What exactly is a “family lawyer”?
In Florida, family lawyers handle a variety of different legal situations that are specific to – you guessed it – the family. This can mean anything from paternity to child support and custody to the multiple legal areas that deal with divorce, including alimony and property distribution.
In this post we are going to focus on what you need to know to hire the best possible family lawyer if you are considering or facing divorce.
Knowing who to work with can be a tricky business. Is any “family lawyer” good enough? Do you need someone who labels themselves as a divorce lawyer and solely focuses on that legal niche? Is it even necessary for you to hire a family lawyer for your divorce at all?
Do I Need a Divorce Lawyer?
While some couples do decide to settle matters on their own, there are a number of good reasons to hire a family lawyer who handles divorce. During this emotionally trying time, a divorce lawyer can help mediate and facilitate the process, walking you through every stage of the process and minimizing damages to your finances and legal rights.. A good family attorney will be well versed in the ins and outs of divorce laws in Florida and can assist in speeding up and simplifying this complex process.
If your spouse has already initiated divorce proceedings, it is even more crucial to seek legal counsel in order to avoid being put a disadvantage. Regardless of the scenario you face, an experienced divorce attorney will ensure the best possible outcome for you and your family.
What Should I Look for in a Family Lawyer for my Divorce?
One of the biggest considerations is whether you should choose someone who sees themselves solely as a divorce lawyer or if it is better to opt for a knowledgeable family attorney who can also help you with related issues. As in most things related to divorce and family law, it depends on your particular situation.
If you have children with your spouse, it is almost always a smarter decision to work with a family lawyer who can also help you with those kinds of legal questions as well as the divorce itself. Things like child custody, visitation, and child support.
Still, anyone who completes their education and passes the bar can call themselves a family attorney. What are some specific things that you should be looking for when you research legal professionals to help you with your situation?
- You want someone who is objective, experienced, and well-versed in the field of family law. It’s not enough to have a degree. You should be able to get a straight answer on how many years they have been practicing, where they went to school, and their record on previous cases.
- You want someone who knows how to talk to you. A good family lawyer not only understands the nuances of Florida family law themselves, but can help you demystify concerns regarding fees and costs, eligibility for divorce, and division of property and finances.
- You want someone who shares your philosophy. Are they more cooperative or combative? Not all divorces need to be bloody battles, and more cooperative lawyers can mean a better future relationship with your ex-spouse. Additionally, many lawyers offer mediation and other out-of-court settlement options, saving everyone an immense amount of trouble if a consensus is reached. Make sure to check if the family lawyer you are considering offers these services.
- You want someone who makes you feel comfortable. Do you feel comfortable speaking freely around your lawyer? You will spend a great deal of this emotionally taxing time divulging information about your personal life to your attorney, so it is crucial to find a lawyer you feel you can trust.
What Questions Should I Ask My Prospective Divorce Attorney?
Before meeting with a potential family attorney, outline your most important concerns and identify any element of the process you are confused or curious about. Here are some questions you might ask a divorce attorney, and why you would ask them:
What is involved in the divorce process? How long will this process last?
While nobody can offer a specific timeframe on how long your particular divorce process might last, a knowledgeable family attorney should be able to give a general estimate based on various factors, and help walk you through the process step by step.
What portion of your clientele are individuals seeking a divorce?
While you don’t necessarily need someone solely focused on divorce, it’s important that your attorney have a wealth of experience handling Florida divorces.
What is your background in family and divorce law? How many divorce cases have you tried?
This question is related to the one above but delves deeper and gets more specific.
What is your experience with custody/visitation cases?
If you have kids, you need to know that the person you’re hiring intimately understands the complexities surrounding child custody and visitation.
Are you familiar with family law court judges in the area?
Judges are more likely to trust and favor an attorney they are familiar with, so this may give you an advantage.
Will anyone else in your practice handle my case? What is their background?
A strong legal team is an asset. However, you want to avoid an attorney who will delegate important aspects of your case to less experienced members of his or her staff. If at all possible, you should try to meet every individual who will be handling your case.
How will you charge me? What is your hourly rate? What is your retainer up front?
Questions of cost are important for obvious reasons, and the Florida Family Law Clinic was created to provide individuals in lower income brackets with experienced and knowledgeable lawyers who can help you through this trying time.
What is your estimate for the total cost of this divorce?
While the bottom line is another element that is impossible to know for sure, your attorney will be able to inform you on factors that will affect the final cost.
If you are considering or faced with a divorce, we would like to hear from you. The attorneys and staff at the Florida Family Law Clinic offer compassionate and knowledgeable service at affordable rates.