San Diego Family Law

Family law legal matters are somewhat unique because they can entail legal actions made out of love or, in some cases, when people fall out of love.

For many people, the only time they may need legal help is when it is related to any one of dozens of possible issues.  Though you may not be aware, family law attorneys can assist and protect you and your family in several ways, including some of these more common issues:

  • Wills, trusts, and estate planning
  • Adoptions
  • Prenuptial agreements
  • Guardianships
  • Immigration issues
  • Establishing paternity
  • Surrogacy and artificial conception
  • LGBTQ issues

Family law attorneys can also work hard to represent your rights in contentious matters as well.  You may need an attorney’s help if you’re facing these or other similar issues:

  • Divorce
  • High asset divorce
  • Military divorce
  • Legal separation
  • Annulment
  • Negotiating an alimony order or a modification
  • Enforcing alimony and child support orders
  • Child support determinations
  • Child custody and visitation issues
  • International child custody
  • Dividing assets in a divorce
  • Restraining orders
  • Child abuse 
  • Domestic violence
  • Grandparents rights

Experienced family law attorneys are particularly sensitive to the fact that clients are highly emotional when they have a personal issue that will affect their family one way or the other.

Skilled attorneys know how to “turn down the heat” and focus on the facts.  They can be firm but also sympathetic to a client’s needs.  While all attorneys should be adept at listening to their client's issues and concerns, family law attorneys must be particularly skilled in this area.

Family law attorneys are also skilled negotiators who provide a buffer between two sides.  In fact, many family law attorneys are skilled mediators.  

Mediators are often a preferred way for people with family law issues to work things out.  Instead of racking up thousands of dollars in legal fees, an attorney or a neutral third-party mediator can sort through the most critical issues, gain agreement where possible, and then work toward a compromise, saving time and anger.  

That also allows battling parties to move on with new lives as quickly as possible instead of being tied up in court battles that can last for years.

You can find a great family law attorney in several possible ways.  Since there are so many types of family law issues, and they’re often quite common, a good place to start is with a personal referral from a friend or family member.  

Family law attorneys are often active in the community.  Many will hold various types of workshops or offer free materials to introduce their services to you.  No doubt you’ve seen estate planning, retirement, or similar ads and mailers across your path.  

Family law attorneys are also active in civic-based organizations, often volunteering in Rotary, Lion’s Club, or Chamber of Commerce activities.  That means somebody you know, or possibly even you, already has had some degree of contact with them.

This is important because it starts building a foundation of trust that is one of the keys to a successful attorney-client relationship, especially with something as personal as family law issues.

However, while familiarity and referrals are important, you should also dig deeper before retaining an attorney to assist you.

Here are some guidelines to consider before making a final decision.  

Is the attorney a sole practitioner or part of a large law firm? There are pros and cons to each. With a single attorney, you’re more likely to work with them or an assistant, which might be the case with a large firm. However, if your matter is complicated, you may benefit from the added muscle a large firm can give you.

How available is your attorney?  If you’re stressing out about what your future ex is up to, or you’ve been hit with a major anxiety attack that only some legal answer can alleviate, you’ll want to connect ASAP and have your attorney talk you down off that ledge.

Does your attorney advocate for a negotiated settlement, or are they primarily interested in long and drawn-out court battles?  Most will try the path of least resistance, but a few others are more focused on bottom-line billables.  Listen for the words “mediation” and “negotiation” as you interview potential attorneys.  The companion question to this is the attorney’s hourly or flat fee rate, initial retainer, and other financial considerations you definitely want to know about in advance.

Does the attorney offer a free case evaluation?  You should expect between 15 and 60 minutes of free discussion, during which an attorney will evaluate your issue and decide how to best approach a potential resolution. 

Do you like the attorney?  This is critical since you will be working as a team to resolve your issues.  If you sense you won’t like being around this person or the chemistry is off for whatever reason, move on to someone else.   

Does this attorney present themselves as trustworthy and ethical?  You can check their track record and see if the California Bar has any registered complaints against them.  Also, read various online reviews to get a much better understanding of these important areas.

How much experience do they have?  You’ll want someone with years of family law experience representing you. Experienced attorneys understand how to balance their caseloads. If you think you may be headed to trial as part of a divorce or other similar actions, inquire about that issue as you screen potential candidates.

There is no “one size fits all” answer when deciding whether you need a family law attorney.  If you’re unsure, it doesn’t hurt to investigate the possibility of retaining an experienced lawyer.  

For the most part, family law matters, even those that involve love and protecting your family over the long term, and too important to leave to chance.  It’s better to seek the help you need now instead of going through a lot of regrets later.