Embarking into the world of family law can feel overwhelming if you have not previously had experience with it. After all, family lawyers go to years of schooling and then build up their practice for years — they have had the time needed to understand the nuances of child custody, child support, divorce, spousal support, and more. You have not had all that experience, and that is perfectly OK. Remember: that is why you hire a family lawyer to work with you when you go through any of the circumstances listed above.
In the Dearborn or Plymouth areas, John R. Foley, P.C. is the family law firm you have been looking for. Our family lawyers are talented, experienced, dedicated, and passionate when it comes to helping individuals with their family law cases. Whether you need a divorce lawyer, custody attorney, child support lawyer, or a family lawyer for another legal service, you can count on John R. Foley, P.C. Learn more about our firm, learn more about our family lawyers, read this blog to know what questions to ask, and schedule a consultation with a Dearborn family lawyer today.
How long have you practiced family law?
This is ultimately one of the most important questions you can ask a potential family lawyer for your case. Sure, any divorce lawyer or custody attorney had to go to school and has a good idea of what they are doing. However, family lawyers truly improve and learn how to negotiate well for their clients when they, well, negotiate for their clients; this comes with time. There is more to representing a client well than doing the paperwork. While this is an essential part, it is important to find a family lawyer who understands the intricacies and nuances of the law.
At our family law firm, John R. Foley has practiced law since 1981; Patrick A. Foley has practiced law since 2010; Jesse R. Stec has practiced law since 2017; and Jennifer D. Larson has practiced law since 2008.
Have you handled cases like mine?
Of course, years of experience mean nothing if you need a divorce lawyer and the lawyer in question exclusively has experience representing whistleblowers. Even if they do have years of experience as a divorce lawyer, though, it is still important to find out if they have handled cases similar to yours. If so, how many? And how did those cases end? For example, perhaps the family lawyer you are considering has handled more than 100 divorce cases in their career; if only three of these cases, however, involve complex spousal support matters, then they may not be the right family lawyer for you.
If you are interested in mediation, then be sure to ask about it. And if you expect your divorce to be contested and adversarial, then be sure to ask how many cases like yours they have represented in a trial. You want someone on your side who has the exact experience needed for your case — whether it is divorce, child custody, parenting time, child support, property division, alimony, or another aspect of family law.
Will other family lawyers work on my case? What’s their experience?
Many family lawyers have support associates, paralegals, or other family lawyers work on the case with them. This collaborative effort is not uncommon — and it is not without benefits! In fact, this collaborative approach can sometimes save you money or ensure there is always someone available to meet with you. However, it is essential you go into your case knowing that this is likely and knowing what the other teammates’ experience is like.
For example, let’s say you choose a family lawyer based on their experience and qualifications. Next thing you know, though, you work almost exclusively with one of their teammates who does not have much experience. You chose that family lawyer for a reason and you deserve to work with them.
Other individuals such as personal investigators, accountants, or financial advisors may also be brought on to your case to help determine property division, alimony, and more. There is nothing wrong with this — in fact, it is to your benefit! However, your family lawyer should be upfront about this from the beginning and you should be comfortable with the experience level of everyone involved.
What level and type of communication do you prefer?
The best family lawyer out there is one who communicates well with you. So, when you first try to find a family lawyer in Dearborn, go ahead and ask about communication. You should find out how long it generally takes them to respond to a phone call or email; what form of communication (i.e. phone call, email, texting, etc.) they prefer; and how often you should hear from them. If they work on an as-needed basis for contacting you about your case but you prefer weekly updates, then you should make this clear from the beginning or perhaps choose a different family law attorney if that could be a problem later on. There can be legal costs wrapped up in communication as well, so be sure to inquire about that as well.
What do you need from me?
From the very beginning, it is a good idea to establish expectations for you as the client and them as the family lawyer. Find out what they need from you (such as pay stubs, a list of assets and debts, etc.), clearly present your expectations and desires for the case, outline how you would like communication to go, and answer any and all questions regarding your case. The more you are transparent and honest with your family lawyer from the beginning, the better your case will go.
You can also ask what they expect from you as a client. This way, both of you can hopefully measure up to the other’s expectations and reduce friction during the case.
What is the likely outcome for my case?
You want to go into a serious divorce or child custody case with a grain of salt. You should know what the likely outcome is, but you should also look for a family lawyer who understands your needs and desires and sees the potential for them. Do not fall for a family lawyer who simply tells you what you want to hear; instead, choose a family lawyer who logically explains the advantages and disadvantages and then clearly presents a plan to get to the outcome you want.
Unfortunately, civil litigation does not always end the way you want it to. But by starting out with a clear perspective of what you are up against, you will be more prepared.
