Finding a Good Child Custody Attorney
By Dads’ Resource Center Executive Director Jeffrey Scott Steiner, M.Ed.
The legal profession is like any other profession – there are good, better than average, average, below average and bad lawyers. With hourly fees of $200+ and retainers of thousands of dollars most fathers involved in custody negotiations have to get their choice of attorney right the first time.
It is important to do your homework. Spend time online searching for attorneys in your area who practice family law. One place to start would be finding your county bar association. Look for reviews and reach out to family and friends for recommendations.
Then find four or five that you want to talk to about your situation. Remember, this is their job interview. Make sure you get all the information you need to understand your situation and be comfortable with who might be representing you and to provide direction as to what you think is in the best interests of your children.
Be prepared when you to speak to them. You should ask about his or her background, all applicable custody law, how they do working for fathers and specifics on fees and case management.
When you are done, ask yourself:
- How comfortable are you with the lawyer’s approach? Will he or she give you the balance you need between providing direction and being willing to go in the direction you want?
- Is the lawyer willing to fight for more than occasional custody for the father? Is his or her tendency to settle for less to avoid a trial? Will he or she really work do get what you believe is in the best interest of your children?
- Does the lawyer point out several nuances in the custody situation that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own?
- Is the lawyer actually listening to your questions or merely eager to get your retainer?
- Is the lawyer’s estimate of the time/money needed to get through various parts of the process in the same range as our guidance or is the lawyer trying to lowball you?
Don’t settle if you are not sure, either on your choice of attorney or on what custody arrangement you are going to work toward. Fathers can be overly deferential in these matters. It is never good for children when their parents are unnecessarily contentious. But, once custody is established it is very hard to have it altered.
You know both the mother and your children better than anyone else. Trust your gut and follow your heart. What is in the best interests of your children, not just today, but also a year from now, five years from now, etc.? You will be paying your lawyer a lot of money, they are working for you, on behalf of your children.