Before you even schedule an appointment for a consultation, it is important to research the attorney and law firm as best you can – particularly before you have to pay the initial consultation fee. You want to make sure that you are going to a firm that predominantly handles divorce and child custody cases. This isn’t to suggest that good criminal lawyers can’t also be good divorce attorneys, it just means that, in general, the attorneys that specialize in divorce and child custody, are naturally better divorce and child custody attorneys. In Virginia, it also usually means that the attorney is familiar with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, the Circuit Court – and more importantly, with the Judges who preside over the cases in these courts.
Once you have researched the attorney online, it is then time to schedule your consultation. Most divorce attorneys in our area charge a consultation fee – and our firm does as well. Although a consultation fee can be an annoyance, particularly if you wind up not liking the attorney, not hiring him or her, and then wasting that money, the consultation fee does guarantee a few things. First, whatever you say to the attorney in that consultation is confidential. This means you can be brutally honest about the good, bad and ugly of your case. Second, it usually means that the client is serious about moving forward in the divorce case, and similarly, the attorney should be serious about giving you his or her attention and similarly providing a strategy or strategies on how best to proceed.
So what happens during these initial consultations? Most of the time, the potential client will discuss her situation and provide the attorney with enough essential facts so that the attorney can then provide a way ahead. Sometimes this can take up most of the allotted time. In some cases, it might be less. However, what is constant – and what I encourage you to do before the consultation ends, is ask the attorney several questions. Remember, not only are you paying for the consultation, but this should also be a job interview for the attorney. The attorney should want you to hire him or her – and even more importantly – want you to want to hire him or her. So what are the top 5 questions you should ask the attorney during the consultation?
1) What percentage of your law practice is devoted to Family Law cases – meaning Divorce and Child Custody?
2) How often do you appear in court in the City where I reside?
3) How long have you practiced law and how many cases have you tried?
4) Why do lawyers “practice” law and “try” cases?
Ok, that last one was a joke…
4) If I follow the strategy you laid out for me during the consultation, and my case winds up going against me, what is the worst case scenario that I could be facing? Could I lose my kids and my house? Could I have to pay child support to my husband? Could I be forced to remain here and not allowed to relocate with my kids?
5) If my case gets complicated, are you prepared to handle a contested divorce case? Do you know the names of expert witnesses, financial consultants, and therapists that can testify in my case – AND can you provide those names?
At the end of the consultation, if you are not satisfied with the responses, you do not have to hire the attorney. It can be frustrating to have to pay for another consultation – but you don’t have to suffer through a case with an attorney who isn’t willing to work, fight and advocate hard for you, while also compassionately understanding the nuances of your case. Researching the attorney upfront and asking the right questions can minimize your chances of getting it wrong.
There are very specific rules governing divorce in Virginia. At Hofheimer Family Law Firm we are committed to providing you with the experience and compassion you deserve and the successful results you need to move on with your life. Request a FREE copy of our divorce guide for women in Virginia, or reserve your seat at our monthly divorce seminar – 757-425-5200.