5 Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Family Lawyer

  • By:Ron Payne

Do you find yourself wondering if you need to be hiring a family law attorney? Maybe your spouse has hinted at divorce, or your ex is threatening to withhold the kids for summer vacation if you don’t do ______ the way they want you to. Possibly you both know a separation is coming and you just want to make sure you take the smart path forward and want to avoid common pitfalls. Or, perhaps, you are going into a second (or a first) marriage and want to have a pre-martial contract to address your concerns about specific property, inheritances, finances, etc. to ensure you are on the same page before getting married?

Prepare thyself!

In any event, you’ve now decided you’d like to talk to, if not consider hiring a family law attorney. Before we talk about what you should ask the attorney – let’s talk about how you can best prepare yourself:

First, consider what your goal is for this consultation – are you looking to get some general advice (i.e., tips moving forward), or do you need a specific task done (such as drafting an agreement, representing you in court, etc.)?

Second, what is your budget – what can you spend to reach your goals – and how much do you want to spend? Or in other words, how important is it to you? If you know your budget is only $1,000, then relaying that up front might save you from spending $100 on a consultation just to be told the retainer at that specific, high end firm is $5,000+. Firms focus on different things – some are much more litigation driven (which can be appropriate for some cases) and other firms are more focused on a proactive, non-litigation approach that might include mediation, etc. Each has it’s own advantages and drawbacks, as well as costs. Some firms may also have less-experienced attorneys who can work on the case at a lower rate, saving your budget for those more truly complex situations that require experience.

Third, what is your personality style? Do you want/need frequent updates, or is it something that can be “dropped off” and “picked up”? Do you prefer email or phone? Do you prefer a more hostile approach, or a more amicable approach? Each law firm will have their own personality as well, and understanding your own needs will help you get the most out of your experience with the firm. Of course – in one case, you might need a more gentle approach, but in another, you might need a very aggressive approach. Each situation varies!

Fourth, when do you need this worked on? Is this a true emergency (i.e. risk of serious harm), a “normal case (i.e. urgent, but not an emergency), or a preventative (i.e., advice only, friendly cases where you just want to put an agreement in writing, etc.)?

Fifth, where do you need representation? If you just need advice, maybe a phone call, video chat or consultation in the attorney’s office will do. If you need full on litigation or representation in an active court, where is that located? Sometimes, having an out of town attorney (particularly when dealing with more rural areas) can be helpful, and sometimes you want somebody who knows the local judges and works in that court on a regular basis, particularly in more urban/higher volume courts.

Now that you have answered those questions and have determined:

  • Your personality (WHO is the best type of representative for your goals)
  • An idea of your goal (WHAT you want)
  • WHEN you need this done
  • WHERE you need the work performed
  • Your budget (HOW much can I/will I be able to spend)

Ron Payne and Mary of Payne Law PLLC Family Law Services with ClientI’m prepared now, so what should I ask a potential family law attorney?

Let’s look at good questions to ask:

1. Do you handle family law matters regularly?

While some situations are truly rare, and no two fact patterns are the same, an experienced family law attorney will have the knowledge of how the different parts of the law and especially family law work together, so even if they haven’t handled a case “exactly” like yours – odds are, they’ve seen enough similar things to have a solid plan of how to approach it.

2. Money

Money – What are your retainers (both non-refundable AND billable) & hourly rate(s); what do they cover, and what things do you charge for, do you offer a flat fee for this kind of matter, and what is a rough range of how much this could cost total?

Maybe for some people, the cost of legal fees is no big deal, but for everybody we know does have a limit! Clearly, time spent working on your case, talking to you on the phone, answering emails will be charged, but what about long distance/telephone fees, research/LexisNexis fees, postage, copies, mileage, other costs? Will you get a detailed bill or a general bill? Do they have a “minimum time increment”, or will you only be billed for actual time spent? Those little things can add up – make sure you know what you are (and are not) paying for!

3. What do you see as being possible outcomes in my case and a timeline?

Sometimes a case is fairly straight forward – such as amicable consent order for child custody and support. However, sometimes a case – particularly equitable distribution, for example, is driven by local rules and depending on the amount of marital property – may take anywhere from 3 months to 2 years. Also, sometimes your personal goal for a case may be realistic – or not – such as custody. Most judges – absent serious drug, alcohol, substantial distance between homes, etc. – will not likely order SOLE custody. You will probably have some variation of shared custody – not necessarily 50/50, mind you – just not 100% to 0%. However, your facts will be judge and case specific, so knowing possible outcomes can help you decide if this law firm is on the same page as you both financially and goal wise!

