We suggest you print out this list of questions and take it with you to your first meeting with a prospective lawyer.
Just go right down the list, point by point. Briefly note the attorney's answers after each question. This will save a lot of confusion later and allow you to easily compare the answers you get from each attorney.
Are you a member of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers?
How long have you been practicing in this court district or county?
What percentage of your practice is in Family Law, specifically in divorce and custody cases?
How much "on the floor" experience do you have in family law/custody cases in this county?
How do you feel about taking cases to a jury? What percentage of your cases have gone to a trial by jury?
Are you aware the Child Support guidelines are a rebuttable presumption?
Are you familiar with Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)? How many cases have you handled with PAS as a factor, and what was the outcome? (This question would only apply if PAS is a factor in your case, but it's a good question to ask to see if the attorney is even aware of PAS.)
Are you familiar with the judges in this county, in particular Judge XXXXXX? (The last part of this question would only apply if you know in advance who your judge will be. Depending on local court practices, you may or may not be able to find out who the judge wil be.)
If so, what are his/her "preferences" when dealing with a custody case? In other words,
Is he/she open to taking custody from a mother who is the current custodial parent and giving custody to a father who is the current non-custodial parent?
Is he/she open to awarding Joint Custody in the true sense of the word?
Does he/she usually prefer Parenting/Custody Evaluations?
What is your normal hourly rate?
Should I decide to hire you, would you be willing to sign a statement stating that as my lawyer, you will not take any action without my express permission, unless circumstances are so urgent, that there is no reasonable opportunity to reach me for consultation, and that under no circumstances will you bind me to any substantive agreement?
Should I decide to hire you, I would request the following:
The ability to communicate with you via e-mail.
The opportunity to perform menial tasks myself in order to keep my costs at a minimum.
A complete and thorough brief, before submission, for any motions to be submitted or responded to with references to any case law, or other research used to make your reply.
A complete and thorough itemized billing of any and all billable work completed on my behalf.
When research is completed on my behalf and listed on the itemized bill, I wish to receive references as to where the research was done and what information pertaining to my case was obtained.
The ability to hire you by your hourly rate with 5 hours paid upfront.
After you have discussed the particulars of your case:
How long do you foresee this case taking?
What would be your best estimate on the final costs?
What do you feel my chances are of getting full custody, joint custody, increased time, etc?