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Questions to Ask When Interviewing San Diego Custody Attorneys

The key to finding the right child custody lawyer is in the questions you ask before you hire one. This article suggests dozens of questions you could pose to San Diego custody attorneys.

Most child custody attorneys in San Diego are willing to sit down with you to answer these questions. This first meeting is called an initial consultation, and often it is free of charge, although some lawyers will charge a nominal fee.The initial consultation is the perfect place to:

  • Ask about an attorney’s background and experience
  • Get feedback regarding your custody battle
  • Determine whether this is the lawyer you want to hire

This article will cover all these areas in more detail, with numerous suggested questions you could ask. Don’t feel obligated to ask them all. Rather, pick and choose among them as you see fit, adding some of your own.

Background & Experience

Arguing with your children’s other parent over who gets custody of them can be very emotionally draining. But with a San Diego child custody attorney by your side, you’ll be able to focus on crafting a parenting agreement without going off track. To find out if an attorney has the experience you’re looking for, consider asking:

  • How long have you been an attorney?
  • How long have you been helping San Diego clients with their custody battles?
  • How many custody cases do you handle each year?
  • Are you a certified specialist in family law?
  • Do you practice in other areas of the law? If so, which? How much of your practice is made up of custody cases?
  • What percentage of your custody cases end with both parents agreeing to a parenting plan? What percentage have to go before a judge to decide custody?
  • How do you stay current on custody law?
  • Do you belong to any bar associations or other professional organizations? If so, which ones?

Style & Philosophy

Lawyers have different styles, demeanors and philosophies. To make sure your lawyer meshes with your goals and expectations, ask the San Diego custody lawyers you meet:

  • What is your style when it comes to handling custody disagreements? Are you known for being a shrewd negotiator with a take-no-prisoners attitude? Or do you strike a more cooperative tone?
  • What methods have worked best in your previous custody cases?
  • What is your style in dealing with your clients? Will you give me options and let me choose or tell me what I should do?

Reviewing Your Options & Strategy

An important component of the initial consultation is feedback you receive regarding your specific set of circumstances. The San Diego custody attorneys you meet are sure to have a number of questions for you. Answer them honestly and directly. Then ask where do you go from there with questions, such as: 

  • What is the likelihood that I would receive everything I’m seeking in my custody arrangement?
  • Which factors work against me?
  • Which factors work in my favor?
  • Are we more likely to prevail if we go on the attack or seek cooperation?
  • What are the odds that a judge will ultimately have to decide custody?
  • What is a judge likely to decide in my case?
  • Is mediation an option?

Case Management

Case management is the term lawyers use to describe how they work a case, the behind-the-scenes logistics. As a client, you can avoid a lot of misunderstandings by asking:

  • Are you available to represent me?
  • Will other attorneys at your firm work on my case? If so, who? Can I meet them?
  • Will you be the one representing me in negotiations with my children’s other parent and in court?
  • Who will be my day-to-day contact if I have questions? How do you like to be contacted? How soon should I expect a response?
  • Will I receive regular updates? From whom? How often?

Legal Fees

Whether you are in La Mesa, Imperial Beach or any other part of the city, most San Diego child custody attorneys bill by the hour, called an hourly fee or hourly rate. They usually ask for a retainer fee as well. A retainer acts as a deposit from which the attorney withdraws payments. Sometimes, you’ll be asked to replenish the retainer. Other lawyers may switch you over to monthly billing.

Some relevant questions to ask about legal fees include:

  • How much is your hourly fee?
  • Do you charge a retainer? How much is it? Do I have to put up additional money when the retainer is used, or will I eventually switch to monthly billing?
  • What other expenses will I have outside of your legal fee? Can you give me an estimate for them?
  • I’m on a budget. Can you tell me when I’m getting close to the maximum I want to pay?
  • What forms of payment do you accept? Do you offer payment plans?

Selecting a San Diego Child Custody Lawyer

When you are finished with your initial consultations, it’s time to choose a San Diego child custody lawyer to represent you. To help you narrow down your choices, it’s time to ask yourself a few questions, such as:

  • Which attorney had the best experience and seemed the most knowledgeable?
  • Whose advice did you like best?
  • Whose approach to resolving custody disputes was most like your own?
  • Who had reasonable legal fees?

The answers to these questions should help you home in on your best choice among the San Diego child custody attorneys you interviewed. When you hire your lawyer, you will be ready to work out a parenting agreement.