How to choose a family lawyer

Are you thinking of getting a divorce or separating?

Finding a good family lawyer can be the best investment in your financial future you will ever make.

While trusting a stranger with your emotional and financial future is a big step for many people, there are ways to make the search easier.

According to Jones Mitchell Lawyers partner, Dan Bottrell, narrowing the search down to a law firm that specialises in family law is the first step.

“The guidance of a skilful family lawyer can be invaluable in resolving family law disputes,” said Bottrell.

“Family law is a very complex area of law which involves specialist skills along with a thorough understanding of the Family Law Act and the latest changes to legislation.

“You might also want to select a lawyer who has training and experience in using alternative dispute resolution techniques to resolve family law disputes, as there are many different approaches that a family lawyer can take to resolve your issues other than always going to court.

“A family lawyer who has a number of possible approaches to your case will be able to see more opportunities for outcomes and resolution, and that can add value to you.”

Below are some tips for choosing a family lawyer:

Where to look

Clients often choose a family lawyer who has been referred to them by a friend or trusted friend, much the same way as you might choose a family doctor or counsellor. Word of mouth is good way to start the process.  Check with relevant industry associations in your state. For instance the Family Law Practitioners Association of Queensland has a ‘find a member’ service that helps you find lawyers by location, and who are qualified and committed to the highest industry standards in Queensland.

When to make the call

When children and property are involved in a separation or divorce, many people need a family lawyer to help prepare the documents which formalise parenting and property outcomes so as to make them clear, certain in their terms, and enforceable. Most family lawyers offer an initial consultation which is available at any stage of your relationship to help you distill your concerns into options. The advice given to you in that meeting should cover all areas of family law that apply to you so that you leave it knowing what will be relevant as well as what resolution processes are available, and what outcomes you can expect.

A test drive

Clients also often choose a family lawyer who they can relate to and trust.  Your search should focus on your lawyer being both a ‘match’ for you, but also having the skill and experience to manage your case, and the adaptability to be dynamic in resolving it.  More than most other areas of law, there is a ‘relationship’ between clients and their family lawyer, given the particular issues which arise in family law. Remembering this is a very emotive time, you will need to feel sure that you can communicate openly with your family law specialist. You must feel comfortable revealing the private information that you may very well not want to disclose to anyone else. Often it comes down to personality.  ‘Gut feel’ is important here – you may feel like you have a good match after speaking with only one lawyer.  If you do not feel that, you may need to consult with several lawyers.

What you’ll pay

Family law fees usually relate to the experience and expertise of the family lawyer.  Depending on location, the most experienced family lawyers will charge fees ranging from $300 to $600 per hour (plus GST).  Because each case is unique, the likely costs in a particular case will also vary. Ensure that the issue of legal costs is discussed openly and clearly at the initial consultation, but beware the ‘free initial consultation’ as these meetings are generally set up to get you through the door, and in some cases you receive only general advice, which is not tailored to your particular circumstances. The old adage “there’s no such thing as free advice” rings true, and to get the best advice out of an initial consultation you can expect to pay the hourly rate of the professional you consult. Don’t be put off by fees if the end justifies the means – instead focus on ensuring that you are having your particular questions answered, and are getting good and helpful advice for the fees you outlay.

 

14 Comments Add yours

  1. I really like the way you summed it all up by saying that you shouldn’t get put off by the fees, but instead should focus on whether or not you’re getting your questions answered and are getting good advice. A lot of times, I feel like a lot of people can get caught up in money while missing the point of having a good lawyer. Especially when it comes to family law, you want the best you can find. You’re going to pay for it, but it’s going to be worth it. Thanks for the advice!

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  2. A friend of mine was telling me that he may be going through a divorce, and he wasn’t sure if he needed a lawyer. It’s interesting that you should call someone when children and property are involved. It’s great that there are people out there to help others out in their time of need.

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  3. I appreciate your tip on taking advantage of an initial consultation with a family lawyer before you hire them. I would imagine that getting to interview them before you choose them would really help you make the right decision. My sister is going through a custody battle so she should remember to visit an attorney in person before she hires them.

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  4. My sister is currently going through a divorce. She feels like she is being treated unfairly by her ex-husband, and she’s currently looking for legal help. I didn’t realize family law attorneys can help prepare documents and navigate the process to ensure an agreeable outcome is reached. I’ll be sure my sister is aware of this information.

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    1. danbottrell says:

      Thanks for commenting, Tomas. In Australia, where I practice, lawyers usually act in 1 of 2 ways – firstly, acting generally for a family law client, handling all necessary steps on the behalf; or secondly, providing advice and guidance on an ‘as needed’ basis (helping with management of a particular step in the case). All the best.

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  5. Burt Silver says:

    Thanks for the tips for finding a family lawyer. My best friend is going through a divorce, and we are trying to find a lawyer that can help him with custody. I like that you mentioned to choose a lawyer who can relate to you and who you can trust. That way, you know they are doing what is in your best interest.

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    1. danbottrell says:

      Thanks for commenting, Burt. The relationship with a family lawyer is often much closer than lawyer-client relationships in other areas of law. There has to be a feeling that the lawyer understands the problem, and the client; that the lawyer can and is providing clear advice, and that the client is open to hearing and following that advice; and that each is on the same team in problem-solving. Without that mutual respect and synergy, the process can be made harder. All the best.

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  6. My sister is currently in the process of getting divorced. We are looking for a lawyer to help her with her situation, and we want to make sure we choose someone qualified for the job. As you said, asking friends and family as well as checking with relevant industry associations can be a great place to start!

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  7. Currently, I am looking to find a family lawyer that can help me with my current situation involving my children. It’s important that I find someone reliable and experienced. As you said, finding someone that is specialized in family law can help you have a successful case. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. Many lawyers are experienced in their chosen field of law. When hiring a lawyer make sure that your lawyer has maximum experience fighting family law cases. Then you have maximum chances to win your case.

    Family law kingwood

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  9. Thank you for the very informative read. I thought what you said about how you need to have an attorney there to help make sure all issues regarding parenting and property enforceable to be really helpful. I had always wondered why those going through divorce worked with attorneys. If everything is made enforceable, it would ensure that the agreements are fulfilled and everyone gets what they were promised.

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  10. Alice Jones says:

    My sister is getting a divorce so she asked me to help her look for a family lawyer. I didn’t know that family lawyers are usually hired by people who refer them to others. I’ll ask around and see if my friends have any suggestions.

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  11. John Mahoney says:

    My favorite part of this article is when you mentioned the importance of choosing an attorney that can work with cases like yours. It makes sense that thinking about this can help you find someone that knows how to use the law to your advantage and can help you have a fair and honest solution. As I see it, understanding the type of case you are involved in and what the laws governing it are can help you make sure you get the outcome you need.

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  12. Max Jones says:

    My sister has been looking for some family law services to help her through her divorce, and I think that being able to know when to call would be helpful. I’m glad that you talked about having an initial consultation with family law services to figure out what concerns are present and what the options are. I’m going to have to see what I can find about local family law services and see if we can get a good attorney for her! Thank you!

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