Family law cases are especially complex, due to the pervasive personal and financial entanglements inherent in family relationships. The family court’s decision brings life changes that will affect you and your family for many years to come. Having an experienced family law attorney helps protect your interests and ensure the best possible outcome for you and your children.
Before you hire a family law attorney in Atlanta to handle your case, it’s important to know the details behind your case and who you’re choosing to represent you. Having this information will help you identify the right attorney for your specific needs and develop the most effective attorney/client relationship possible. This will help ensure that everything that can be done does get done, creating the best outcome for you and your family.
What kinds of cases does family law attorney handle?
Specialization as a family law attorney requires additional years of law school, and experience to build strong proficiency in this area of legal practice. Family law covers the spectrum of legal matters affecting families, including issues involving the whole range of domestic relations, such as:
● Domestic Partnership and Civil Union
● Legal Separation
● Child Support
● Child Custody
● Property Distribution
● Child Visitation
● Paternity cases
● Juvenile cases
● Other family legal matters
In some jurisdictions, family courts also handle cases of child protection, domestic violence, and other matters that are handled in other places by the criminal court system.
Does legal compliance require an attorney in family legal cases?
Some family legal issues can be handled without a lawyer. Others involve procedures that must comply with federal and state guidelines, and you need a qualified attorney to ensure that you meet all requirements.
Such cases include divorce, child custody, property distribution, spousal support, and child visitation, among others. These are very high stakes cases for families, so full legal compliance throughout all processes is essential to protecting your interests and reaching the fairest and most desirable outcome.
Get a sense of the lawyer and the law firm before you commit.
The initial consultation with an attorney is your opportunity to release all the details of your situation, ask questions, and find out all that will be involved in the legal process for your case. You and your lawyer can also develop a strategic plan for achieving the best solution. The family lawyer will listen carefully to all facts of your case, and then provide advice on the best way to go about resolving each of the issues.
The way the legal team manages your early encounters is a good indicator of the quality of experience you will have throughout your relationship with the law firm, if you choose them to represent you. Evaluate your experience in the consultation and other introductory communications:
- Are you satisfied with the attorney’s proposed approach to resolving your case?
- How well has the law firm managed the initial communications with you?
- How prompt, efficient, and attentive has the attorney and staff been during the introductory stage with you?
- What are your overall impressions so far?
If you are not comfortable with the approach the attorney suggests, get a second opinion. Hiring a lawyer who has not given you confidence is a decision that you will likely regret.
Ask these 5 questions before you hire a family law attorney.
If you are going through a divorce or a struggle to determine child custody, you need to be sure you’re asking all the right questions to help you get the best family law attorney for your needs. Write your questions down and take your list with you. By the end of initial consultation, make sure you have answers to these five questions:
1. What are my legal options, and which one is best for me and my family?
The attorney should thoroughly explain your legal options, informing you of the positive and negative aspects of each of the most appropriate options. Then, it should be left up to you to decide how you want to proceed. Consider these priorities:
- Look for alternatives to having your family go to court. Ask if an agreement can be reached to settle the case. If the lawyer seems eager to start litigation, get a second opinion
- Seek to ensure your demands are reasonable. Emotions run high in divorce cases, and even higher in custody cases. Judgment can be affected. Even if your expectations are entirely reasonable, a judge may still see things differently. So, ask for your attorney’s opinion and make sure you are in clear agreement on what is a fair and compelling position
- Above all, make sure the lawyer’s approach prioritizes your child’s interests and has a track record of success in handling child custody cases with complexities similar to your situation
2. What will the entire legal process involve, from start to finish?
Get a good understanding of what the legal process is going to entail, throughout all steps to the resolution. You need to gain a grasp of what the legal procedures will involve, so you can prepare yourself for what’s to come.
Before the state Georgia civil court will permit a trial in divorce and custody cases, parties are required to engage in mediation, which the court may sponsor. Mandatory mediation is typically used only to try to resolve child custody and visitation, not usually to address financial conflicts. Your family law attorney will help ensure that you fully understand your legal rights, before you agree to a settlement.
3. What is your experience in family law practice and in cases very similar to mine?
Choose a family law attorney who has the specialized knowledge and experience in family law cases necessary to handle your case efficiently. Attorneys who don’t practice family law full-time are less likely to fully understand the complexities of your case.
Even if the lawyer has handled many divorce cases, ask how many cases with circumstances similar to yours he or she has handled in a trial? Find out how experienced everyone on the team you’re working with is; having a well qualified support team can reduce time and costs that are incurred throughout the case.
4. Who will be my contact at the law office, and what can I expect of communications?
Ask who you can contact with questions and how soon you can expect to receive a response to your calls and emails. Staff can answer some kinds of questions, while others require attention of the attorney. Be sure you get a commitment that you will be able to reach the attorney when needed.
In a firm where the lawyer hands over all cases to associates after the initial consultation, you have no direct contact with the attorney from that point forward. That means he or she cannot provide timely advice when important things happen that may impact the case. Choose an attorney whose method involves communicating directly with you routinely.
5. How much do you estimate my case will cost in total?
Costs can add up quickly in a complex divorce case. An attorney who quotes a very low initial retainer is likely to bill you very soon for additional costs. Hiring a lawyer that you ultimately cannot afford can put you in a situation where the lawyer quits working in the middle of your case. A good family law attorney will be straightforward about costs and billing, and is transparent about the costs of your case.
It’s usually not possible for a lawyer to predict the exact cost of a case, because there are contingencies beyond the attorney’s control. In the majority of family law cases, the biggest driver of cost is the other party’s degree of willingness to cooperate in reaching an amicable agreement. However, there are costs you can and should be informed of upfront:
- The attorney’s retainer fee, hourly costs, or flat fee
- Costs for support staff, travel expenses, court costs, outside consultants, private investigators, financial advisors, and more
- Outside services are included in the scope of your retainer agreement
Understanding what to expect in advance, in terms of the process, potential outcomes, and costs, can help you prepare and adjust your expectations; this will ensure that you have the smoothest possible outcome for your family in life after divorce.
Daniele Johnson & Associates, Family Law Atlanta GA
We are specialists in family law, helping people in Atlanta through divorce, child custody, visitation and other family law matters. Contact us today at 470-746-6485 to learn more about our services, schedule a consultation, or speak to a family lawyer.