Selecting an Attorney
While you can represent yourself in court hearings, whenever possible you should consult a family law attorney with domestic violence expertise, as the legal system is a complicated and involved process. Selecting an attorney to represent you in your legal case is one of the most important decisions you will make, influenced by your type of case, your financial situation, your feeling of trust and comfort with the attorney, and his or her area of expertise, location and reputation. Competent representation by a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer can be key to the physical, emotional and financial safety of your children and yourself.
Unfortunately there is a shortage of attorneys with domestic violence expertise willing to represent victims pro bono (volunteer) or for a reduced fee. Still, don’t be discouraged from trying to find one; each community has domestic violence programs that may be able to help at low or no cost.
There are several options for selecting an attorney, depending on your financial situation:
- legal aid or legal service attorneys, which may have stringent financial qualifications
- state coalition or local domestic violence programs
- private family law attorneys, which can be costly, but you may be able to negotiate a reduced fee depending on your situation
- attorneys associated with domestic violence programs in your courthouse or community, which may be able to handle your case on a reduced fee or pro bono (volunteer) basis
- family or domestic violence clinics at local law schools
- attorneys who volunteer through local bar association programs or other community programs
- attorneys who help victims through pro se (representing yourself) projects at your courthouse. Learn more about pro se projects at WomensLaw.org; scroll down to your state, and click on courthouse locations.
Questions to ask an attorney
- What is your experience handling cases involving domestic violence?
- What is your experience handling family law cases?
- What is your experience handling a case similar to mine?
- What is the cost per hour for your services?
- Can you estimate how many hours you’ll need to take care of my legal matter?
- If I can’t afford your hourly fee, will you be willing to take my case on a reduced-fee or pro bono basis?
- What other costs will be involved in this case (e.g. filing fees, etc.)?
- Am I responsible for paying these other costs or is that built into your hourly fee?
- Are there costs that I can minimize by doing some of the work myself (e.g. copying, some non-legal research, etc)?
- What is the cost of the retainer (or down payment) to secure your services?
- Will you accept a retainer in a lower amount?
- Who is doing the work on my case in your law firm?
- When I have questions, how and when can I reach you?
- Will I be charged for time that we speak on the phone and/or e-mail?
Information contained on this website should not be construed as legal advice. Read full disclaimer.