These are the key questions to ask a family law attorney when you first meet to guide your conversation and see if they're the right fit for you.
Family law is one of the most personal areas of law, as it encompasses a range of topics that generally relate to the creation or termination of family ties. As such, it’s important to work with an experienced family law attorney who has a strong understanding of your needs.
Price is an important consideration when finding legal help, but other factors to consider include the family law lawyer’s experience, approach to your case, and expertise.
We recommend asking the below questions when deciding which potential family law attorney to work with.
Here’s a useful list of questions to ask a family law attorney at an initial consultation, which we’ll explain in more detail below:
Some attorneys solely focus on family law, whereas others practice several other types of law in addition to family law.
Working with an attorney who exclusively handles family law cases could be helpful, as it likely means they’ve seen a wider range of cases and may have a better understanding of your specific needs, particularly if your needs are unique.
That isn’t to say lawyers with broader practices can’t be a great fit. We suggest you evaluate your options holistically to find the lawyer that fits your needs best.
Some family law attorneys only take cases in specific areas of family law, such as a divorce lawyer. Similarly, attorneys with broad practices may have never handled a child custody case, for example, simply because they haven’t had the opportunity to.
The key is to find an attorney who has experience in the specific area of family law that applies to your case. As covered in our Family Law Overview, these areas include divorce and legal separation, child custody, alimony (or spousal support), prenuptial agreements, adoption, and guardianship, and more.
Some family law attorneys will be experienced in many of these particular sub-issues, while others might specialize in one or two. It's important to select a family law attorney with experience in whatever issue you are dealing with.
And if your issue is specific to divorce, you can check out our list of questions to ask a divorce lawyer.
Experience is invaluable and should be an important consideration when selecting a lawyer.
However, more experience often means a higher price. Bear in mind that less experienced family law attorneys who have more reasonable prices can be just as smart and capable even though they may have handled fewer cases so far.
The cost of handling your family law case will vary widely based on the nature of your case and the experience of your lawyer. Regardless, your family law attorney should be able to provide a range of how much your case will cost from start to finish.
Be aware that factors outside of your lawyer’s control – such as the opposing party’s level of cooperation – can inflate your legal fees. This is relatively common in family law cases.
Among the questions to ask a family law lawyer during consultation, this one can be particularly helpful for both learning about what to expect as you navigate your legal issue as well as evaluating the lawyer that you speak with.
As mentioned, family law covers a broad range of issues, from child custody to divorce. And whether you are on amicable terms with your ex and seeking an uncontested divorce or gearing up to fight for sole custody in a contentious court battle, the strategy and the process you can expect to go through may be totally different.
For instance, divorce mediation and child custody mediation can be a great idea for people open to working through their issues in a more collaborative away. And mediation can save you time and money if successful. Meanwhile, some things are worth fighting for.
So whatever your circumstances, this question to ask a family law attorney can help make sure you're comfortable with how the lawyer views your case, and hopefully give you a sense of what to expect as you navigate your issue.
Similar to the cost, the timeline of your case will largely depend on its complexity and what area of family law it’s in.
In the case of divorce, if you’re on good terms with your spouse and don’t have any complicated property matters to resolve, your case could only take a few months. But if not, your divorce could take over a year.
As with any legal issue, your family law lawyer should be clear about what the process will look like and how long it will take, even if their timeline is just an estimate.
Most lawyers, including family law attorneys, have different communication preferences. Some prefer to talk over email, whereas others prefer speaking over video calls or phone calls. Consider your own preferences when it comes to communication to ensure you select a family attorney whose preferences align with yours.
Whatever your preference, it’s important to know how to contact your family law attorney should any questions or issues arise.
There’s no right answer here – it’s up to you to decide what you’re comfortable with when it comes to communication with your family law attorney. The goal of asking this question is to make sure you’re satisfied with a lawyer’s standard communication practices before hiring them.
If you decide to hire the family law attorney that you speak with, you’ll likely need to sign a retainer agreement and some other paperwork to formalize your relationship. In general, though, this is a good question to ask because your family lawyer will need your help and participation to achieve the best possible outcome in your case.
Price, experience, and your comfort level with the lawyer are just three of the many factors to consider before hiring legal representation. Family law issues deal with the things we hold most dear in life, making the search for the right attorney even more important.
These questions should help you evaluate your options, but since family law is so personal, trust your instincts on whether the family lawyer you speak with is the right attorney for you.