However, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to speak with an attorney directly before hiring them. I've had people call our office on the phone and tell me that they want to hire us to represent them in a divorce, but I always tell these folks to come into our office or to speak with me on the phone before deciding that.
If at all possible, I would recommend you meeting face to face with the attorney that you are interviewing. Even during a pandemic, there is something to be said for being able to judge a person by their body language, the way they carry themselves, not only by what they have to say to you about your case. Having a certain comfort level with your attorneys is important, as well. Remember that a family law case is not a bankruptcy or a personal injury case. You will be discussing matters that are very private and have to do with the most sensitive areas of your life. As a result, you want to trust and feel comfortable with your attorney.
The next piece of advice that I'm about to give you will be difficult to follow through with. That is, I recommend that you do as much or more listening than you do talking. I know the tendency for most people when they get into a consultation is that they want to speak as much as possible and make sure that the attorney knows every last detail of their life as far as their family law case circumstances are concerned. I completely understand this feeling. After all, you are going through a stressful and difficult circumstance and are probably dealing with things you have never dealt with before. Going to see an attorney is almost like going to see a therapist or counselor. You want to open up and have someone help you with your problems.
However, I recommend that you give the attorney as much essential information as possible and then allow the attorney to speak for significant portions of the interview. You want to learn about their period; you need to see their experience, what sort of goals they would have for your case, and the direction they see your case going. If possible, you should work to see if you can have the attorney draw up a baseline plan for you as far as their expectations for your case. This will allow you to see what kind of thinker and planner the attorney is and what goal setting looks like in a case.
Once you have met with the attorney, heard from the attorney as far as their perspective on your case, then you can discuss the all-important costs of their representation. I will make no bones about it: hiring an attorney can be expensive. Certainly, I have never heard a client tell me that hiring a lawyer has been cheap or inexpensive. There will be times where you think to yourself that hiring an attorney is too costly for you. However, I cannot emphasize enough that hiring a lawyer means making short-term sacrifices for long-term goals. Think about what your situation will be like in five or ten years with your children. If you have a two or three-year-old son, you need your divorce to be executed in a way that allows you your 13 or 14-year-old son and you to have the strongest relationship possible. If mistakes are made in your divorce, then the future relationship with your children is in jeopardy.
Hiring an attorney can be a stressful and difficult task to accomplish. However, if you go into an interview with a plan in mind, the hiring process can be streamlined and efficient. Have your goals ready to discuss with the lawyer and be prepared for honest feedback. Take that feedback for what it's worth and use it to help you decide between hiring a lawyer. Trust your instincts but as importantly, listen to the context and words of the lawyer speaking to you.
The importance of goal setting and intentionality during a Texas family law case
Finally, I would like to spend some time discussing the importance of coming up with goals and acting intentionally to accomplish those goals. It is not good enough for you or your children to enter into a family law case with no goals in mind. Even if you understand the process of a divorce, simply going through the motions without coming up with realistic and achievable goals is not serving anyone well. For the time and money that you will be investing in a case, you must act intentionally and move towards goals that are in line with your values.
Once you decide to hire an attorney, I would ask them for an opportunity to take 20 or 30 minutes and hammer out some realistic goals, both short and long-term in nature, for you in your case. Again, you do not need to take up much of your time or the attorneys, but you need to communicate your goals for the case. In contrast, your attorney has worked with people similar to you facing similar circumstances before they are never working with you in particular. Your family may have some unique goals and objectives, and you need to make sure that the attorney understands those.
They will be negotiating on your behalf and will generally be speaking, laying the groundwork for a settlement with the other side from the beginning of the case. Therefore, you must take the time necessary to educate them on your perspective and for you to be able to take in feedback. Otherwise, you may be proceeding in a divorce or child custody case with goals that are UN obtainable given your particular circumstances.
Finally, it would help if you kept in mind that you and not your lawyer will make the decisions made in a Texas family law case. The attorney is there to guide and help you keep your focus; the attorney is not there to make you decide. So, do not enter into your family law case assuming that the lawyer will make decisions for you, then all will be well. Rather, take ownership of the case in place; trust in your attorney that their guidance and expertise will help you accomplish whatever goals you have created for yourself and your family.
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 consultation 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 family law in Texas as well as about your particular circumstances.