Family law attorneys advise clients on a wide range of legal topics. Divorce cases may be the most common, but family law attorneys offer their services in cases of custody, adoption, pre- and post- nuptial agreements, restraining orders, and many other family affairs. If you are in doubt whether a family law attorney advises clients in your unique situation, call for a consultation. Chances are they do.
Years of experience prepares a family law attorney with an unparalleled breadth of understanding in the intricacies of family law. Their expertise is key to providing the court with the necessary and proper information to ensure a fair and equitable outcome to your case, and their step-by-step counsel helps provide peace of mind throughout a complex legal process.
Below, you’ll find some of the most common scenarios in which you may benefit by involving a family law attorney.
When Should I Hire a Family Law Attorney?
Divorce/Dissolution: Family law attorneys advise their clients on important financial and personal matters related to divorce, including division of assets and debts, the award of the family home and mortgage, family and child support, and custody. For clients who wish to dissolve a ‘committed, intimate relationship’ in a situation where couples have cohabitated without getting married, a family law attorneys can similarly advise on financial and legal repercussions.
Custody: In addition to custody decisions resulting from divorce, dissolution, or separation of biological parents, family law attorneys advise in situations in which other family members (such as grandparents) may need or wish to be granted legal custody of children. These may be temporary or permanent arrangements.
Adoption: In contrast to custody, adoption involves an adult becoming the full legal parent of a child. It usually requires one or more of the biological parents to abdicate their parental status, either voluntarily or involuntarily (if certain statutory requirements are met).
Pre- or Post- Nuptial Agreements: Either before or after a couple decides to marry or cohabitate, they may wish to establish an agreement related to the assets and or debts they are entering the relationship with. This is often of particular concern with individuals later in life or with second marriages.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the legal scenarios covered under family law. If you’re still not sure whether an attorney can help in your situation, a consultation is the best way to determine your next steps. Experienced lawyers can quickly assess the risks of your case and explain them in layman’s terms, helping you make an informed decision.
How Does the Process Work?
Anderson Hunter attorney Laurie Ummel likens the work of a family law attorney to counseling in this respect: “People come in with a problem. They need to have it solved.” As with counseling, transparent communication on both parts is key to the client-attorney relationship.
This relationship usually begins with an initial consultation, where the attorney asks the client questions and listens for key information. Ummel says, “I offer a free initial consult at the beginning, so people have the opportunity to tell me generally what’s going on and give me a little bit of information. At that point I offer a little feedback and we talk about options to move forward” This initial meeting sets the tone for the rest of the relationship.
Generally, once people recognize the complexity of their case and what is at stake financially and personally, they opt for the help of a professional. Even when people generally agree about what they think should happen, having the advice and help of an attorney ensures that what is reflected in final court orders is in fact what was intended by the parties. Sometimes people are able to reach agreement after a few meetings where each is getting good advice. In those situations the agreement can be drafted and put in final orders. However, when parties disagree or are unwilling to compromise,the process frequently takes longer and is more complex and expensive.
What About Cost?
Ummel compares hiring a family law attorney to a plumbing problem. “I don’t know how to fix a plumbing problem, I wouldn’t try. I would pay what it takes because that’s something that’s essential to me.” Under Washington state law, parties do not have to be represented in family law cases and aren’t automatically entitled to an attorney. While appearing pro se is an option, when it comes to important life events regarding your family and your finances, it’s advisable to speak with an attorney first before you make critical decisions that can have long term consequences. A free consultation today could help you more fully understand your unique case, the risks it entails, and the best legal course of action to take.