Finding a good family lawyer is a complicated task. To make it easier for you, we asked Joseph Gufford, a Florida-based family lawyer to offer guidance. With more than 20 years’ experience, Joseph Gufford has handled numerous cases involving such matters as civil litigation, personal injury, and family law.
Mr. Gufford offered the following tips:
1. Tap your network: Personal recommendations work best for locating a lawyer right for your family. Find a friend, relative, or acquaintance who knows or has dealt with a family attorney. You can also use online social networks or lawyer-rating services to find an attorney who suits your budget and criteria.
2. Family law cases are not your typical run-of-the-mill cases: Because of the sensitive nature of such cases, family lawyers need to be experienced, trustworthy, and skillful. Make sure that the recommended lawyer understands your situation thoroughly.
3. Talk to your attorney: Mr. Gufford recommends getting to know your lawyer to develop a comfortable working relationship. According to Joseph Gufford, one of the surest ways to get to know your family attorney is to conduct a preliminary interview with him or her. Explain your case and circumstances. See if the attorney asks intelligent questions and seems genuinely interested in your case. If he or she seems disinterested or evasive, then it is best not to continue with that lawyer.
4. Minmize Exposure while your are looking for an Attorney: Avoid conflict with the opposing party and do not let the other party know you are seeking the services of an attorney. Many times people get into problems with their spouse/significant other that results in domestic violence situations, criminal charges, domestic violence injunctions, the moving or hiding of assets and the moving or hiding of children. If there is a domestic violence injunction in place, whether temporary or permanent, do not contact the other part via any means, including contact through 3rd parties. If there is a situation involving law enforcement, try not to be angry or upset. Do not use vulgar profanities or engage in name calling. Do not make unnecessary threats. Do not destroy or deface property or clothing. Do not threaten to hurt the other party’s pets.
5. Avoid Price Shopping and Entering into Bad Deals at Mediation– Picking a lawyer to represent you is not like like buying a pair of shoes at the mall, where you look at different stores and then buy the cheapest shoes available. Many people view the picking of a lawyer as getting oil in their car changed., i.e. the cheapest and most convenient place available. Many inexperienced attorneys charge bargain basement retainers in order to get your business. Unfortunately, big mistakes are often made by inexpereienced cousel that will cost you thouands of dollars to correct. Doing it right the first time is of utmost importance. Choosing a lawyer with good negotiation and mediation skills is very important. 70-80% of all cases are resolved at mediation, which is a good thing. Do not take the attitude at mediation that it is “my way or the highway”. Most cases should be resolved at mediation. Beware of advice at mediation to sign a bad deal with the promise that “we can just fix this later through a modification action”. Be advised that many issues cannot be fixed through a modification action, especially equitable distribution issues. In child custody, child support and alimony situations, you have to show a substantial change in circumstances that occured since the entry of the final judgment. Thus, you may have a spouse that has been charged with a felony crime or a long history of mental illness. If you enter into a bad deal, this history may not be admissible in a modification action because it will be deemed to be “res judicata”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Res_judicata