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Questions to Ask Before Hiring Child Custody Lawyers
If you've never before hired a custody attorney, the process may seem foreign or intimidating. Actually, it can be boiled down to three simple steps:
- Gather the names of child custody lawyers, using both personal recommendations and sources such as Attorneys.com.
- Meet with each child custody lawyer, familiarize him or her with your child custody case, learn more about the lawyer's skills and background, plus his or her recommended strategy for handling your case.
- Review your notes from each meeting, then hire the best-qualified child custody attorney for your case.
Do some preparation work before your scheduled meeting with each child custody attorney. Take some time to make a detailed list of questions you'd like to ask during your meeting. These questions should help you get to know the attorney and make an informed decision.
Background Questions for Custody Attorneys
Questions to ask about a child custody attorney's legal education and professional experience include:
- Where did you attend college and law school?
- How long have you been practicing law?
- Are you a member of any bar associations and professional organizations? If so, which ones?
- On average, how many child custody cases do you handle annually?
- Do you frequently handle custody cases similar to mine?
- What experience do you have using mediation in child custody cases?
Legal Philosophy & Style
You'll want to ask about the custody lawyer's style and approach to practicing law. Among the questions to consider asking:
- What is your approach or philosophy in handling child custody cases?
- How do you generally work with clients? Do you outline my options and expect me to make a decision? Are you more likely to tell me what to do?
- How would you describe your personality or style as an attorney?
Assessment of Your Child Custody Case
Get the lawyer's assessment of your case. Relevant questions to ask include:
- What is your opinion and assessment of my child custody case?
- What kind of resolution can I expect?
- What potential problems could affect the outcome of my case?
- Will we have to go to trial?
- How long would it reasonably take to resolve my child custody issues?
- Is mediation or arbitration an option?
Questions to ask about how your custody issue will be managed include:
- Are you available to handle my child custody case?
- Will you personally manage my case, or will another attorney be responsible for it?
- Will other attorneys or experts be working on my case? What are their roles?
- How frequently will you provide progress reports? What is included in those reports?
- Will you personally handle my child custody negotiations and court appearances?
- Will you be my day-to-day contact?
- What is the best way to reach you? How quickly can I expect you to respond?
Questions to ask about the estimated cost of your custody case include:
- How much do you charge for your services?
- How frequently do you send out bills?
- When will payment be due?
- Do you require a retainer payment?
- What other fees and expenses will I have to pay?
- What do you estimate would be the total cost of my child custody case?
- Optional: Are there less experienced lawyers or paralegals who can do some work on my case at a lower rate?
At the End of Your Meeting
Before the meeting ends, ask the lawyer if there are other questions you should have asked, or anything else the attorney wants to tell you. Is there anything you should know before deciding whether to hire him or her?
Hiring a Child Custody Attorney
Once you've had the opportunity to meet one or more attorneys, you'll need to review the results of those meetings before deciding which lawyer to hire. Among the factors to consider:
- Does the attorney have the experience necessary to handle your custody case?
- Is the attorney's style and approach in line with how you'd like your custody issue to be handled?
- Did you feel as if you could trust the attorney's recommendations and feel confident following their advice?
- Can you afford the legal fees?