Tag: free consultation

A Great Lawyer Knows the Judge

A Great Lawyer Knows the Judge

No, I do not mean that a great lawyer is also the judge’s best friend.  Obviously, if a judge and lawyer who appears before him/her have a close relationship, it creates a conflict of interest that would prohibit the judge from hearing that lawyer’s cases.  The same would be true if there was a high level of personal animosity between the judge and a lawyer.  I recently heard the story of a lawyer who was divorcing his wife, who was a judge.  This lawyer was actually bombarded with calls offering to pay him for the privilege of representing him in the divorce so that his future-ex-wife-the judge would have to recuse herself from all of their cases as well.

In a family law case, it is often vitally important that the attorney you choose is able to accurately predict how the judge assigned to your specific case may rule based on the facts of your case.  I routinely practice in front of approximately nineteen different judges across numerous counties in two states.  Each of those judges have different viewpoints, attitudes, and ideas about what is equitable or in the best interests of children.  There are some judges that regularly award equal timesharing while other judges are opposed to it and would never award it absent an agreement of the parties.  One judge is very generous in awarding maintenance while the judge in an adjacent county almost never awards maintenance.

Having an attorney who can anticipate how a judge may rule in your case can shape not only how your case is prepared for trial, but also possible settlement.  If the opposing party is making demands at a settlement conference that your attorney knows the judge is likely never to award at trial regardless of the evidence, it will inform your negotiation strategy.  Conversely, if your attorney is unable to predict the judge’s actions, you may wind up giving up more than necessary which could negatively affect your financial future.

During your initial consultation your attorney should be able to give you an idea of what you can expect from the judge who may be assigned to your case.  Keep in mind, some judges are easier to predict than others, but the attorney can discuss that issue as well.  If the attorney with whom you are meeting is unable or unwilling anticipate possible outcomes of your case based on different facts and variables, it might be a sign you need to hire a new lawyer.  Who you hire can make a difference.

Photo courtesy of Mike Licht

I’ve Been Divorced Before But My Ex Has Hired Counsel. I Can Still Go It Alone Right?

I’ve Been Divorced Before But My Ex Has Hired Counsel. I Can Still Go It Alone Right?

If you went through a contested divorce years ago, you probably learned a lot about the divorce laws that were in effect at that time.  Be very cautious about proceeding without legal representation.  As I have said before, you can amputate your own limb but it usually works about better if you have a surgeon do it.  You should also be careful that you are not thinking too much with your heart and not enough with your head.

One thing to keep in mind is that every divorce is different.  This marriage may be very different from your previous marriage.  The finances may be more complicated, it could be a longer-term marriage, or there might be children involved.  Additionally, if you had assets when you came into this marriage (e.g. from the previous divorce), you will surely want to make sure that they are protected during this divorce.  Even your age and health condition may affect the outcome of your divorce and are issues that a skilled family law attorney can discuss with you.

Another point to consider, is that, as I acknowledged, you may have learned a lot about the laws in effect at the time of your last divorce.  The problem is that laws change all the time.  That is especially true in the are of family law.  Every year there may be new statutes passed by the legislature, or new rules of procedure or even new decisions by the appellate courts.  All of these things can directly affect your case.  You may also be appearing before a different judge than in your last case.  One with much, much different attitudes about your particular factual situation.  A trained lawyer should be able to discuss all of these issues with you and explain how your particular situation fits in the current status of the law.

In some cases, you may be able to keep the involvement of an attorney to a minimum.  It may be limited to simply reviewing a proposed agreement and advising you about its ramifications.  On the other hand, the lawyer may realize that you are being taken advantage of and potentially signing away thousands of dollars or other rights that you did not even know you had.  It is up to you whether you will choose to be penny wise and pound foolish.  As a final point, I will remind you, do not ever operate under the delusion that you and your spouse can “share” an attorney.

Photo courtesy of Rob Walker

Can I Bring a Friend or Family Member to My Consultation?

