After twenty-six years as a family court attorney, I can tell you that no divorce or custody case is ever the same as the last. The facts and people involved in each case are always different. While there may be similarities in how the family found themselves involved in a Family Court case, every person approaches the situation differently. The same holds true for how domestic attorneys work with their clients and the strategies they employ while handling their cases. Understanding this will help you in deciding which family court lawyer is the “right” one for your case.
Choosing a family court lawyer is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your case. This one decision will define your experience for the rest of the case. Going through any divorce, child custody, or related case can be an emotional process. Your attorney is the person you will discuss the intimate details of your life which led to the case, so you need this person to be someone you can relate to and someone you can trust. Remember, simply because your friend or co-worker recommends an attorney doesn’t mean that attorney can or should represent you.
Below are three top factors you should give special consideration to before choosing the attorney who is right for your case.
1. What is the Focus of Your Case?
Are you getting divorced? Do you have children? Is this a modification or enforcement issue for an Order which is already in place? Do you want to appeal a decision which has already been handed down by a trial judge? What is your current financial situation? Are there any international issues to contend with in your case (property, financial, or custody/visitation)?
The answers to these questions will help determine the “focus” of your case. If you have a complicated custody matter, then you need an attorney who has experience and a solid reputation in litigating custody matters. If your case involves a business or lots of monetary assets which need to be divided, you need an attorney who has a strong business or accounting background and understands the “numbers” of the case.
When you begin searching for attorneys to interview, knowing the focus of your case will help narrow your search considerably. Don’t be afraid to ask attorneys you consult with about their specific experience in the areas you know will be main issues in your case.
2. Does the Attorney Practice Only Family Law?
When you begin interviewing attorneys to take your case, ask each attorney what percentage of their practice is devoted to family law. Family Court is a very special court in South Carolina, and it has its own rules and procedures that can be very different from other types of South Carolina courts. You don’t want an attorney who only spends 20% of his time in family court and may not be familiar with the nuances of handling theses special cases.
You want an attorney who has practiced exclusively in the family court system for many years, if possible. This person will know the ins and outs of the family court and will have developed a good working relationship with all the other individuals connected with the family court. His credibility and reputation with the Court can only help you as you prepare your case with him on your side.
3. What is Your Current Financial Status?
If you are struggling to make ends meet, this may necessarily dictate which attorney you’re able to hire to represent you. However, even if money is tight for you, explore all options available to you to allow you to hire the best attorney possible. If you are getting divorced and know that once the assets are divided, you will be entitled to a sizeable portion of the assets, you may want to explore divorce litigation funding. This funding is like asking a bank for a loan, but the “collateral” is the property and assets which will be divided later. It allows you to have access to funds to pay your attorney’s retainer, costs, and on-going fees as an advance on funds you’ll receive later.
If financing commercially isn’t an option for you, reach out to family or friends. There may be someone who has more resources than you do, who will lend you the money to get through the case because they want what is best for you. You might be able to set up a long-term payment plan with no interest payments in situations like this.
The important thing to remember is that most family court attorneys are paid hourly from a trust retainer you pay them to start working on your case. Once the retainer runs out, you’re expected to “replenish” it (or pay it again) until your case is concluded. You must keep this in mind when asking to borrow money to hire your attorney, as you will likely need to ask for more money at some point down the road until the case is over.
Ben Stevens has provided exceptional legal counsel and support to families across South Carolina for over twenty-five years, handling all matters of family law, such as child custody, child support, and divorce. He and his team are well-equipped to handle all divorce and family law matters, no matter your circumstances. Contact us at (864) 598-9172 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an initial consultation.
Author: J. Benjamin Stevens
Articles have been Reprinted with permission from the charlotte observer and Mike Hunter.
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