Self-Help for Family Law Clients
By Orlando Family Lawyer Eduardo J. Mejias
Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2005
How To Communicate With Your Family Law Attorney
Family law, more so than other areas of law, requires communication and cooperation between the attorney and the client. Unlike other types of lawyers, family law attorneys must react to ongoing events and fluid situations. A client facing a DUI charge repeatedly discusses the same event to his attorney: the night he enjoyed a couple of drinks at the local watering hole and was pulled over while driving home.
Conversely, a client of a divorce attorney deals with events during the course of the marriage, during the divorce proceedings, as well as future situations that may arise well after the divorce (e.g., the sale of the marital home or the date that child support obligation terminates for one of the parents). The breadth of facts that a the client needs to communicate to the family law attorney demands an open, honest, and harmonious attorney-client relationship. The family law client can take the following three steps to be sure of being on the “on the same page” with the attorney:
Present All Court Documents At The Initial Consultation
This may seem obvious to some, but too many potential family law clients neglect to do this when consulting with their lawyers. In a pending divorce or family law issues, it is the prospective client’s responsibility to obtain all of the documents that have been filed with the court. This is because the client has a more direct access to the documents, thus is in a better position to find them.
Furthermore, we cannot provide precise legal advice until we have reviewed what has been filed in your case. Can you imagine a doctor making a diagnosis without first examining the patient? If you do not have all of the pleadings and motions in your case, you can have the clerk of the court in your county print copies for you. These copies usually only cost a dollar per page.
However, once you hire your attorney, you need not worry about document retrieval. All of the documents filed with the court, as well as orders issues from the court, are sent to your attorney. And if you do not yet have a case pending at the time of the initial consultation, you obviously do not have to concern yourself with fetching court documents. However, you still need to pay attention to items below.
Provide Your Attorney With Basic Information And Your Long-Term Objectives.
At AAA Family Law, prospective clients are given a basic intake sheet to fill out before beginning their consultation. Much like what medical patients are given at their first appointment with their doctor, these intake sheets provide us with the client’s contact and biographical information. If your case is pending, it is also important that you list the case number (e.g., 2015-DR-000123), and case styling (Smith v. Smith) on the intake sheet.
This allows us to review your online docket of the case (unless it is a family law case in Seminole County, which does not allow online access for these cases). Keep in mind though, that even the counties that do provide online access do not reveal the actual content of the filings. This is why it is crucial for the potential client to bring these to the initial consultation.
More importantly, let us know what you want to accomplish in your case! However, “I want to bury my spouse” is not a legitimate goal. These are examples of appropriate goals: (a) if you’re going through a divorce with children, we want to know what type of time-sharing schedule you envision with your spouse and your children and (b) in divorces involving valuable assets, you should tell us what assets are vital to you, and which ones are expendable. Without knowing where you want to take your case, we can’t create the road map.
Stick to the Plan
How quickly do you think you will arrive at your intended destination if you keep making unnecessary side trips? I spend a great deal of time keeping my current clients focused on the big picture. I often advise them not to allow a one-time inconsequential event (e.g., “look at what he texted me!”) to distract them from what we’re trying to accomplish. You hire a family law attorney for his or her knowledge, insight, and experience. Trust your lawyer to be able to distinguish between what is truly important, and what is merely an unpleasant distraction.
If you follow these simple suggestions, you’ll increase your chances of securing a favorable ruling from the judge.
Contact AAA Family Law.
If you are involved in a situation requiring a family lawyer, I encourage your to call AAA Family Law at (407) 260-6001 in Altamonte Springs for your free thirty-minute initial family law consultation. We cover cases in the courtrooms of these jurisdictions of the Orlando metro area: Orange, Seminole, Volusia, Lake and Oceola counties.
At the initial consultation I will inform you of the amount of the legal fees. In almost every case the fee is a fixed amount. Therefore, you will know the total cost of your case in advance of signing a contract or paying.
For more on the fees, including their range for each type of family law case, please click on Family Lawyer Retainer Fees