Can I Bring a Friend or Family Member to My Consultation?

The short answer is yes, you can bring someone with you to your initial consultation.  Whether you should bring someone or allow that person to sit through the entire meeting is another matter.  Going to see a divorce/custody attorney for the first time can be intimidating and scary.  Having someone else there can be a great resource for support and comfort.  This person might be your designated note taker so you can focus on listening to the attorney and asking questions that are pressing on your mind.  Your friend can also help make sure that you ask everything that is concerning you.  They might also help keep you organized and make sure you give the attorney all of the information he or she may need.  Keep in mind that this is your consultation and it is important that the attorney hear the facts of the case from you and that you discuss your goals.

It is also important that your consultation with the attorney be as open and honest as possible.  Everything you discuss with the attorney, whether you retain the attorney or not, is to be held in the strictest of confidence.  Nevertheless, there are sometimes issues involved in a divorce that may be embarrassing to you and difficult to share.  This can be double tough when your mom or best friend from grade school is sitting next to you.  If there are certain facts that you are embarrassed to share with your friend or relative present, you should probably ask them to wait outside while you discuss them with the attorney in private.  While the attorney has a duty of confidentiality to you, your friend or family member owes you no such duty.

Another reason to ask your companion to wait in the lobby is due to attorney-client privilege.  The attorney-client privilege is different from the attorney’s duty of confidentiality.  The duty of confidentiality binds the attorney to not reveal your secrets or other information about you.  The attorney-client privilege deals with the judicial system and your ability to invoke the privilege to prevent a court from requiring the attorney to reveal information about you.  That privilege applies to all communications you have with your attorney unless those communications also involved third parties (i.e. your mother was sitting next to you).  In that case, the privilege may be deemed waived as to any communications that took place while that third party was present.  Long story short, be careful about you bring with you to your consultation and what you say in their presence.

Photo courtesy of Allen

What Can I Expect at an Initial Consultation With an Attorney?

What Can I Expect at an Initial Consultation With an Attorney?

A lawyer’s time is his stock in trade. ~Abraham Lincoln

Not all initial consultations are created equal.  Many attorneys, especially in the area of divorce and family law, charge an initial consultation fee.  There are several attorneys who offer free consultations, but the advice you get, if any, may be worth exactly what you pay for it.

The nature of the advice you get in an initial consultation will vary greatly depending on the nature of the case about which you are consulting with the attorney.  If you are just beginning a divorce case, you will get much different information than if you are in the middle of a contested case.  It will also depend on if you are merely on an information gathering visit or ready to file something immediately.

During your first meeting with an attorney in addition to the other information you should bring, which we discussed here, you should be prepared to provide the following information to your attorney:

  • A brief history of the marriage
  • Background information on you, your spouse, your children and other pertinent members of your family
  • Information about your immediate situation and/or needs
  • Your goals regarding your post-divorce future and, more specifically, your relationship with your soon-to-be ex-spouse
  • The information you need from the attorney, i.e. come prepared to ask questions

The attorney you meet with should be able to provide you with the following:

  • A summary of how divorce works in Kentucky and a rough outline of how the case will progress
  • A discussion of the issues that are relevant to your case and how he/she might approach each issue
  • A preliminary assessment of your rights, obligations and responsibilities under the law
  • Background on the attorney, the firm, and their experience in family law matters
  • Information about fees, court costs and other expected litigation expenses.

The initial consultation is an opportunity for you to develop a rapport with the prospective attorney.  You will be putting the immediate (and possibly long-term) future of you, your children and other members of your family into this person’s hands.  It is imperative that you trust this person and are satisfied with the advice they give you and that they have the ability to handle your case.  You should expect them to not only answer your questions, but ask you questions that show he/she understands your situation.  While it is impossible for an attorney to answer every single question at an initial consultation, you should be able to develop some sense of comfort with the person.  If not, you need to keep on searching.

Photo courtesy of Solo, with others