Here are a few hints on finding a decent and reputable family law attorney:
1. Check out websites like http://www.lawguru.com/ or http://www.avvo.com/
Attorneys answers questions for free so you can read their answers and get a "feel" for them before you call them.
Most family law attorneys offer payment plans.
How much is a down payment? This can vary dramatically. Anywhere from $500 - rarely $100,000.
Some attorneys will let you make a down payment of $1,500 if the case is a "basic" case.
If the case is complex or there is a hearing pending, then you should anticipate paying closer to $5,000.
Why? The attorney is going to need to do a lot of work to get ready for the hearing.
(You expect to get paid for the work you do and so does your attorney.)
On the http://www.avvo.com/ website beware of their rating system -- many excellent attorneys have never "claimed" their profile so their rating might be low -- don't necessarily trust a high or low rating!
Should I hire a board certified attorney?
If money is an issue for you, you don't need to hire a board certified attorney -- their prices are much higher per hour than a non-board certified attorney Most board certified attorneys charge at least $400 per hour - so expect your legal bill to add up quickly. If you hire a board certified attorney, expect your legal bill to easily run $20,000. Some "high profile" attorneys charge a one-time fee just to accept your case! And, these fees are non-refundable if you have a change of heart later! Remember, if name dropping is important to you, then you are going to pay for this privilege. FYI: There are many excellent attorneys in Houston that are not written up in the press or are not known by the public. These attorneys are just as respected by the Judges and their peers.
What sort of experience should I look for in an attorney?
Try to hire an attorney that does at least 70% family law and has at least 5 years experience. I personally would prefer someone with at least 10 years experience, but try to avoid someone with less than 5 years experience -- they are too new!
You might want to call PATRICIA BUSHMAN at 713-807-9405.
She will go outside Harris County. She offers payment plans and accepts credit cards. Her deposits are reasonable. I thinks she takes a common sense approach to practicing law. She does only what is required. She does not try to do a lot of extra work to charge extra money. She represents both men and women.
She has represented men and has gotten men custody.
She has handled several jury trials.
She is not afraid to go to trial.
(Believe it or not, many attorneys will NOT go to trial & they will withdraw right before trial.)
I rent space in her office so tell her that I sent you to her!
2. You can read my blog. www.txfamilylaw4u.blogspot.com and read about my comments on family law. Of course, the TX legislature changes the law every 2 years so really old blogs might be somewhat out of date, but you can get an idea of Tx family law.
There are many attorneys that "blog". Of course, it's our opinions. So "filter" every attorney's comments and blogs!
3. Do your research. I always say that knowledge is power! The TX Family Code is availabe on-line. There are many law libraries around the State of Texas. Many are located inside small courthouses. Be aware that they may NOT contain the most recent form books and/or up-to-date books. However, they are free and open to the public.
The Houston Bar Association has an excellent basic, free brochure on their website called "family law". It's approximately 50 pages - available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
The Office of the Texas Attorney General has a website that contains lot of information on family law for free.
You can go to my website at www.familylaw4u.com and look under "links" for some website links.
If you "google" family law or divorce law be sure to only look under TEXAS LAW. Texas courts do not care what California law says!
What most people don't understand is that divorce law (also known as family law) is a states right issue. Divorce law is regulated by the state and it varies from state to state.
Therefore, a Texas attorney does not know what a Louisiana court will do!
4. You can go to your local courthouse and visit the courthouse. It's usually open to the public and you can usually visit the any courtroom. It's very educational and informative.
If the baliff asks you what you are doing, tell him that you have a family member involved in a family law matter and that you are observing. You must turn off your cell phone, not wear a hat, not chew gum, cannot wear a hat, etc. You must dress appropriately and observe all court rules.
While you are visiting the courthouse, pick up a copy of the local court rules. Your relative will need to know the local county rules. Also, does that court have their own court rules? Each judge is allowed to set their own set of rules to follow.
Be sure to stand when the judge enters and leaves the bench!
5. If an attorney PROMISES you anything, run. No decent family law attorney can promise you that you will win custody, etc.
6. Ask your friends and family for a referral. If your friend recently went through a divorce, ask him/her who the opposing attorney was in their case! I received many referrals from an FBI agent who was the opposing party in a divorce I handled many years ago! He thought I handled his difficult divorce in a respectful manner and he sent many people to me over the years!
7. If an attorney says that he/she has WON 100% of their cases, run! No family law attorney ever actually WINS a case! A family law attorney is dealing with the death of a family. There are no "winners" in family law - except the attorney who is making money on this case!
If an attorney "won custody" for a father who sexually abuses his children, would that be a "win" for those children? I don't think so.
I've been on cases where there were issues of drug abuse and the attorneys worked together to protect the children. This is what professionals do when for the "best interests of the children."
As a mediator, I'm often put in a horrible position of gently letting the party know that all outrageous promises their attorney told them at the beginning of the case will NOT happen.
8. Hire an attorney BEFORE you need one. It's easier to pay for a consultation & receive peace of mind. I'm an attorney and when I need legal advice in an area of the law that I'm not familiar with, I talk to an attorney that is knowledgeable in that area of the law.
It's a lot like going to the dentist every 6 months for a dental cleaning, it's cheaper and easier to go every 6 months then to wait until it's a major dental emergency!
Or, it's a lot like getting my oil changed every 3,000 miles rather than waiting until the engine blows up!