Family lawyers (or divorce attorneys) in Orlando and everywhere else in Florida undoubtedly face unique challenges. In addition to providing legal advice, we are often called upon to act as therapists, sounding boards, and financial advisers. Because we wear so many hats, our advice to clients varies greatly. However, regardless of what you hire your family law attorney for, you should ask the following questions:
What is your level of specialized experience?
Family law has both breadth and depth. For example, a divorce may require a lawyer to analyze recent case law about time-sharing (child custody), draft a memorandum of law about the proper date of the valuation of a marital asset, and make compelling arguments about how much income a college graduate with a particular degree can earn. Each of these issues, by themselves, have generated dozens, if not hundreds, of appellate opinions that delineate the applicable rule of law.
Would you trust a “jack of all trades” lawyer (e.g., “your lawyer for life”) to appreciate all of the nuances and complexity of family law? Would you rely on your family doctor to guide you through a double-bypass heart surgery? Of course not.
For these reasons, if you have a family law issue, you should ask these questions of the lawyers you are considering:
(a) How much of their practice is devoted to family law?
(b) How many family law trials have they litigated?
(c) How often do they settle divorces at the mediation stage?
(d) How many of the local family law judges have they appeared in front of?
Do I have a case?
A former boss of mine once instructed me to just tell potential clients “what they want to hear.” His cynical approach alienated me, and ultimately, many of his clients. You should expect honest advice from your family law attorney, not false words of encouragement. Many of my clients were misled by their former attorneys who made unrealistic promises to them. These broken promises resulted in thousands of dollars of wasted attorney’s fees.
The family law attorney that you hire should give you a realistic range of outcomes. Beware of the lawyer that guarantees final results. Not even experienced attorneys can predict with certainty how a family law judge will rule at a trial.
What is our game plan?
Even though few certainties exist in family law, a skilled family law attorney should inform you at the conclusion of the initial consultation what the “game plan” will be. This should include an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of your case, an achievable goal, and the steps that will be taken to obtain this goal.
You should walk out of that consultation with the peace of mind of knowing the path that lies ahead. This may seem like common sense, but too many family law attorneys leave their clients guessing about the directions of their cases. Therefore, it is up to you to ask for this plan if the lawyer that you are considering does not provide it.
Eduardo J. Mejias, Orlando divorce attorney