Whether you’re certain you want to get divorced or you’re just considering your options during a time of marital trouble, good legal advice will help you make the best decisions — for you and for any children in your family. But how do you find “good” legal advice? Can you just call the first attorney you find on Google? What should you be looking for? Choosing the right family law firm to handle your divorce case can mean the difference between a faster, more affordable divorce and a drawn-out and expensive legal battle, and it can make a big difference in getting the marital settlement, parenting plan, or custody solution that you really want. This means that selecting a lawyer is a decision to make carefully — even in the midst of the emotional chaos that might be going on.
It doesn’t help that seemingly every attorney you meet with will tell you all about why they’re the greatest and no one else can do what they do (which is a bit of a red flag in itself — but we’ll talk more about that later). In the middle of all this noise, how do you determine which divorce attorney is truly the best fit for your case?
To help you with this big decision, we’ve compiled a list of six important questions you should ask before you hire an attorney to handle your divorce or child custody matter.
Question 1: Will They Be Accessible to You?
The number one complaint that we hear from our clients about law firms they’ve worked with in the past is lack of communication. Divorce and custody issues tend to give people enough stress on their own, and not being able to get in touch with your family law attorney when you have important questions or need an update on your case creates tension and anxiety when you least need it.
Ask about the firm’s communication practices:
- How will they update you on your case, and how regularly do they communicate?
- What steps they take to make themselves accessible to clients?
- Do you have to go through office staff every time you need to talk to the attorney?
- Can you reach the attorney outside of office hours if you really need to?
- Will they give you their cell phone number?
If the attorney is only available during office hours or during appointments scheduled after you’ve been filtered by a member of their staff, you can expect to be frustrated in the middle of your case when you want simple answers or a quick update. Family conflicts often escalate in unexpected ways, and they never seem to do it on a Tuesday at 10 a.m. If you want to know that you can reach your attorney when the cops or DCF show up unexpectedly on Friday night at 10 p.m., you need to ask questions about your attorney’s availability up front.
Question 2: Do They Know How to Communicate?
The family law firm you’re considering might be easy to get in touch with initially, but that doesn’t help if they can’t explain what’s going on with your case, what they’re doing for you, and why.
When you speak with the attorney you’re considering, make sure they can clearly and straightforwardly explain the issues that will affect your case. If they can’t seem to express themselves in a way that a regular person can understand (or worse, they don’t explain anything and just ask you to “trust them”) consider how frustrated you will feel when you’re confused and in the dark about what your attorney is saying for the duration of your legal case. A confusing attorney doesn’t mean the attorney is “smart.” The smartest attorneys will be able to explain things to you in a way that you understand.
Besides their ability to clearly explain your case and the legal issues around it, make sure that you like talking with your lawyer and feel confident after a conversation with them. While your divorce attorney doesn’t need to be your best friend, you’re going to be interacting with them a lot, so don’t underestimate the importance of choosing someone that you feel comfortable around.
Question 3: Are They Focused on Your Needs First?
Listen carefully to how the attorney responds to your questions: Your divorce attorney should put your needs and concerns first. When you choose an attorney for your family law matter, you need to do so with the confidence that they will make decisions based on your best interests as you have expressed them and not on other factors, like what was important in their other cases or what represents a better “win” for them.
To figure out whether the attorney you’re considering really puts their clients’ needs before their own, pay attention to how they handle their conversation with you and watch for any “me-first” red flags:
- Do they actually listen to you, or do they dominate the conversation and talk the entire time?
- Do they keep the focus on your case and your needs, or do they constantly turn the spotlight on themselves, their credentials, or how they’d like to see the case unfold?
- Do you sense them pushing your case in a direction you don’t want it to go or that you’re not sure about?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, or if you get a feeling that the lawyer you’re considering is putting their own needs or desires first, you have every right to walk out the door. Your divorce or custody matter will change your family and alter a major part of your life, and it’s far too important to let someone else hijack it with their own agenda.
Question 4: Is It Convenient to Work with Them?
Your family law matter may take some time to resolve, and working with your lawyer needs to fit into your life. Has the firm you’re considering taken steps to make life easier for clients who have families, jobs, and obligations to juggle? Do they have an accessible location with free and convenient on-site parking? Driving to a downtown high-rise near the courthouse might be easy for the attorney, but it could mean you need to take a day off and drive around for half an hour looking for parking every time you need to meet the attorney.
