Determining if and when you should be hiring a family lawyer can be complicated. In some situations, you and the other party may choose to work through some of the separation logistics on your own and only involve a family lawyer once you have reached an agreement. In other circumstances, you may require a family lawyer right off the bat to assist in communicating and negotiating an agreement. While there is no right or wrong approach, as family lawyers we do believe that obtaining legal advice as soon as possible is the best way to ensure your resolution will be legally binding. As well, getting early legal advice often saves you in legal fees as you ensure everything is done right the first time.
- Jurisdiction – Location, Location, Location
When hiring a family lawyer, it is important to find someone who is eligible to practice law where your legal proceedings are taking place. This may seem obvious, but it can get a little complicated based on where you were married, where you resided during the marriage, where you purchased property during the marriage and where you currently reside. For example, if you were married in Mexico but have been living in Alberta for at least 1-year following the filing of the Statement of Claim, a lawyer in Calgary will be able to assist you. However, if you were married in Mexico, lived in Calgary for 5 years during the marriage, but returned to Mexico for the past 5 years, a lawyer in Calgary would not have the jurisdiction to assist you. This is one of the first questions to ask family lawyers when you book an initial consultation. Additionally, while Calgary based family lawyers can practice law throughout Alberta, it often makes sense the retain a lawyer close to the courthouse where your pleadings will be filed. This is because if your lawyer needs to attend court for any reason, they will bill you for the time it takes to commute. As such, hiring a Calgary based family lawyer to assist you in Red Deer may end up being very expensive.
- Communication Is Key When Hiring A Family Lawyer
The ability to communicate is imperative when hiring legal counsel. You want to find someone who communications clearly and in a way that makes you feel comfortable with the information being provided. Over the course of your file, you are going to have so many questions to ask your family lawyer and you will want to receive easy to digest information. As well, when hiring a family lawyer feel free to advise them how you prefer to receive communication, you may prefer telephone, email or in-person meetings. While family lawyers may not always be able to accommodate your preferred method all the time, they should ensure they communicate with you in a way that makes you feel comfortable, especially with respect to big decisions.
- Experience in Family Law – Questions to Ask Family Law Lawyers
One of the very first questions to ask a family lawyer is what areas of law they practice in. If your family lawyer practices general law, and doesn’t practice exclusively in family law, this may lead to issues down the road. Family law is very complex and the legal processes and precedents are constantly changing to ensure the best needs of families, and most importantly, children are always being met. We highly encourage anyone looking for legal counsel to find a lawyer who practices exclusively in family law.
- Dedication to Ongoing Professional Development
As stated above, the law is always changing and adapting to match societies current needs. As such, it is imperative that your lawyer is dedicated to ongoing legal education so that they can provide you with current and relevant legal advice. When hiring a family lawyer, do not be afraid to ask questions about what courses and education resources they have recently engaged in. A good family lawyer should be able to easily provide you with a list of their ongoing education.
- Style – Collaborations vs. litigation
When shopping around for legal counsel, there are many questions to ask family lawyer’s, such as hourly rates and yeas of experience. Another really important question to inquire about is their practice style / reputation. Some lawyers are know for being “pit bulls” and go in with a very aggressive strategy while others are a little more mellow and take a collaborative approach. No method is better than the other overall, but depending on your specific situation, this is certainly something to consider. If you and your ex partner are amicable and plan to sort out many details on your own, you certainly don’t want to be hiring a family lawyer who is going to blow up your agreements and make for an adversarial situation. However, on the flip side, if the other party is playing games, being sneaky and not being forth coming with their disclosure, you may opt to look into hiring a family lawyer who has a reputation for being aggressive.
- Availability and Time Management Expectations
The wheels of justice turn slowly and if you are going through the court process, much of the waiting is out of your lawyer’s hands. However, when hiring a family lawyer, you want to ensure you find someone who responds quickly to your inquiries and is willing to take the time to speak with you when you have questions or concerns. If you feel like your file is not a priority to your lawyer, don’t be afraid to speak up and let them know. Your family law proceedings are one of the most stressful times in your life and your legal counsel should not be adding to this anxiety by not responding to your questions or avoiding your phone calls.