Copyright 1997 by Douglas Darnall, Ph.D.
All attorneys are not created equal. Selecting an attorney must begin by finding one that is qualified to work in family court. There are Family Court attorneys that specialize in divorce and custody issues. You can usually get their names from the local bar association. The best way to find a good attorney is from someone who has had personal experience with the attorney and can give you a positive recommendation. This is still a good way to learn about an attorney's reputation. Anyway, be cautious and take your time in finding the right attorney.
Going through any litigation is stressful, even if you have a strong case and are the plaintiff. In fact, the one thing you will learn from going to court is to avoid, if at all possible, going to court. Even so called winners find the experience emotionally grueling. To lessen the stress, you may want your attorney's reassurance that he or she will win your case. Though your feelings are understandable, your attorney can only represent you on the strength of the evidence and the law. They cannot guarantee you that the judge will decide in your favor.
Because you are angry, you may think that hiring a big-name attorney will intimidate your spouse or the other attorney. This rarely happens. Most experienced attorneys know each other and are not intimidated by each other as "the opposing attorney". Any intimidation is usually the client's illusion and not shared by the attorney. In fact, be cautious when hiring a big-name attorney for a divorce case since they most likely have gained their reputation from criminal rather than divorce cases. If the high-powered attorney takes your case, he or she will be very expensive and may have little interest in your case. I once watched a big-name attorney mistake the client's girlfriend as his client. (He was embarrassed and apologized.)
Know in Advance How Fees Are Determined.
The least expensive hourly rate is not always the cheapest attorney. Ask the attorney about their hourly fees and what you are getting for the money. Many attorneys will charge for their time on the phone, doing research, or standing in line to file papers. You should know ahead of time what you are paying for so you are not surprised when you get the bill. Remember that attorneys are in business to make a living and are not a charitable institution.
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Douglas Darnall, Ph.D.
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