Making the decision to move forward with a divorce, separation, or custody case can feel so overwhelming that it’s hard to know where to begin. Hiring an attorney is supposed to make the process easier, but that only presents the question of how to pick an attorney. We have cultivated this list of the top five considerations when selecting a divorce and family law attorney to help you make your decision.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do They Have Knowledge of the Practice Area?
The first thing to look for in an attorney is one who knows and practices family law and divorce. Family law can appear simple. Most of what we do is covered by a single statute that’s less than one-hundred pages beginning to end and there are lawyers hoping to take on a few extra “easy” cases who think that it doesn’t seem like a lot of information to digest. The problem is that the trick to family law isn’t always knowing what’s in the statute, it’s also knowing what’s not in the statute.
In order to properly represent a client, the lawyer needs to be familiar with the statute and recent case law as well as have a working knowledge of all of the related issues such as real estate, retirement accounts, potential tax implications, and more.
At The Gasper Law Group, we are dedicated to providing our staff with ongoing education. We encourage our attorneys to share information and strategy with one another and we even have monthly meetings to staff the most challenging cases. You will find that our offices close for a long weekend in the summer months so that we can carve out dedicated time to intensive training for everyone from partners to the front office staff. We are always striving to stay informed and to constantly improve.
2. Do They Have Local Connections?
A wise and now-retired local family judge from El Paso County said that family law is about “30% law and 70% art.” We work hard at making sure we’re experts in our field, but many issues decided by the courts are “discretionary.” That means that one judge could decide a case very differently than another judge and getting the best results requires being familiar with the judge deciding your case as well as any experts you may use.
Particularly with the expansion of virtual courts, it’s tempting for lawyers to take cases all over the state. If every courtroom is accessible through a computer and you don’t need to drive for hours to get to each hearing, why not? But when you’re choosing your lawyer, you need to ask yourself: what does my lawyer know about the person deciding my case?
The judge assigned to your case could be particularly opinionated about how mediation should be scheduled. Or have strong feelings about allowing children to be interviewed (or not be interviewed). Your judge could have a tendency to give heavyweight to experts or your judge could find particular experts to be generally unreliable given a past experience. If your lawyer doesn’t know this kind of information, you are at a disadvantage.
3. Do They Have Resources to Handle Your Case?
There are a lot of moving parts to a family law or divorce case. There can be a large number of documents to track and they may involve multiple experts. You may be advantaged by an attorney who can accept an earlier court date because they know there is another attorney in their firm who can work the case with them. You may need to know how to handle an emergency situation that occurs outside of regular business hours. You may need someone who has the technology to quickly access critical documents and immediately send them to law enforcement or a child’s care provider.
At The Gasper Law Group, we staff each case with a designated attorney and paralegal so that there is always one person directing your case. However, your attorney and paralegal team are not alone. Whether you see it or not, your legal team is part of a larger firm-wide legal team and we are all working together to achieve the best possible results for you and your family.
4. What Is the True Cost of Your Case?
When you are looking for an attorney, you are probably paying attention to two numbers: the retainer and the hourly rate. Nearly all law firms will require you to pay an up-front retainer and they will pay themselves from the retainer as they earn it. What makes Gasper Law Group different from most firms is that when the retainer runs out, we allow clients to make payments against their balance rather than require everyone to pay in full each month.
At The Gasper Law Group, we believe in helping people first. Part of making that mission happen is to try to make our services accessible to as many people as possible. No one can accurately predict precisely how much a case is going to cost because there are too many possible variables, however, we can give you a fixed monthly payment that you can budget around.
There’s no way around the fact that hiring an attorney is expensive. But hiring an attorney, having that attorney withdraw from your case because you can’t afford them, and then paying a second attorney to come up to speed is even more expensive.
It’s also important to think of hiring an attorney as an investment. Consider how long the orders in your case are going to impact your life. Do you have young children? Are you in a position to either receive or pay spousal maintenance? Are you close to retirement and need to ensure that you have enough assets to support yourself? If you were presented with a contract for a business deal that would take twenty years to complete and involve hundreds of thousands of dollars over time, wouldn’t it be wise to spend the money on the right advice?
You need to find legal services you can afford, but this is not the time to be penny wise and pound foolish.
5. What Is Your Gut Feeling?
Finding a family law or divorce attorney is not just about picking the best attorney, it’s about picking the best attorney for you. The best fit for you may be different from the best fit for your friend or neighbor or coworker. In the end, it comes down to a very unscientific gut check. You need to decide if you feel confident in your attorney. You need to be able to trust the advice they’re giving you even if it’s not what you want to hear.
This is why at The Gasper Law Group, we offer free initial consultations for family law and divorce matters. We invite you to contact us and set up a time when you can meet with us one on one and get a feel for what we’re all about. If we don’t pass the gut check test, we will gladly give you the names of other attorneys in the community who might be a better fit for you.