Any father who is involved in any aspect of family law finds the experience emotionally and often financially draining. And it is precisely because of the high emotional costs and the financial risks that fathers need good legal representation. But how does a dad find a good divorce lawyer, one who will be sure and represent the father's interests and protect his rights? And how does a father select the best of all the alternatives and find a lawyer with whom he can communicate effectively and work through all the complexities of these delicate situations?
Make A List of What You Want
The most important first step for a dad seeking a good divorce lawyer is to determine what it is you want the attorney to do for you. It is often easy to think that the attorney will simply "handle your case" without knowing what you expect. In order to develop a good relationship with your lawyer, you need to be clear yourself about what you want out of the relationship. The following questions are ones you should consider before embarking on your search:
Do you want your lawyer to pretty much run the case and consult you occasionally, or do you want more involvement?
Are you more concerned about protecting your financial interests or about maintaining a relationship with your children?
Are you willing to explore alternative dispute resolution options such as mediation or arbitration rather than going to court?
Are you considering joint custody?
Is your impending divorce friendly, or will it likely be a major battle dealing with your spouse?
Is there a likelihood you will remain in the geographic area where your family is or might you (or them) be moving away after the divorce?
Is the cost of your attorney a major issue or a minor one?
One of the toughest challenges is narrowing the field of potential attorneys to a number from which you can select. There are often many, many attorneys vying for your business, and it can be hard to sort through the options. Here are a number of suggestions to consider:
1. Consider a Lawyer Referral Service. Attorneys who practice law in each state belong to a state Bar Association chapter, which is a subsidiary of the American Bar Association (not a group of tavern owners, but the professional association for attorneys). Each state bar has a lawyer referral service. You can visit the ABA website for links to the state bar lawyer referral service. The service will ask you several questions about the type of attorney and their specialization, and will then give you a list of potential attorneys for your case. They will even set up an initial consultation with you, and usually offer a voucher for a free 30 minute first meeting. The service is free, and is one of the best ways to narrow your search.
2. Using the Internet. If you are more interested in a web-based search, take a look at one of the many lawyer search services. Some of the more popular include lawyers.com,attorneyfind.com and legalmatch.com. Most are sorted by specialty and by locale.Legalmatch is a little unique in that you post the specifics of your case, and member attorneys post their offers for you to consider. It is a worthwhile tool.
3. Research advertisements. The Yellow Pages is a tried and true method for finding an attorney, but you have a lot of ads to sort through. With recent changes in the ABA standards for legal advertising, you can find more information than ever in an attorney's advertisements. So whether in the Yellow Pages, in the newspaper or from other sources, consider using these ads to narrow your search for a qualified attorney.
4. Friends and Family. Oftentimes, the best approach is to ask around among your friends and family members for referrals. Someone else's good experience is usually a dependable reference. One of your contacts may know about a good family law attorney second hand, but at least it is some information. You can work your network to hear the good, the bad and the ugly about various lawyers.
5. Work Resources. You can also ask colleagues at work about their experiences. Some employers also offer a prepaid legal program, so if that is one of your employee benefits, consider using that as a referral source. Often your employer's in house or contract attorney may be able to give you a referral as well.