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Friday, November 7, 2008

Family Law

Family law issues usually arise in the context of divorce proceedings, child custody disputes, and child protective proceedings. Child protective proceedings arise when the state, acting to protect minor children, attempts to place children into foster care, or to terminate parental rights and to place the children for adoption.

When you are filing for divorce, or if a divorce has been filed against you, you will find that there are a wide range of attorneys who practice family law, and that the fees can vary enormously between law offices. The cheapest attorney is rarely the best, but in an amicable divorce you may find that all you really need is an attorney who won't stand in your way while you negotiate a settlement. You usually will not need to spend a lot on legal fees if you are in agreement on custody and property issues.

When there are disagreements, choose your attorney carefully. If possible, get references from people you know who have recently divorced. As family law is very stressful, a great many attorneys do not practice in the area, and as a consequence it is relatively easy for attorneys with little skill or experience to develop a family law practice. While the most expensive option is not necessarily the best, when faced with contested divorce or custody litigation there is some truth to the old saying, "You get what you pay for." If you try to save money by hiring the cheapest attorney you can find, you may well learn that you gave up more in property, spousal support, or rights to retirement benefits than you "saved" by hiring the wrong lawyer for your case.

Most people do not need to hire the "best" divorce attorneys, or the most expensive. However, if you have a large marital estate, if you have issues of abuse or domestic violence, if the marital estate includes a family business, stock options, or shares in a "closely held" corporation, or if there are other factors which will complicate the evaluation of your fair share of the marital estate, you should consider a specialist.

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