Choosing the Right Professionals for A Family Law Matter
Family law matters can be some of the most intimate, stressful, difficult legal procedures that a person goes through in their lifetime. Picking the right professionals to assist with the process is critical to assuring an acceptable outcome. We recently outlined the types of professionals that are used in family law matters. Here are a few tips about what to look for in a professional.
Finding the Right Lawyer
When searching for the right family law attorney, look first for a good listener. You will be relaying your personal family issues to your attorney, and you need to be sure that every detail is being heard and considered. While you may want an attorney who is aggressive as your advocate, you should be sure to work with someone who has empathy for your situation. An effective, zealous advocate looks out for your interests but also provides you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions. It’s not enough to be zealous, however. Your attorney should advocate for positions that are in the best interests of yourself and your children and not just use scorched earth tactics.
Experience is critical in family law. Be sure that your attorney is quite familiar with the court system and can handle the challenge of litigation. Experience also means your attorney needs to understand and identify the risks and downsides of taking a particular strategy in a family law matter. This is especially important when there’s a need to cooperate, such as when there are minor children.
Experience should not be limited to the courtroom. You want your attorney to have experience with mediation and other alternative dispute resolution methods such as collaborative divorce so that they can switch gears and effectively represent you in this context which takes its own set of skills and tactics. In fact, the vast majority of family law cases settle, so having an attorney who effectively uses alternative dispute resolutions is often better than an attorney who is only effective in the courtroom. As one judge once told us, “the best family law attorneys are the ones we rarely see in the courtroom.”
Finally, you want someone who has experience representing the position you want to take but also has a sense through first-hand experience of the positions taken by the other side of the dispute. Be careful not to place so much value on seniority that you select an attorney who has not understood and adapted to modern norms about custody and support.
Just like your attorney, all of your experts should have training, experience and expertise in their particular field. They should also have experience working on family law matters. In the Collaborative Process and mediation, it is important to look for an expert who has experience with the process, particularly in the Collaborative Process, which is a highly refined procedure. A seasoned expert will be accustomed to working well with a team since the point of alternative dispute resolution is to work together to a mutually agreeable outcome. Similarly, in litigation, it is important to work with an expert who has been to trial before and can translate his or her professional opinion into credible testimony.
Family law litigation experts also need to be highly detailed oriented and diligent in researching and preparing for trial. For alternative dispute resolution experts, look for ones who are timely and responsive because, with so many moving parts, it’s important that they to be able to participate and contribute with more frequency.
Some experts will have more interactions with the parties (for example, parenting coordinators). With these experts, there needs to be a good fit temperamentally and in terms of approach. These experts need to maintain neutrality with respect to the parties, but they shouldn’t be antagonistic or otherwise unable to get along with the parties.
Finally, as with your attorney, your experts need to have excellent listening skills, engaging with the facts of the situation without being dismissive. They should understand and execute their tasks consistent with looking out for the best interests of the family.
Some experts are more expensive than others, which is often an important consideration. A good expert might even turn down work because they recognize that their opinion won’t have an impact on the outcome. Your attorney should advise you on whether an expert is warranted, taking into account the cost versus any potential benefit. When working with an attorney or an expert, it is appropriate to set budgets and ask for notice if costs might exceed that budget before they do.
In a complex or contested family law matter, it is important to have a good team to support your position. Engaging the right experts takes some thoughtful consideration of their ability to contribute meaningfully to the right outcome. Want to know more about experts in family law? Contact Reese Law to set up a consultation.
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