In today’s world, the internet and social media provide so much information, some of which is simply wrong. It makes it very difficult to find a domestic relations attorney who actually limits his or her practice to family law and who has the skill set to handle anything that “pops” up in a domestic case (e.g., a CPS investigation or protective order filing). A Google search, such as for “the best divorce attorney”, brings up so many attorneys and is often not helpful. So, how do you find a skilled domestic relations attorney? The blog provides guidance on selecting the right divorce attorney for your case.
In law school, when you are given an assignment to address a legal issue for your class, you have to sort through tens of thousands of cases and statutes to find the most probable answer to your legal question. When you keep getting to the same cases or statutes, you know you have found the cases and statues that contain the answer to your legal question (i.e., the assignment). Those few cases or statutes are where you spend your time analyzing your legal issue and the controlling law (i.e., the answer). The same method works well to research and select a domestic relations attorney. Ask friends who have been through a divorce who handled their case and if they were satisfied with their representation, or did they wish the opposing counsel was representing them? Conducting various searches on Google and social media and developing a list of divorce attorneys who keep coming up under various search terms. If you know an attorney, ask him or her who they might recommend. Ultimately, through this method, you should develop a “short” list of who to consider to handle your case.
With your list, you should consider setting up a consultation with the attorney to ask him or her if they can and/or will take your case at this time. Most good divorce attorneys charge for their consults because they are very busy people. If you set a consult, you should have two matters to discuss during the consult. The first is what you are trying to accomplish in your case. Do you know? Are you seeking sole physical and legal custody of your children? Why? Are you seeking an equal property division (what you own, minus what you owe, divided by two) or unequal division of the property, whereby you get more than half of the marital estate? Why? If you do not know the answers to these questions, this is a good area to discuss during the consultation.
The second area to discuss with an attorney during a domestic relations consult is related to their skills. Do they believe they can meet your legal objectives? Why or why not? Ultimately, throughout the consultation, you will get a “gut” feeling if this attorney is the right fit for your case. There is a great deal of science to support the notation that your “gut” feeling is right. It is often said, “go with your gut [feeling]”. It may be obvious, but you may want to know how many years the attorney has practiced. A new domestic attorney may or may not have the skills to handle a complex domestic relations case (if that is your case). Good family law attorneys only come into their own after many hearings and trials over time of cases across the domestic spectrum. Additionally, you may want to determine if the attorney’s practice is limited to family law or is the practice a general practice. Both have pros and cons, and you should discuss this with a prospective attorney to gain insight into whether he or she is the right fit for your case.
In addition, in larger domestic relations firms, the attorney you meet with and decide to retain may not be the attorney who actually handles your case. If you base your selection on the attorney versus the firm, you should ask who will actually handle your case if it goes to mediation and/or trial; and if the firm is able to handle your case if it goes to appeal. Will it be the same attorney? Additional areas you may want to discuss during your consultation is whether the attorney has experience with the specific issues in your case, such as might be necessary for a high-conflict custody case or high-net worth marital estate divorce case. In many domestic relations’ cases, emergencies come about, and you may also want to ask if the firm/attorney is able to handle emergency matters. Finally, the hallmark of a good attorney is whether he or she writes and/or teaches continuing education to other attorneys—this is a pretty good sign they are skilled domestic counsel. If your case is already pending and it is close to trial, you need to know if the attorney and his or her legal team can handle preparing your case in a compressed timeline.
Lastly, and you will note, the shortness of this paragraph the biggest issue that arises between attorneys and clients is lack of communication. Domestic cases represent one of the most stressful life events you will ever have to endure, and you may need frequent contact with your counsel. Will your attorney return your communication (e.g., phone call, email or text) in a timely manner?
Ultimately, if you do not spend the time to inquire into an attorney and pick purely based on price, an attorney being a male or female, certain age or other random factor, you will likely wind up with the wrong fit for a domestic relations attorney for your case.
This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. who handle domestic cases of all types across Indiana’s ninety-two counties. We hope this blog helps you make an informed choice as to the domestic counsel you retain. This blog is written for general educational purposes. The blog is not to be relied upon for any specific legal matter or issue. The blog is not legal advice. It is an advertisement.