By Shameela Ahmed
In this article, I will give some advice on finding the right family solicitor for you. Sadly, when you are in the midst of a breakdown in your relationship, emotions can take over, but emotional decisions are rarely good decisions. Even when in a calm state, we all need the information to make informed and rational decisions.
Well thought out decisions are taken at the outset of the breakdown of a relationship can significantly affect the later financial settlement, care of the children or even just on the ongoing relationship between family members (such as parents).
Whether you are facing a temporary period of separation, a divorce or the breakdown of your cohabitation, the right legal advice and pragmatic information regarding options, rights, and responsibilities are critical.
Where do you start? Commonly, the internet is always a good starting point. Friends and relatives will also have some recommendations and advice of their own. The myths and anecdotes from the media confuse and strike fear into most people's hearts. None will have the measured advice of an experienced family lawyer or detail tailored to your unique circumstances.
The best way forward is to have an initial meeting. However, is this going to be with an experienced solicitor who handles family law matters full time? Can you choose when the appointment will be, and can this be outside of usual office hours? Is the appointment entirely confidential, and is there a charge?
The pointers I would give for instructing a solicitor would be:
- Experience. Unfortunately, some solicitors believe that the first appointment should be conducted by junior staff members, which is something that I do not recommend at all because they may miss critical and time-sensitive matters that may impact adversely upon the future of your case. Family law is not an exact science. It takes years of hands-on legal experience to provide good family law advice.
- Communication. Family situations do not merely arise between working hours. Worrying about something can sometimes be quickly resolved with a short conversation. That is why access to legal advice should be available outside of working hours. Does the firm have a family law solicitor available to call outside of hours?
- Support. Solicitors are sometimes unavailable when needed, whether due to work commitments or holidays. Therefore, other solicitors in the family law team must be equally able to provide back up at the right qualification level in the absence of your chosen solicitor.
- Legal fees. Costs of any legal procedures are an important part of the process for you. An estimate of charges should be provided at the outset of your case. You then need to check if these rates are competitive and will the solicitor account to you monthly to keep you up to date and control what charges are being incurred. Will that account come accompanied by a full itemised print out of all the work carried out on your behalf, and at what cost?
At Fletcher Day solicitors, we can meet all the positive criteria set out above. However, sometimes it just comes down to a "click factor" hence whether you feel you can work with an individual solicitor or not. At the end of the day whatever solicitor you decide to instruct, they should always have high integrity, ethics and work for you based on your best interests, which are non-negotiable values a solicitor is required to have.