It's always good to come prepared so here are the key questions to ask a child custody lawyer to determine if they might be the right fit for you.
Navigating child custody questions by yourself can be complicated, challenging, and downright scary. Perhaps nowhere in family law are the stakes higher and more emotionally charged.
It can save you time, money, and headache if you are able to come to an agreement on your own about how to handle custody of your children. But even if you are on amicable terms with your former spouse - and especially if you are not - it can be important to have someone who will fully represent your interests and help you navigate the legal process.
These are some of the key questions to ask a child custody lawyer to determine if they might be the right fit for you.
There are many practice areas a lawyer might focus on, and even family law is an expansive area of the law. It is important to know whether the lawyer focuses on family law and child custody cases in particular. You probably don’t want to trust your child custody case to a bankruptcy lawyer, no matter how great they are at their day job.
Physical custody refers to a parent’s right to have the child live with them, whereas legal custody is a parent’s right to make decisions about a child’s upbringing (such as regarding medical care, schooling, or religious upbringing).
These types of custody can in turn be awarded as either joint or sole custody, and the actual details of custody arrangements can vary greatly. The child custody lawyer should be able to describe at a high level what some of the possible outcomes of your case might be.
Mediation is a party-driven process in which a neutral third party seeks to help you and your spouse reach an agreement of your own making. Mediations can be conducted either with or without attorneys, and parties may opt for mediation on their own or be directed to it by the court. It can be useful to know whether your child custody lawyer has experience with mediations, or whether they are more accustomed to battling things out in court.
Many child custody lawyers charge hourly rates for their time, though flat fee arrangements are also possible. Some child custody lawyers may also require an upfront retainer, which is essentially a down payment for legal fees and expenses. The total cost of your case might be difficult to accurately predict, but you should get a clear sense upfront of how they will charge you and a range of what the costs could be.
A lawyer might handle your case by themselves, or they may have assistance from other attorneys, legal secretaries, or paralegals. Having non-attorneys assist with your case work can actually distribute work more efficiently and keep your costs down, but it is useful to know upfront who will be working on your case.
Some child custody lawyers prefer email while others prefer speaking over the phone or by video. There is no right answer here. You should consider your own preferences between phone, video or email and whether the attorney can accommodate your preferences. Either way, it is important to know how best to connect with your child custody lawyer if issues or questions arise.
There is no right answer to this question, either. Maybe you only want to hear from your child custody lawyer if there is a major update, or maybe you would prefer to have periodic check-ins. Whatever your preferences may be, and whatever the lawyer’s standard practice, it is important to understand what you can expect from the outset.
Child custody issues can be complicated and emotional. Having a lawyer on your side to protect your interests can be a crucial resource to help reduce the stress and ensure the best outcome for you and your children.
If you are thinking about hiring a child custody lawyer, these questions should help you get a sense of what you can expect from the process, and whether the lawyer is the right fit for you.