Similarly, it’s always better to leave your children at home when meeting your attorney, but sometimes babysitters cancel and you still need to prepare for trial or meet with your attorney. How would the firm handle that? Ask and look around: Do they have accommodations if you have to bring your children, like toys and a changing table, or would they force you to reschedule?
In addition, ask what the firm’s paperwork practices are like and what systems they use to streamline their office work. Case management software will help a firm manage your case effectively, ensure you don’t miss deadlines, and can minimize costs to you in the long run. Can you text them pictures or screenshots? Do they have online or computerized worksheets for financial forms? With the technology that’s available today, there’s no excuse for clunky procedures or copying and re-copying hand-drafted forms all day. While the attorney you’re considering may be skilled and experienced, working with them could turn out to be a massive headache if their office practices are 20 years out of date.
Finally, ask what methods the firm uses to communicate with clients: Can they talk with you by phone or even video call if needed, or do you have to drive to the office even when it’s inconvenient for you? This can end up being very important when schedule conflicts and urgent family matters come up, as they inevitably do.
Question 5: Do They Provide Good Value?
Cost matters when it comes to choosing a divorce lawyer, and you shouldn’t be afraid to shop around and ask how the family law firm you’re considering strives to provide the most value for their clients. While no lawyer is going to work for free, that doesn’t mean you need to pay top dollar to get quality representation that can address all your legal needs.
Make sure you ask yourself the following questions during your first meeting with the family attorney you’re considering:
- Is the firm clear about their fees and billing practices?
- How do their hourly fees compare with those of other attorneys you’ve looked at?
- Are you paying the price for a specialist to handle a very complex case when your needs are fairly simple?
- Can the firm help you with financing options, or do they demand a large retainer upfront and then abandon you unless you come up with it?
Even if you can’t afford all the legal work you need or initially wanted, an attorney should be able to provide you with options in a consultation. If you’re not satisfied with the attorney’s answers to questions about their cost or the value of their services, it’s a good sign that you may be able to find better a better fit somewhere else.
Question 6: Can They Help with All Your Legal Needs?
Many attorneys today specialize in handling a very narrow range of legal matters, mostly because it’s convenient for an attorney to handle the same exact work over and over. As a result, most people today don’t have a “family attorney” in the way that their parents and grandparents did.
The trouble is that legal problems usually don’t happen in a single serving. Divorces often lead to bankruptcies (or vice versa). Parties in family law matters buy and sell the marital home, lease an apartment, or rent-to-purchase a new place. Wills and estates need to be updated to reflect the changes in the family. People want to ask about legal matters — the question is: Will your attorney have answers?
The vast majority of legal problems that suburban families face are relatively standard from a legal point of view, and a well-versed attorney who’s willing to help can usually resolve them. When you’re evaluating a family law firm, consider the following questions:
- Are you just finding a solution for your current legal issue or forming a lasting relationship with an attorney who can address all your legal needs?
- Does the firm handle other common legal matters like wills, trusts, real estate, and contracts?
- Is their door open to you if you need advice on another type of legal matter?
- If you come to them with a complex legal issue, can they refer you to a trusted specialist who can help if they can’t?
If the firm can answer “yes” to these questions, you may have found not only a divorce lawyer, but a family attorney who can meet your legal needs throughout your proceeding and for many years to come.
Why Choose the Devolder Law Firm?
If you’re searching for an attorney to help with your family law matter, you need an affordable and convenient legal partner who puts your needs first. The Devolder Law Firm is here to help the residents of New Tampa and Wesley Chapel with all their legal needs.
At the Devolder Law Firm, we work hard to remain accessible and communicate clearly so you always know exactly what’s happening with your case. We also use the latest in paperless, cloud-based technology to effectively manage your case and deliver the most value for our clients. In addition, we strive to be convenient to our clients – with a location less than 2 miles from i-75, in the heart of New Tampa, we offer free on-site parking outside our discrete and serene office location and affordable financing options for clients who are concerned about their ability to pay up front.
Our founding attorneys are parents themselves, and can relate to the challenges that our clients face. If you have to bring your children to an appointment, we will find a way to make it work. While our time is valuable, we respect what our clients are going through and do our best to make sure their money is well-spent as we work on their legal matter.
Ready to find out what the Devolder Law Firm can do for you? Call us at 813-724-3880 or fill out our convenient online contact form and we’ll get in touch right away to schedule an initial consultation.
The content provided in this website/blog is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.