Best Questions to Ask Before Hiring a California Family Law Attorney
You want to make the best use of your initial consultation with any California family law attorney if you are considering divorce. Prepare a list of all the issues at play in your potential divorce. You should be prepared to cover your marital assets, personal income, and children. Some of these issues may be sensitive and you may not be comfortable discussing them. It is to your advantage to share all personal information with your attorney that will be required to achieve a fair resolution in your divorce. Once you have detailed all your personal information, prepare a list of questions for the attorney as well. Here are a few of the key things you’ll want to ask in your first consultation.
Ask About Their Specialty
Any experienced California family law attorney should be comfortable discussing their expertise. You want to understand what percentage of their practice is devoted to family law and divorce. Do they focus all their practice on family law? Do they have a more general practice that includes some family law? These are important distinctions that should help you choose a firm that will best represent your needs.
Have They Handled a Similar Case?
Regardless of how much of their practice is devoted to California family law, you should have them explain if they have represented clients in a similar situation. Make sure they have experience with your particular needs on all aspects of the potential divorce. You will want to ask if they have experience with taking cases through to a verdict. This is a good opportunity to ask about whether there would be advantages to settling your case without a trial as well.
Will They Handle the Case Personally?
In many larger firms, the attorney that you hire may not be the one doing most of the work on your case. It may be delegated to a junior associate or paralegal. You want to find out whether they will be personally involved in all the details of your case. While there may be some advantages to a big firm with many resources, you will most likely not get much personal attention from the attorney that would be trying your case.
Discuss All Costs
The divorce process can be expensive. The initial consultation is your opportunity to dig into all those exact costs. You want to ask as many questions as you can about their hourly rate and the amount of work they expect for your case. Most California family law attorneys may be hesitant to give you an exact figure on the total cost of the case. You should not automatically assume they are being deceptive. In most cases, it is quite the opposite. It is difficult for them to predict all costs and probably impossible to give a flat rate cost. This is simply an opportunity to get comfortable with how you will be billed and when they will expect payment. You do want to be clear about what kind of retainer they require and how they will draw from that. You may be able to negotiate more favorable payment terms, like an option to make monthly installments on the cost or delay payment until completion of the divorce. This type of arrangement would be case to case, but it never hurts to ask for the option if you are tight on cash.
Can You Handle Some Negotiation Directly?
You may be able to handle some of the divorce negotiations directly with your spouse and lower some of the costs. This will depend on many factors, like your comfort with those discussions and your current relationship with your spouse. If this is something that you would like to consider, then you want to address that in your initial consultation with any California family law attorney. Make sure they are comfortable with the plan before hiring them as your attorney.
One of the final things to discuss with any potential California family law attorney is your potential tax implications. While they may not have exact answers to all your questions, they should be able to discuss how it has impacted similar clients in the past. This is especially important if you will be dividing up substantial marital assets.