What to Expect from Our Pittsburgh Family Lawyers
Frequently Asked Question for Pennsylvania Divorce Attorneys
Legal matters are almost always intimidating to those who do not deal with them on a regular basis. When the future of you and your family is involved, times can be even more stressful than usual. Understanding what your divorce lawyer expects of you and what you should expect from them will help you feel more confident during this process. The details below will help prepare you for the process of divorce.
How Do I Get Started with a Divorce Attorney? How Do I Decide If One Will Help Me?
A family law lawyer might speak with you briefly through a free phone consultation to introduce themselves and assess the services that you need. The first meaningful contact between the two of you will likely be an in-person consultation in an office. This type of consultation is usually the first time you will pay for a service through the divorce attorney. There will often be a fixed fee for the meeting, so you will not be surprised by any additional charges.
The First Meeting
The first meeting with a family law attorney is your chance to get important information, and to decide whether the lawyer is the one who can do the job for you. Divorce lawyers are just like anyone else; some are easier to get along with than others, and some have better skills and experience. In the best cases, a great lawyer will have a mixture of all these attributes.
Making a Decision
As in any new relationship, “gut feeling” can be as important as reasoned opinion. As you discuss your situation and listen to how the family law lawyer responds to your concerns. Think about the person sitting across from you.
You may want to consider these questions:
- Do they try to put you at ease during the meeting?
- Do they listen to what you have to say, and seem to understand what you are dealing with?
- Do they seem experienced with situations like yours?
- Does their advice make sense?
- If they cannot answer a question, are they able to explain the reason?
- Is this someone you feel you can trust during this difficult period of your life?
Although one meeting cannot give you every solution to every problem, by the time it is over you should have a solid understanding of where you stand right now, what might (or should) happen next, and what to do to protect yourself.
What Should I Expect from My Family Law Attorney?
Your lawyer should give you the information that you need to give you a sense of confidence. A good family law lawyer can give you the benefit of other clients’ experiences. They should also make suggestions that might help you get what you need without having to fight.
Your divorce attorney will stay on top of your case, meet deadlines, and will always be prepared in court or mediations. An attorney will prepare you for your role in the case and will make the most of every opportunity.
Your telephone calls will be returned with reasonable promptness. Your family law attorney should keep you informed of important developments in your case. He or she will offer you clear answers to your questions, in plain English.
Courtesy & Respect
A good divorce lawyer will treat you as a valued client and will maintain professional conduct toward all members of the opposing party. A family law lawyer should never sacrifice standards of decency in the name of zealous representation, and those who do can make things worse for their clients.
A divorce attorney who doesn’t “give it to you straight” isn’t much benefit for you. If an attorney does not give you an honest opinion, you may make the wrong decisions. A good divorce lawyer may not always have good news for you, but you will always know what they think about your situation.
You can feel comfortable speaking to your family law lawyer freely, as long as you are not asking them to help you accomplish illegal activities.
What Shouldn’t I Expect from My Divorce Attorney?
All licensed Pennsylvania lawyers are required to conform to a professional code of ethics that is enforced by the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. A family law attorney should have a trustworthy reputation with colleagues and judges. When you retain a family law lawyer, don’t expect a “mouthpiece,” television-style courtroom drama, or an “anything we can get away with” attitude. A good divorce attorney’s effectiveness lies in the advice they offer and their skillful handling of your case, not in undirected aggression and expensive bluster.
A good family law attorney will not:
- Hide your income and assets
- Lie to the opposing party or the court
- Tolerate or ignore disrespectful conduct
- Escalate or manufacture a fight where none need occur
- Create or escalate unnecessary disagreements
- Indulge in bitter rhetorical contests at the expense of the client
- Extend credit to you instead of prompt payment
Most importantly, clients must not expect a divorce attorney to do all the work. You are an essential part of the litigation process, and it is your future that is being decided. You are facing some of the most important life choices you may ever have to make, both for you and for your children—you should not accept surrendering them to someone else.
What Does My Family Law Lawyer Expect from Me?
A family law lawyer will expect you to be open and honest. There is no such thing as a perfect case, and no one leads a perfect life. If your divorce attorney is not aware of the less honorable parts of your life, they won’t be prepared when they come up in mediation. It is always better for your family law lawyer to find out about the challenges he will face with you ahead of time, rather than from your spouse in a courtroom.
Your divorce attorney offers you the benefits of education, experience, and an outside perspective. Your attorney knows that it is never enough to be right or to deserve justice. They know what judges want to see, and how they are likely to view what you say and do. While he can never guarantee you favorable results, he can suggest approaches that might help you, guide you around the pitfalls that are common to family law cases, and help you make the most of the strong points of your case.
Respect, Courtesy & Common Sense
Though this time in your life may be frustrating, it’s important that you remain calm through all proceedings. Even spouses who never wanted to fight can find themselves in foxholes because of a moment of anger. You can’t control your spouse’s actions, but you can (and must) keep control over yourself and your conduct.
Pay Attention & Stay in Touch
Stay involved in your case and be your divorce attorney’s active partner. Cases are easiest when clients open mail, respond to questions, and carefully examine anything they are sent. An attorney will never seek to waste your time with pointless messages and requests.
During your case, your divorce lawyer will likely ask you for a variety of information and documents, or you may have to provide them to your spouse as part of the litigation process. Be diligent in responding to these requests and discuss any concerns or questions as early as possible.
Follow Court Orders
Unless your family law lawyer tells you differently, always follow court orders. Failure to do so can result in penalties that range from frustrating to devastating depending on the nature of the violation.
How Much Will This Process Cost?
There is no accurate way to immediately answer this question unless the service you need has a fixed fee. Every case is unique, and the cost of legal services usually depends upon how much time the divorce attorney must spend working for you. Family law attorneys usually break down time spent working on your case into tenths of an hour. For some services, minimum fees will apply. Like any other investment, legal services are most cost-effective when they offer a reasonable prospect of a good return, or when they are your best opportunity to prevent even greater damage. A good divorce lawyer will take the cost of their services into account when advising you about their plans.
Family law lawyers usually work on retainer. A retainer is when someone makes an advance payment to your divorce attorney. This payment creates a fund that your attorney will draw from as they work. You will have to replenish this fund if it becomes too depleted, according to the terms of your written fee agreement. Do not expect your family law attorney to work for you on credit. Unless your fee agreement says otherwise, retainers are usually refundable to the extent that they have not been earned by services rendered.
Ways to minimize your legal costs include:
- Take notes when you talk to your divorce lawyer so that you can avoid asking the same questions more than once.
- Keep your communications with your family law lawyer direct and to the point. However, avoid cutting things so short that you prevent a proper exchange of information.
- Become a clerk in your case. Promptly gather and organize any necessary information or records that your divorce attorney needs.
- Call your family law attorney to address potential problems before they happen, because it is usually cheaper to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble. Don’t just look before you leap, discuss before you leap. Making sure that you have the information to keep yourself safe and protected is part of your divorce lawyer’s job.
- Be responsible and reasonable in your day-to-day dealings with your spouse and avoid letting negative emotions make your choices for you.
- Consider alternate forms of dispute resolution, such as mediation or co-parental counseling. Your family law lawyer might be able to offer you suggestions and resources.
- Give some thought to which battles are worth fighting, and what you might be willing to give up in exchange for closure and peace of mind. Your divorce attorney can discuss this with you and offer both suggestions and useful perspectives.
If you have any other questions, our Pittsburgh family law attorneys are ready to answer your questions at (412) 281-1988.