What factors should i consider when hiring a Houston divorce lawyer?
Mary E. Ramos // Attorney At Law //
The divorce process is one of the most emotionally and financially turbulent experiences a person can go through in life. You’ll likely be going through a lot of stress from the process which is why it is imperative you get a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who can lessen the emotional and financial impact of a divorce. The following are some things to consider when you’re out shopping around for a divorce attorney.
Knowledge and Experience
Family law in Texas is a complicated area of law; it’s important to be represented by an attorney that has a deep understanding of the Texas Family Code as well as enough experience in family law to be able to tackle any situation. From the mundane circumstances to the bizarre, no two divorces are alike and you’ll want someone to be able to handle anything. Skill and knowledge come with experience; you wouldn’t expect a heart surgeon to do a superb job on your hip replacement so look for an attorney that practices primarily in family law.
Counties of Practice
While divorces are governed by the Texas Family Code, a couple getting divorced in Harris County may have an entirely different experience than a couple getting divorced in Brazoria County. Different counties have different local rules, procedures and timetables so it’s important to have an attorney that is knowledgeable about the procedures of each individual county. You don’t want your divorce process to be hampered by an attorney that isn’t familiar with the local rules. Just because an attorney is the best in Dallas doesn’t mean they’re the best in Houston. A lot of success in family law can be obtained through an attorney’s strong relationships with other attorneys, judges and mediators. You definitely want a local attorney who has fostered such relationships and is comfortable in the county of your divorce.
Divorce isn’t cheap. Your home, your savings and your children are all possibly at stake during a divorce, so while the thought of a retainer in the thousands of dollars may make you shudder, think about losing all of that because you went with a discount attorney. Family lawyers are able to charge what they do because they know what they are doing and their skills translate into getting you what you want during your divorce. On the other hand, just because an attorney charges you a $20,000.00 retainer doesn’t mean they are the best attorney for your case or that you should take out a loan just to get “the best” attorney. Do what is financially feasible for you but know that while it may seem like a lot, in the long run spending the money on a competent divorce attorney can help to prevent unnecessary headaches or the potential loss of property and/or rights to children.
Education and Training
The Texas Family Code is a constantly evolving creature; the Supreme Court may hand down a ruling on a case that effectively changes the law overnight. It’s important that you have an attorney who stays abreast of legislative changes and case law so that they can best represent you. Attorneys are required to take a certain number of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits per year to stay licensed, but the most knowledgeable attorneys are those that take as many CLE credits as possible so that they may be better prepared than the competition. Ask your potential attorney what they do to make sure they’re in the loop regarding legislative updates or advances in the practice of family law.
Testimonials and Online Reviews
You read the online reviews before going to a new restaurant or hair salon right? Shouldn’t you do the same for a person who is going to be protecting the your most precious assets? Take a few minutes to search the internet for reviews of an attorney you’re thinking about hiring; obviously not everyone will have the same experience with an attorney but if there are many reviews that are all consistently good or bad you should be able to get a general sense of whether an attorney is competent and does good work for clients.
Your own comfort level
The relationship between an attorney and a client is just like any other relationship; it needs a solid foundation to work and sometimes personalities don’t click. If you just want an amicable resolution to your case, hiring the most notoriously litigious attorney in Texas probably won’t be a good fit for you. Take the time to meet the attorney and get a feel for their personality and style. You’ll be investing a great deal of money and entrusting your finances and children with this person for possibly a great deal of time; it’s important that you’re a good fit. Don’t feel badly if you don’t feel comfortable with the big name law firm representing you; your personality and needs may be better suited by the small firm that focuses on the individual and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.