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10 Steps to Choosing the Right Family Law Attorney

Updated: Mar 17

Choosing the right family law attorney is crucial for ensuring that your interests are protected and that you receive the best possible outcome in your divorce or child custody proceedings.

Julianne Vandergrift, Attorney At Law

Here are some steps to help you choose a family law attorney:

  1. Define Your Needs: Before you start looking for an attorney, make a list of your priorities and specific needs. Consider factors such as the complexity of your case, your budget, communication preferences, and what matters most to you in being represented. For instance, if you need to move out of state or there are domestic violence issues, you will want to find an attorney who focuses on child custody or domestic violence. 

  2. Research Attorneys: Look for attorneys who specialize in family law and have experience handling cases similar to yours. You can start your search by asking for recommendations from friends, family members, or colleagues who have gone through similar experiences. Additionally, you can use online resources, such as legal directories and review websites, to find attorneys in your area.

  3. Check Credentials and Experience: Once you have a list of potential attorneys, research their credentials, experience, and track record. Look for information about their education, certifications, years of practice, and success rate in handling cases like yours. Consider whether they have experience negotiating settlements or litigating in court, depending on your preferred approach to resolving your case. You can check the California State Bar Website to determine whether your prospective attorney has been disciplined by the State Bar.  

  4. Read Reviews and Testimonials: Reading reviews and testimonials from past clients can provide valuable insights into an attorney's reputation, professionalism, and effectiveness. Pay attention to both positive and negative feedback to get a balanced perspective.

  5. Schedule Consultations: Many attorneys offer initial consultations either for free or at a reduced fee. Take advantage of these consultations to meet with potential attorneys in person or virtually, to discuss your case and ask questions. Use this opportunity to evaluate their communication style, responsiveness, and whether you feel comfortable working with them. 

  6. Ask Relevant Questions: Prepare a list of questions to ask during the consultation to help you assess the attorney's suitability for your case. Inquire about their approach to handling cases, their availability, and how they communicate with clients. Don't hesitate to ask for references or examples of similar cases they have handled.

  7. Consider Compatibility: In addition to assessing an attorney's qualifications and experience, consider whether you feel comfortable and confident working with them. Trust your instincts and choose an attorney who listens to your concerns, respects your input, and communicates effectively. 

  8. Evaluate Costs and Fees: Discuss the attorney's fee structure and estimated costs upfront to avoid any surprises later down the road. Be skeptical of any attorney with an hourly fee structure that gives you a total amount you will spend. This is impossible to predict as it depends largely on how the other party responds.  Consider whether the attorney's fees fit within your budget and whether you feel that the value they provide justifies the cost.

  9. Review the Retainer Agreement: Before hiring an attorney, carefully review the retainer agreement or engagement letter outlining the terms of your representation. Make sure you understand the terms, including fees, billing practices, and the scope of services provided.

  10. Follow Your Gut: Ultimately, trust your instincts when making your decision. Choose an attorney who inspires confidence, demonstrates empathy, and shows genuine concern for your well-being and the outcome of your case.  Spend some time reflecting after the consultations. Ask yourself some questions: Is this someone I can speak openly and honestly with? Is this someone who hears what I am saying? Do I like the way they approach the questions? Do I think this is a good fit, given all the factors?

By following these steps and taking time prior to the start of your case to research and meet with potential attorneys, you can find a family law attorney who is the right fit for you. 

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