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Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Child Custody Attorney in New York City



Child custody in New York City is one of the most contentious facets of divorcing couples and unwed parents. If you’re involved in a child custody dispute you may want to hire a child custody lawyer.

Laying the Groundwork

Before retaining an attorney, schedule some initial consultations to meet lawyers. An initial consultation will help you find a lawyer who fits your needs. It’s the prime opportunity to ask questions about lawyer fees, his expertise, case management style and your case. Your goal of the meeting is to decide whether to hire the lawyer.

Prior to your initial consultation, prepare for it. Write down the details of your case for the lawyer to review. Gather any important documents relevant to your case. Write a list of questions to ask the attorney. Lastly, bring writing material and a pen to take notes during the consultation.

This article suggests many possible questions to ask. Don't feel as if you have to ask all of them. Instead, focus on those that help you make a hiring decision. Also, add any of your own that address your specific needs and concerns.

Billing Rates

Since hiring a lawyer is expensive, ask the attorney about his billing rates before hiring him. Key billing questions to ask a potential lawyer include:

  • How much will my child custody case cost?
  • What type of fee arrangements do you offer?
  • What’s included in the attorney’s fee?
  • Am I responsible for any other fees?
  • How often will I be billed?
  • Do I have to pay a retainer?
  • Will you put our fee arrangement in writing?

Legal Experience

Whether you live in Manhattan, Astoria or Brooklyn, an experienced lawyer should help you understand the complexities associated with New York City custody cases. Key experience questions include:

  • Where did you earn your law degree?
  • How many years have you been a child custody lawyer?
  • Do you just practice family law?
  • Have you ever handled a child custody case like mine?
  • What is your success rate with child custody cases?
  • Are you a member of any bar or professional organizations?
  • Do you have a list of references that I could call?

Case Management

Child custody lawyers establish a process to handle their workload. The following set of questions will help you understand the logistics of handling your case. Case management questions include:

  • Who handles the research, case preparation and court work for my case?
  • If other people are working on my case, what are their qualifications?
  • Who will be making court appearances?
  • Who should I contact if I have any questions?
  • When will you be available for meetings?
  • How often will I be updated about my case?
  • Will I receive copies of all correspondence related to my case?
  • What’s the best way to reach you?
  • How long will it take you to get back to me if I Ieave you a message?

Case Assessment for Child Custody in New York City

Attorneys should be able to assess your case during the initial consultation. Describe your circumstances to the potential lawyer and ask them questions to ensure they can properly handle your case. Key case assessment questions include:

  • Could you explain the process for handling a child custody case?
  • What factors do the courts consider to determine child custody?
  • What are the potential outcomes to my case?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of my case?
  • How long would you expect my child custody case to take take?
  • What type of approach will you take to resolve my case?

After the Initial Consultation

Take notes during or after an initial consultation with a potential child custody lawyer to better assess the pros and cons of working with him and his firm. Key questions to ask yourself include:

  • Is the child custody lawyer available?
  • Does the lawyer have enough experience to help you win your case?
  • Did you understand what the lawyer was talking about?
  • Did the lawyer answer questions openly and directly?
  • What did you like or dislike about the attorney?
  • Do you agree with his strategy?
  • Are you OK with his billing rates?
  • Could you access the law firm easily?
  • Was parking or public transportation available near the law office?

Contact the references provided if you can’t choose an attorney. Their opinion could help you decide which lawyer to hire. Ask the references if they were happy with the lawyer and how he handled their case. Would they hire the attorney again?

After checking references and assessing each attorney, hire the New York City custody lawyer that best fits your needs.