“Better to have and not need than to need and not have.” Franz Kafka’s wise advice may apply to virtually any situation requiring foresight, but you can also connect it to getting embroiled in a legal problem. Because once you find yourself dealing with a case, you have no time to waste on finding the right legal representation, especially when it involves a family issue.
What Family Lawyers Handle
Family lawyers work on a wide range of cases dealing with family-related situations and domestic relations. While you may find them mostly focusing on divorce or annulment, the law professionals can also manage the following cases:
- Domestic Violence
- State Child Protection
- Restraining Orders
A divorce case can lead to other cases, such as child support, alimony or spousal support, and allocation of parental responsibility (which is the term in some states, namely Colorado) or child custody.
Family situations may mislead you into thinking that you can work out an arrangement with your spouse regarding child support or distribution of assets during a divorce. If you can come to an agreement that covers both your rights and protects your personal interests, it is well and good. But not all couples are fortunate, and disputes often arise, especially with high-conflict matters.
High-conflict cases involve parties with extreme behavior, which typically leads to violence, such as destruction of property to physical abuse. Sometimes the conflict can stem from unfounded allegations. The American Bar Association finds that in nearly 10% of all divorce cases, the conflict continues to the point that makes the case unmanageable. In such instances, your family attorney can bring perspective and critical knowledge that could resolve the fights. The right family lawyer could also return harmony to your relationships.
The Complexities of Cases
Family law cases are rarely “open and shut,” and likely contain unique circumstances.
For example, can you ask the family court to order an ex-spouse to reimburse you for child support years later, even though you expressly told the person the child died?
And are royalties from a former spouse’s work part of the marital property, entitling you to half the proceeds, even when completion of the work was after the filing of your marriage dissolution? Such cases require extensive expertise and knowledge of state law so your lawyer can argue for your rights with success.
The Right Questions Before Hiring
So how do you hire the right family attorney? Is it about getting lawyers who charge a premium for consultation? Do you go with divorce lawyers you see on TV?
When pressed for time, you can ask for referrals from people you trust, a relative who has used a lawyer or a colleague who has worked with good firms. When you have time, and ideally you should because your future depends on it, draft key questions to prepare for an initial consultation.
For divorce lawyers, ask about the following:
- The strategy for the case;
- The lawyers, and their experience, who will work on your case;
- Policies on returning phone calls, inquiries, and basic communication with clients, and
- The estimated cost of the divorce, and relevant expenses.
Consider also the lawyer’s temperament, personality, and your overall comfort in working with the legal professional.
Legal problems involving the family are, to say the least, troubling. But with the right legal representation, you and your family can find a resolution to whatever unfortunate situation you are in.