What to Ask a Potential Child Custody Lawyer In Missouri
Child custody disputes are among the most difficult experiences many people will face. A conflict may occur as part of a divorce in which the divorcing parties have minor children, or it could arise between parents who never married. A parent may ask the court to modify all or part of an existing child custody order for various reasons. In any case, the assistance of an experienced child custody attorney is essential. Missouri family courts take child custody decisions very seriously. State law requires them to consider the “best interests of the child” above all other factors. You should look for a lawyer that you trust and that you believe can work with you towards your particular goals in your case. The following are five questions you can ask when choosing a child custody lawyer.
1. “What is your experience with child custody cases?”
Missouri child custody laws are complicated. The outcome of your case may depend on many subjective factors, and an experienced child custody lawyer can help you present the best possible case based on your circumstances.
When asking about a family attorney’s experience, you are not necessarily looking for the lawyer who has been practicing the longest, or who has the most extensive resume. Every child custody case is unique. You want someone who has experience with the kinds of issues you are facing. Consider the factors that might be at issue in your case, and ask about a lawyer’s experience dealing with those issues in child custody cases.
You should also consider how you would like a lawyer to handle your case. Are you hopeful that you and the other parent will be able to work out an agreement, do you think that you will have to go to court, or are you not sure? Many child custody lawyers are skilled at both uncontested cases, which result in an amicable settlement, and contested cases that require court hearings and possibly a trial. Some lawyers are particularly skilled at one or the other.
2. “What will you do to investigate my case?”
Child custody disputes often require a significant amount of investigation. If your case goes to trial, you might need to call witnesses who can testify about your child’s needs, your skill as a parent, issues with the other parent, and other matters. It is important to have your evidence lined up ahead of time, even if you settle the case before going to court.
When you meet with a potential child custody lawyer for the first time, they will ask you to talk about your case and describe what is going on. Your description will give them an idea of what kind of information and evidence they will need. You may ask them how they would approach investigating the case in order to prepare it for court hearings. The decision about how many stones you want them to turn over, or leave unturned, is up to you.
3. “What can I do to help my case?”
You are responsible for caring for your child. It makes sense that you might want to play a role in preparing for your child custody dispute, too. Ask prospective child custody lawyers what they think you should be doing to help build your case. Some lawyers might want you to play more of an active role in the process than others. Consider how involved you are comfortable being, and ask questions accordingly.
4. “How do you like to handle communication between us?”
No matter how actively involved you are in the process of preparing your legal case, you need clear lines of communication with your lawyer. They may need to get information from you quickly, and you will probably want regular updates on the status of the case, not to mention a way to get your questions to your lawyer.
Ask potential child custody lawyers about how they prefer to communicate with you, whether it is by email, phone, or other means. Find out how often they can be available to answer your questions and give you updates.
5. “How do you handle fees and payments?”
The cost of a child custody dispute is always a concern. No lawyer will ever be able to tell you with absolute certainty how much a case is going to cost. Uncontested cases are likely to be less expensive than contested ones since they tend to take less time and have more predictable schedules. A contested case may require extensive preparation for court hearings, along with other additional work.
You may ask a lawyer about their hourly rate, whether they require a retainer, and how they handle billing. Do they accept payment by credit card or other means? Do they allow payment plans if the case gets more expensive than originally expected?
Mark A. Wortman is a Kansas City child custody lawyer. He has dedicated 100% of his practice to helping people involved in challenging and complicated family law issues like divorce and child custody modifications. Please contact us online or at (816) 523-6100 today to schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can help you.