PRO TIP: Be wary of any attorney who promises you will get EVERYTHING you ask for!

Unless you’ve already agreed on everything in advance, the reality of family law is that everybody must compromise some (and if you go in front of a judge, the judge will make those compromises for you). There ARE cases where one side is very realistic – and the facts allow one side to truly get everything they ask for, particularly if the other side doesn’t show up, or has really “misbehaved”. Just be cautious – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Remember – you are paying for ADVICE – not for “specific answers”. One attorney can’t control what the other party/attorney/judges do. They CAN however guide you down a path that helps you best reach goals you are trying to achieve.

4. Who will I be working with?

Will you personally be handling my case, and/or will other attorneys in your office be handling the case? Do you prefer emails or phone calls? What is an expected turn-around time on communication (i.e. how long do I need to wait to get a phone call back if I call?) What about support staff or day-to-day contact? Knowing who to call (or when to call), is important! In most firms, day to day communication will be through the attorney’s paralegal, but the office will know how to get ahold of the attorney if a truly urgent situation pops up. Does the attorney check their own email or does a staff member check them?

5. What are the major problems you see in my case?

EVERY case has its own problems. If your potential attorney can’t share the bad news with you about your case in the first meeting (such as telling you there are no problems in your case), be concerned. Now – not all problems are serious, and almost all problems can be overcome, some easier than others. For example – uncontested absolute divorce is about as easy as it gets. However, you have to have good service, so a potential minor, but important problem would be if the other side doesn’t want to get served (by a sheriff, by certified mail, etc.). A court cannot grant a divorce, if the other side hasn’t been served, so knowing what the costs would be if the other spouse doesn’t “cooperate” in getting served is good to know (before you get a bill).

05Hopefully, this article will help give you practical tips for how to prepare for a consultation and some good questions to ask before you hire a lawyer. In smaller towns, you don’t have as many options, but in Forsyth, Alamance and Watauga counties, there are many outstanding family law attorneys. Don’t settle for an attorney you don’t feel comfortable with – find one who understands your goals and limitations and will work with you! If you want to talk more with a family law attorney who cares, call our office and setup your consultation with Ron Payne today – not only has he been practicing for over 5 years now, but he also has been divorced and was the child of a super messy, high conflict divorce – he understands where you are coming from and has been there himself. We promise to be honest with you at all times, to do our best to reply to all messages in a reasonable time, and to work hard for you from start to finish. To consider hiring Ron to handle your case in either Forsyth County, Alamance County, Watauga County or the surrounding counties, contact our office today via Facebook, email (info@paynelawpllc.com) or telephone – (336) 283-6198 for a $100, one hour consultation.

Posted in: Family, General, Juvenile, Legal Consultation, Legal Education, Professional Lawyers, Trusted Law Agency, Uncategorized


19 Responses to “5 Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Family Lawyer”

  1. Tyler Meredith

    I really like your recommendation to ask something like what they think the outcome of the situation would be. This could be a good way to know if the lawyer would be right for you because if they believe the outcomes could be good, they might be much more motivated to help. It’s something to remember when hiring any kind of lawyer because it would be very helpful to know that they want to help.

    May 23, 2017 - 12:14 am #
  2. Jade Brunet

    It would be great to find out who you will be working with in a family law case. I like what was said about discovering whether the lawyer prefers emails or phone calls. My friend used a family lawyer in her divorce last year and was happy to find that communication skills made the experience go more smoothly.

    May 23, 2017 - 2:28 pm #
  3. Ridley Fitzgerald

    I love the questions you have here for hiring a family lawyer. It definitely makes sense to ask about their personality, to see if you get along with them. If I were ever to get a divorce, I’d want a lawyer who I could get a long with.

    May 24, 2017 - 12:37 am #
  4. Rachel Lannister

    You wrote that a good attorney will be able to tell you the difficulties that come with these cases, as that means they are being honest and have experience. My brother will be needing a custody lawyer, and I wanted to make sure he chose a great one. If they are being real with him from the get go, they will likely know the most realistic plan to help him get the best outcome possible in his case. Thanks for the read.

    June 2, 2017 - 7:32 pm #
  5. Ernest London

    I like that you mentioned to decide early on if you want a lawyer that will update you frequently and stay in constant communication. My best friend is looking for a family lawyer to help him with his divorce. I know that he is the type of person that wants to be kept in the loop at all times. We will definitely be on the look out for a lawyer that will meet those needs for him.

