You need an advocate. More importantly, your child needs an advocate. That is what your attorney should be. As important as your lawyer’s professional qualifications are their willingness to fight for you, their ability to understand your unique situation, and their experience with situations similar to yours.
DO THEY HAVE THE RIGHT EXPERIENCE?
You wouldn’t go to a heart surgeon to fix your broken leg. Likewise, you don’t want to let your company attorney handle your divorce or your child custody case. Find a lawyer who specializes in family law and has extensive experience specifically in child custody cases. If decisions about child support are also going to be made during the process, make sure they’ve got the right kind of experience to handle those negotiations as well.
ARE THEY APPROPRIATELY AGGRESSIVE?
You do need an aggressive attorney. A passive or timid attorney is not going to serve you well, even if your situation isn’t particularly acrimonious. Just because you and your partner agree on most things, that doesn’t mean you don’t need an attorney who is willing to fight for the welfare of you and your children.
The question of what qualifies as an appropriate level of aggression is an interesting one. Here are some things to look for. Do they have experience in high-conflict situations? Do they have a solid understanding of how mental health, substance abuse, and other issues impact custody law? Do they listen to you or talk over you? Did they ask you tough questions during your initial interview and insist that you answer honestly even when it was uncomfortable? Do they demonstrate a clear understanding of what you and your children have to lose or gain based on the outcome of your custody hearing?
The answers to all of those questions should be yes. If your attorney fits those criteria, they likely have the ability to exercise the appropriate level of aggressiveness, dictated by how your case evolves. There is no one size fits all style, and you definitely don’t want an attorney who always enters the room ready for a fight regardless of the situation.
If an attorney tries to convince you that there are “standard” terms and agreements and your case will certainly fall squarely into one of those neatly predefined agreements, that should make you feel uncomfortable. You may need to keep looking. If they talk about settlements before they have all of the facts, that’s another red flag. And, if they aren’t willing to do the research and put the time in that is needed to understand the details of your case, keep looking for someone who will be a better fit.
ARE YOU A FIT FOR EACH OTHER?
After everything else is said and done, if you don’t get along with someone and can’t work together amicably, you should not hire them. Speak with your attorney about some of these topics, and ask detailed questions where you think you need to. Then make a decision about whether or not to move forward.
Talk about where and when they went to law school and what that experience was like for them.
Find out about their community engagement and whether or not they are involved in volunteer work or other activities.
Ask them to describe their philosophy about family law, why they chose it as their area of practice, and what they like and dislike about their job.
Learn as much as you can about what their expectations are with regard to how you will work together. Make sure they are in alignment with your own expectations. Talk to past clients to verify that you aren’t just being told what you want to hear.
Whatever you do, don’t wait too long. If you know you are going to be facing a tough legal challenge, start your search for help now.
We hope this gives you a good idea about what to look for in a child custody attorney. Our team includes some of Oklahoma City’s best child custody lawyers. If you are in need of assistance, please give us a call and schedule a consultation. We are here to help.