What To Look For When Seeking a Family Lawyer

What To Look For When Seeking a Family Lawyer

If you’ve never been through the legal process before, realizing the amount of time, effort, and stress that go into it can be more than daunting.  Hiring a lawyer alone is intimidating; how can you determine a good lawyer from a bad one if you’ve never had to hire one before?  Below you’ll find the qualities you should look for when seeking the right lawyer for your family law case.

Background Information on the Practice of Law
There’s a misconception that a lawyer is a lawyer, in the sense that they all have the same knowledge and practice law.  However, this is simply not the case.  There are three types of lawyers you’ll come across on your lawyer search.  Specialized lawyers are those whose practice is specialized in a specific type of law, such as personal injury law.   General lawyers, i.e. lawyers that practice a broader area of law, might practice personal injury law and business law simultaneously.  Then there are Referral lawyers.  These lawyers may be either specialized or general lawyers, but they advertise as if they practice various types of law.  When clients come to them in a specialty outside of their practice area, which is typical due to referral lawyers affinity to advertise a broad range of specialties, referral lawyers then refer the client to another attorney.  The reason they do this is because referral lawyers get a percentage of the lawyer fees for all cases they refer out.  For instance, Lawyer A refers a client to Lawyer B.  When Lawyer B wins the case, Lawyer B must forfeit a percentage of his/her fees from the case.  So, put bluntly, referral lawyers get paid for doing absolutely nothing in a case they’ve referred to another lawyer.

Qualities You Want in a Family Lawyer
You should look for three factors when determining if a lawyer is right for your divorce, separation, will, children’s rights or divorce settlement legal needs.

First, you should look for a lawyer who has experience handling family law cases.  You will want to avoid “referral lawyers” as the fees they take can deter the lawyers they refer your case to from actually taking it; lawyers, like any professional, are in it for the money and if they have to forfeit percentage of their winnings on a case that already isn’t worth that much, they aren’t going to take it.  You should seek out lawyers who have a long history of experience with family law cases and who have been successful with such cases.  While a general attorney might have a lot of experience with family law cases, you should generally look for a lawyer who specializes in family law as he/she is the more likely to be adept to the legal procedures of such a case.

And do not rely on lawyer rating sites, like Super Lawyers, AVVO, and Best Lawyers to give you reliable information on a lawyer’s success rate and the like.  These sites’ “rankings” are determined by how much a lawyer is willing to pay and the information on the lawyers is not generally verified by the lawyers themselves.  For example, attorney John Smith might be stated as a family lawyer on a lawyer ranking site when in fact he is a slip and fall lawyer.  You don’t want a personal injury lawyer handling your family law case, do you?  It would be like having an accountant acting as your stock market investment advisor; it’s simply the wrong specialist handling the wrong specialty.

Second, you need a lawyer who is capable of giving your case the time and attention it deserves.  And third, you need a lawyer with knowledge about your case type.  General lawyers handle many different types of cases, which means they must have a vast working knowledge of different laws and law procedures.  For instance, a general lawyer handling a business law case, a personal injury case, and a criminal case will need to know the necessary laws for each of those law specialties as well as the procedures required by each.  That’s a lot of work and knowledge that a single person must endure and retain.  A general lawyer may be less knowledgeable about your case type and less able to spend time on your case because he/she is handling so many different types of cases.

Amber Paley is a guest post and article writer bringing to us what qualities one should look for when seeking a family lawyer.  Outraged by the prevalence of elder neglect in the U.S., Amber spends much of her professional life writing education articles to help those affected another’s negligible care find good nursing home abuse attorneys.

The Divorce Process: Family Law Information

The Divorce Process

Divorce is the legal process through which two people end their marriage and the legal status that it provides. It is usually an extremely emotional time for the parties involved and also for their children, if they have any. The best way to make your divorce process as smooth as possible is to find a solicitor who you can trust and work comfortably with.

It is important that both parties understand their legal position on divorce and know exactly to what they are entitled. A divorce solicitor can make sure finances and property are properly distributed and arrangements are made for children, leaving no room for disagreements.

Petitioning for divorce

In order to begin the process of divorce one party to the marriage must present a petition for divorce on the grounds that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. It is important to note that the parties must have been married for at least a year before they are able to make such a petition.

Whether the marriage is broken down irretrievably is not simply a matter of opinion, and there is legislation stating that at least one of five factors must be present before any court will make a ruling that the marriage has in fact broken down irretrievably. These five grounds for divorce are as follows: unreasonable behaviour, adultery, living apart for two years and both parties consent to the divorce, living apart for five years, and desertion.

Acknowledgment of service

A copy of the petition must be sent to the other party along with a statement of arrangements for the children (if applicable) and an acknowledgment of service. The respondent must inform the petitioner in the acknowledgment of service whether they will be contesting the divorce. The acknowledgment of service is therefore an extremely important document as it shows the court that the other party is aware of the petition. If the other party refuses to return the acknowledgment of service you may have to arrange for a process server or bailiff to serve the document and make an affidavit stating that they have done so.

Decree nisi

If the court is satisfied that there are valid grounds for divorce it may well grant what is known as a decree nisi. A decree nisi will generally be granted when a divorce is not being contested and there are valid grounds for divorce. The party who made the petition must then apply to have the decree made absolute which they cannot do until at least six weeks and one day from the date of the decree nisi.

Decree absolute

The decree absolute is what actually ends the marriage, as opposed to the decree nisi which merely declares there are satisfactory grounds. Once the decree absolute has been pronounced the marriage has officially ended and usually the parties will begin ancillary relief proceedings: the name given for deciding how the matrimonial assets should be split.

Ancillary relief proceedings

The ancillary relief proceedings are often fiercely contested as a judge will rule on who should have what from the matrimonial assets. The ancillary relief process can be quite long and usually involves three trips to court.

  • A first appointment in which a judge outlines his position and ensures appropriate disclosure has taken place.
  • A financial dispute resolution hearing in which a judge (a different judge from who will be in attendance at the final hearing) will give an indication of what he would order in the hope the parties then settle on similar terms and avoid a final hearing.
  • A final hearing in which an order will be made.

With the potential for several court visits, it is in both parties’ interests to try to facilitate an early settlement to avoid significant legal costs.