Many people who are already going through the stressful time of ending a marriage are often faced with another stressful and often frightening proposition: finding the right attorney. First of all, no one ever wakes up one morning “wanting” to hire an attorney. However, in many cases, including family law cases, people need an attorney for several reasons, including: to navigate the ever-changing court system, to advise you on the law and your rights, and to protect your interests if faced with an attorney on the opposing side. Also, in many areas of South Carolina, there can be several, if not dozens, of well-known family law attorneys in a certain city or town.
Choosing the right attorney to represent you in a divorce or family law matter is an intensely personal decision. There are numerous articles and tips online regarding this topic; however, this guide addresses some specific insights that many of our clients did not consider when seeking out an attorney.
1. Make Sure You Know Your Goals And Be Realistic.
We know that you are going through a stressful time. Any time that you are facing the end of a marriage, stress and emotions are at an all-time high. In addition, we know that many of you may not know what your rights or responsibilities are going forward. We invite you to look over the rest of our website for valuable information that may answer many of your questions as to the basics of a divorce or family law case. When you do begin seeking legal representation, it is important that you take a moment away from your emotions and stress and begin to prioritize your needs, wishes, and goals. Any time during a divorce, there may be concessions made in negotiations, or undesired outcomes from litigation or a hearing. Being able to prioritize your goals throughout the divorce process can greatly reduce the stress of the situation. In addition, it is critical that you stay realistic. For example, in most situations, it would be completely unrealistic to think that you could get every bit of property while your spouse walks away with nothing. Staying realistic during the divorce process will better allow you and your attorney to seek options that work for you and your family.
2. The Attorney’s Primary Goal Should Be Resolving Your Case, Not Billing Fees.
It seems that more and more attorneys these days in the family court have a reputation – even self-described – as a “bulldog” or being the “most aggressive” divorce attorney. As if lawyers needed any more reason to be loathed by the general population, it is usually these types of lawyers who leave a bad taste in the mouths of the public who deal with them. This attribute should not be misinterpreted as “zealous,” “enthusiastic,” or “passionate,” which are all attributes of some of the most effective attorneys. Some cases can be hotly contested and require the most passionate and knowledgeable litigation experience. However, it is important to note that nearly all contested divorce cases in South Carolina end up reaching a settlement, whether through attorney negotiations, or at a mandatory mediation conference. In these types of cases, over-the-top aggressiveness or an unreasonably confrontational nature can sometimes impede progress in negotiations and get in the way of resolving your case. An effective divorce lawyer should be focused on creating options and seeking resolution of your case in a way that is both cost-effective and pro-active, while also providing you with the advice and legal experience you need to protect your rights to the utmost degree.
3. The “Relationship” of the Attorney-Client Relationship Matters.
Just like any professional relationship, you want to know that you and your attorney can have open communication and mutual respect. Your lawyer needs to have the care and compassion necessary to lead you through one of the most difficult times of your life. In addition, your attorney needs to be able to competently answer your questions and provide you sound, knowledgeable legal advice. As for you as the client, you need to be comfortable enough with your lawyer that you can speak up and tell them the truth and let them know your concerns or needs are. You as the client should also be open and forthcoming about all aspects of your case, even if you think they are embarrassing or irrelevant. You also need to respect your attorney’s legal experience and knowledge and know that sometimes their advice or criticism may not be what you want to hear. On the other hand, a prospective attorney should be able to listen to your needs and wishes and properly advise you without forcing a path or option on you.
4. Let’s Start Finding Solutions
The Family Law team here at Schiller & Hamilton hopes that this guide can help you as you choose a divorce or family law attorney. We also hope that you look over our website for overviews of specific areas of family law for more information. Please call us for an in-depth consultation if you think you need representation in a family court matter.