If you are concerned you and your spouse will not be able to reach an agreement about child custody or child support arrangements consult with a family law attorney immediately. By all means continue to try and reach an amicable settlement that you are both comfortable with without putting your children through the trauma of a contested custody hearing but be prepared to litigate if you have too.
Going through a contested child custody hearing will likely be one of the more difficult and stressful events in your life. The stress of fighting for custody of your children is bad enough but going through a contested custody proceeding without an experienced family law attorney to guide you through the legal processes can be a nightmare. An experienced attorney will make sure you are represented in the best light possible at the hearings and that is very important in a child custody hearing.
Your choice of a lawyer is critical. You need to be comfortable with the approach of your attorney to child custody litigation. The last thing you want is an attorney with an aggressive win at all costs attitude. You want an attorney who can facilitate an amicable settlement without the need for a court battle, if possible, and if not possible represent you in the court proceedings.
An attorney who engages in needless and expensive legal proceedings will not only put a dent in your pocket book it could potentially have a long lasting and negative impact on your relationship with your child and your ex-spouse.
You want to hire an attorney who sees their job as obtaining a custody agreement which is in the best interests of your child, you and your ex spouse. This will not be achieved by an aggressive approach. When you interview prospective attorneys ask if he/she recommends mediation, counseling or other forms of dispute resolution. If he/she does not you may want to search for another attorney.
The most important action you can take to impact the outcome of your child custody case is hiring a good attorney. It is always a good idea to start your search with family and friends to see if any of them can refer you to an attorney they know and trust. If you are working with a family counselor or have joined a divorce support group those are good places to seek referrals. Most attorneys will give you a free initial consultation. Use the free consultation time to ask questions pertaining to your specific case. Use the session to access the attorney’s approach to your case and your comfort level with the attorney’s style and of course determine if you can afford to hire the attorney.
Family law attorney rates will vary depending on the city you are in, the level of complexity of your case and the level of experience the attorney has. Rates could range from $100 to $500 or more per hour. Some attorneys require a retainer up front. The retainer is used to cover the cost of services as they accrue. When the retainer is used up you will have to come up with additional fees. Get a fee agreement in writing. You may want to prearrange with your attorney a maximum limit on fees and legal costs you want to pay.