Factors to Consider When Hiring a Child Custody Attorney in Washington
If you’re involved in a child custody dispute, Washington State has many family law lawyers who can answer your specific questions and help you through the process. But how do you know which lawyer is for you? This article can help you sort through all the factors you need to consider when trying to select an attorney.
Among the many considerations are:
- What kind of experience do I need in a family law attorney?
- What’s the best strategy to get custody of my children?
- In which lawyer should I place my confidence?
The key to finding a good child custody lawyer in Washington State is in the interview you conduct before you hire someone. Most family law lawyers are willing to sit down with you in an informal meeting called an initial consultation.
You can accomplish several important goals at an initial consultation, including:
- Learning about the lawyer’s background and experience
- Discussing your options and what might be the best strategy for you
- Deciding whether this is the lawyer you want to hire
Whether you are in Everett or Olympia or any other part of the state, most Washington State family law lawyers do not charge for their time at an initial consultation. Others may charge a nominal fee. Ask about the fees for an initial consultation when you call to book the appointment.
Evaluating Child Custody Lawyers in Washington State
Before you evaluate a family law attorney, it is helpful to evaluate your goals. If you believe your child custody dispute may get nasty, with you and your child's other parent arguing over who should get custody of the children, then you’ll need a Washington State lawyer who is ready to go to battle for you.
On the other hand, you and your ex may be one of those couples who find it easy to agree on a parenting plan. If that’s the case, you may be looking for a lawyer with good people skills and a good understanding of Washington State child custody law, someone who can also spot any potential pitfalls down the road.
Use your time at the initial consultations to find out how much experience the lawyer has representing clients with circumstances similar to your own. You’ll also want to know how long the lawyer has been practicing in family law and what he does to stay current on Washington State child custody laws.
Discuss your goals with the lawyers you meet at initial consultations. If your ex is not cooperating with you, you’ll want the attorneys’ opinion on the best way to achieve your goal.
Also discuss alternative ways to reach your goal and ask why the lawyer’s recommendation is your best bet.
Ask the lawyer about alternative dispute resolution techniques, such as arbitration and mediation. Arbitration is when you allow a third-party arbitrator – often a retired judge or experienced lawyer, but he can also be a counselor – to settle your disputes for you. Mediation is when a third-party tries to coach you and your spouse to a mutual agreement.
Most civil lawsuits involve a financial goal, i.e., trying to win a financial award. In these cases, it’s easy to acknowledge when you’re spending too much money on lawyers because the lawsuit no longer makes financial sense. You don’t want to spend more than you stand to win.
With divorce and child custody issues, it’s different. The “award” is custody of your children, division of property and possible financial support into the future. These issues can be emotional, which could cause you to lose sight of how much you’re spending on a family lawyer.
This is why it is extremely important you understand how a Washington State family law attorney would bill you. Most lawyers with clients who are battling contentious spouses will ask for an hourly fee. If your divorce is not hotly contested and fairly routine, some attorneys might ask for a flat fee, that is, one price to cover the lawyer’s work throughout your case.
To better understand how the lawyer’s billing works, ask what the fee is, what it includes and what other fees you might also have to pay. Ask if the lawyer needs a retainer, which is a pot of money you put up from which the lawyer can draw payments. Also find out what forms of payment the lawyer prefers.
Trust, Confidence & Judgment
There’s a whole other element to hiring a lawyer that cannot be measured on paper. You’ll need to be able to trust your attorney.
So as you are speaking with prospective lawyers at the initial consultations, notice how they make you feel. Do they have sound judgment? Are they patient with your questions? Are you comfortable with them?
After you have finished interviewing all of the Washington State family law lawyers on your list, it is time to decide which one to hire. Review your notes. Which one had:
- The best experience?
- A reasonable legal fee?
- Advice you believe will get you the results you want?
- A manner and work ethic that made you feel confident?
Also call former clients of your top contenders. By learning about their first-hand experiences with the lawyers you’re considering, you should be able to focus in on the very best family law lawyer for you. Once you have hired your attorney, you are ready to move forward with your divorce.