Divorce and family law matters are some of the most emotionally and financially difficult experiences that people go through in their lives. Because of this, it’s essential to choose your lawyer with care, particularly if you hope to get the best possible outcome from your divorce and family law matters, such as child custody and property division. Here are some things to look for in an attorney, along with advice on how to find an effective attorney to handle your divorce and family law matters.
Never sign anything you do not understand
While you may feel pressured by your soon-to-be ex-spouse or an attorney in your case, it’s important that you never sign any document until you understand it completely. That’s because most documents signed during a divorce, such as separation agreements or prenuptial agreements, are nonrefundable. In other words, once they are signed they cannot be undone—not even if they need to be amended later on. Don’t sign anything without fully understanding it first. You don’t want any surprises later down the road when you try to undo what has been done so far.
Research your family law attorney before hiring them
Whether you’re getting a divorce or need to set up a trust, you should do some research before hiring an attorney. Make sure they have experience working with family law cases. Some attorneys specialize in particular areas of family law, such as child custody cases, child support payments, adoption cases or litigation issues.
Family lawyers can help you with a wide range of issues such as alimony, division of assets and even paternity testing for your kids. When it comes to family law matters, you want an attorney who knows what they’re doing; using online resources like Avvo can help ensure that your lawyer is experienced in family-law case management.
Make sure your attorney understands the terms of your separation agreement
A separation agreement is a legally binding contract; as such, it should be reviewed with a skilled attorney before it’s finalized. Family law matters can be complex, particularly when children are involved. You’ll want to make sure your document is clear and your rights are protected before you sign anything. It’s also important to not let bitterness get in the way of maintaining a respectful relationship with your ex—your family deserves it. Reaching out to your attorney during times of stress can prevent things from becoming even more contentious than they already are. Consider discussing custody arrangements, alimony, child support payments, property division, pet custody or any other relevant topics in advance so you know where you stand when things aren’t going well between you two.
Always keep copies of important documents in a safe place
In family law matters, keeping copies of important documents in a safe place is crucial. It’s common for spouses involved in divorce proceedings or dealing with a child custody matter to make false allegations against one another, so anything you need for evidence should be kept in two places: somewhere easily accessible (and safe) on your computer and with a trusted friend or family member. You never know when you might need these documents down the road—and if they get destroyed as a result of your ex’s tampering, it could lead to major issues down the line.
Do not ignore calls from your attorney
Neglecting to respond to your attorney can have serious consequences in any family law matter. Family court judges place a high value on communication between parties, with open lines of dialogue necessary for each side to be heard.
This includes attorneys representing you. If your attorney contacts you and you do not return his or her call, that is interpreted as an unwillingness or inability on your part to keep lines of communication open with opposing counsel. Don’t forget: Your attorney is working hard for you, so it’s important that you set up phone calls when she contacts you about important matters, even if there are other pressing issues in your life. Additionally, if your attorney tells you he has a new development in your case and needs more information from you, do not hesitate!
When working with legal professionals, be as open as possible
One of your most important goals at first is to protect yourself. That’s why if you have been physically or emotionally abused by your partner, you need to get help immediately by going to a women’s shelter or calling 911.
You will not be arrested for leaving your home if you call the police in these circumstances. You might also consider talking with an attorney about filing a restraining order against your abuser. Remember that there are plenty of resources available for both men and women on how to handle these situations because we know how difficult it can be when domestic abuse happens in a relationship that started out as loving, supportive, and committed. If there are children involved, it is imperative that you get help right away so they don’t suffer any more than they already have.
Get help immediately if you are being harassed or threatened by your partner
Sometimes it’s hard to ask questions of your lawyer because you don’t want to seem incompetent. But if you really want a successful outcome for your situation, then asking for help is crucial.
A good lawyer will be more than happy to explain things so that you are clear on what you are signing or agreeing to do. You might even ask if they have sample documents that they can send with instructions, rather than explaining everything face-to-face. After all, time is money. And since we’re talking about paying a lot of money, it’s only fair that you get all of your questions answered beforehand.
If you have any questions, ask them. You will feel better
It’s natural to feel embarrassed or nervous about speaking up. After all, you’re discussing personal matters with a lawyer. But it is crucial that you ask questions when they come up, especially during your first meeting with a lawyer (or any professional). Don’t worry—this isn’t a test!
A good lawyer wants to know what you want out of their services and will take your questions as evidence that you’re invested in your own case. If a question makes you uncomfortable, try thinking of it as an opportunity for both of you to learn something new about one another or about your case. It will certainly ease some of those awkward feelings!