    July 6, 2017 - 7:47 pm #
  6. Kourtney Jensen

    My cousin is going through a divorce right now and is looking for an attorney to help her. I like how you suggest asking if they have the experience and knowledge in family law work. I’m sure it would help any persons case, to have someone knowledgeable in what they’re needing help with, as it would my cousin.

    July 11, 2017 - 1:55 pm #
  7. Chris R

    These are all important questions that should be addressed. Great article

    July 24, 2017 - 3:52 pm #
  8. Robert Huth

    I really liked your suggestions and tips regarding the questions to ask before hiring the family attorney.

    Let me suggest something very quick.

    Once you’ve had the opportunity to meet one or more attorneys, you’ll need to review the results of those meetings before deciding which lawyer to hire. Among the factors to consider:

    1. Does the attorney have the experience necessary to handle your custody case?
    2. Is the attorney’s style and approach in line with how you’d like your custody issue to be handled?
    3. Did you feel as if you could trust the attorney’s recommendations and feel confident following their advice?
    4. Can you afford the legal fees?

    August 9, 2017 - 11:50 am #
  9. Finley Moreira

    It was really interesting to me how you pointed out that a good family lawyer will be able to help you compromise realistically in a case. My friend is about to go through a divorce, and I know she’s considered getting a family lawyer to help her with the custody battle. I’m sure this would benefit her greatly since compromise is something I know she has a problem dealing with.

    August 9, 2017 - 6:28 pm #
  10. Ashley Turns

    Thank you for the suggestion that we make sure the family law attorney we use has a lot of experience in this area. My cousin is looking into family law services to help her with her divorce. I’ll be sure to tell her to find a service with a lot of experience in that area specifically since they’ll know the law the best.

    August 26, 2017 - 12:09 am #
  11. Violette Lebrac

    My ex-husband wants to change our custody agreement, and I’m worried that it might disrupt my kids’ routines. I think I might need to get a family lawyer, so I appreciate the tip about finding an attorney who is experienced in the field because they might have dealt with cases similar to mine. If I get a lawyer who has dealt with custody disputes, maybe I can have a better chance of keeping my kids’ routines the same.

    September 6, 2017 - 10:49 pm #
  12. Barbera Peters

    My husband and I are currently trying to get a divorce and I wanted to make sure that I can get a lawyer that will help with the divorce and my kids custody. You said that it is important to ask a potential lawyer who will personally be handling the case and what is the best way to contact them That is a great idea to ask an attorney when hiring them.

    September 18, 2017 - 6:03 pm #
  13. Marisol

    I like that you mention to find a lawyer that suites your personality style. In a situation where I would nee a family attorney, I would definitely want updates often, especially if it were over the custody of my child. Sounds like I need to keep looking for the custody lawyer that is right for me.

    September 20, 2017 - 12:32 am #
  14. Alexandria Martinez

    I was talking to my cousin the other day who was asking me for tips to find an employment law attorney. She would love to know that it is important to understand who she will be working with. She should try to get to know the team and the person handling the case. Hopefully, this will help her.

    September 22, 2017 - 12:45 am #
  15. Aronberg Law

    Thank you for your valuable resources keep share the information like this…

    September 23, 2017 - 3:18 am #
  16. Kylie Dotts

    Asking if the family law attorney will personally be working with you would be a pretty big one to ask. There could be a big difference in working with someone personally, compared to doing so vicariously through an assistant or something like that. It would certainly be better for your relationship with them if you worked together in person rather than through another medium.

    September 27, 2017 - 3:59 pm #
  17. Hannah Schroeder

    I’m grateful that you talked about making sure your family law lawyer talk about potential problems in the first meeting. My husband asked me for a divorce, and I’m worried that he might get full custody of our children because he stays at home while I work. It would be helpful to find an attorney who can tell me what to do to get a better outcome in our first meeting.

    September 28, 2017 - 12:46 am #
  18. Kyle Wayne

    I like that you mention seeing if the attorney deals with family law matter regularly. My sister is looking to hire a family law solicitor but doesn’t know which will be best. I’ll be sure to talk to her about finding a professional that does that kind of stuff regularly so they have the right experience.

    October 3, 2017 - 11:06 pm #
  19. Steele Honda

    I appreciate you pointing out the importance of communication policy – you should agree on it with the future attorney in advance – whether it will be phone, email or both. My husband and I decided to get a family attorney and we hope we will be able to make our collaboration as efficient as possible. Thanks for the tips!

    October 5, 2017 - 8:48 am #