What do you recommend I do with my social media?
No matter the legal services you pursue, you should control your social media usage perhaps more strictly than you typically do. For some, social media can feel like an extension of themselves; this becomes risky when you post negative things online about your ex or you post photos of extravagant dinings out and you are in the middle of a divorce or property division.
Social media can be used as evidence in a case, so our family lawyers recommend deactivating your accounts, being very mindful of what you post, or, at the very least, updating your privacy settings. Check out Divorce and Social Media: What You Should Know to learn more about this serious topic — and be sure to ask your family lawyer for their recommendations when you meet in-person.
May I speak with any previous clients of yours?
If a family lawyer says they do not have any references for you when you ask this question, then that is a red flag and it could be time to find a different attorney! Any family lawyer should be able to provide you with multiple references. When you ask to speak with former clients, be sure to make sure they are clients who had cases similar to yours; this will ensure you get the best information possible.
Of course, there may be attorney-client privilege. Because of this, your family lawyer may need to obtain consent before sharing you with contact information or even with details about the case. Be sure to ask about this while you’re at it! Knowing how family lawyers respect former clients’ information is a good indication of how they will respect your information.
Will you tell me more about ______?
How did you fill in the blank in the sentence above? You can read countless blogs online and talk to friends or family members who have gone through similar situations. However, the best way to learn more about your situation is to ask a family lawyer.
When you meet with a family law attorney in Dearborn, go ahead and simply ask for more information about any of the following matters so you have a better understanding of family law:
- Child custody: Legal custody determines who can make major life decisions (medical, education, and religious) for minor children and physical custody determines who will be responsible for daily physical care for the children.
- Parenting time: Also known as visitation, parenting time refers to time intended to parent one’s child. Parenting time schedules can be standardized, mathematical repeating schedules, or very fluid in order to meet everyone’s needs.
- Child support: Michigan mandates a state-designed child support formula that is based on custody and parenting time, incomes, and other expenses (daycare, health insurance, etc.).
- Spousal support: The amount of money that is paid and the length of time it is paid will be determined by a partner’s capacity to earn, how much the other partner earns, and the standard of living during the marriage. Length of marriage is also considered.
- Property division: All property and debts must be divided in divorce, whether it is simply a television and some furnishings or multiple homes in various exotic locales. Typically, each party will keep the property they owned prior to the marriage and any inheritances received during the marriage. Marital property, however, is hard to divide and you will need an experienced family lawyer to help.
- Attorney’s fees: Outside of the context of divorce, each party is typically responsible for their own attorney’s fees. In Michigan, attorney’s fees for divorce will be divided differently if one party has more resources than the other.
What do you charge for your legal services? How will I be billed?
Hopefully, you will never have to choose a different attorney instead of your dream family lawyer because you cannot afford their legal services. However, it is essential that you start the process with transparency and understanding regarding all payments. From the very beginning, it is a good idea to ask prospective family lawyers for an estimate on your case. Here are a few questions you can ask regarding payments for your family lawyer:
- Is there an hourly rate?
- Do you work on a retainer or a flat fee?
- Will there be other costs involved? What costs?
- Do you offer payment options? What’s the billing cycle?
- Are there any additional expenses I should know about?
If you are considering a flat-fee arrangement, then ask what services are included and what happens if you need more legal services than the base. If they charge an hourly rate, then ask the family lawyer how much cases like yours typically cost. Other costs to ask about could include court costs, travel expenses, or outside consultants.
Make sure you begin working with a family attorney with a clear understanding of what it will cost and what payments and billings will look like.
Will I be required to pay my spouse’s attorney fees?
This question is especially important to ask if you are divorcing in Michigan. The Michigan Court rules contain a specific provision stating that in family law cases where one party lacks the ability to pay and the other party has the ability to pay, then the court can apportion attorney’s fees to the party with the ability to pay. This means that if you earn significantly less money than your spouse does that the court may order your spouse to pay your attorney’s fees in order to ensure you have fair representation in your divorce or custody case. If this could apply to you, then be sure to bring it up with your family lawyer in Dearborn when you first meet.
Meet With a Family Lawyer in Dearborn Today
Here at John R. Foley, P.C., we are confident we are the right lawyers for your case. Whether it is divorce, child custody, parenting time, child support, division of property, spousal support, or another aspect of family law, we have the experience and qualifications you are looking for. We can answer all questions on this list to your utmost satisfaction — along with any other questions you may have. As family lawyers in Dearborn, we have built a reputation of excellence and dedication, and we would be honored to help you with your family law case. Contact John R. Foley, P.C. today to schedule a consultation with a family lawyer in Dearborn. We are here to help you succeed.