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Qualifications to Consider in Hiring Your Lawyer
Assuming that you have several prospective divorce lawyers in mind to handle your divorce or custody case, you must investigate the qualifications of each attorney. Before investigating the qualifications of your candidates, you would be wise to set the bar on the minimum qualifications that are acceptable to you. An attorney's qualifications in the following 5 areas will help you in your investigation:
Percentage of practice devoted to family law
An attorney's percentage of practice devoted to family law will help you assess how much experience and expertise he or she has with divorce and custody-related issues. An attorney whose practice is 100% devoted to family law issues, such as divorce and custody, will likely have more expertise and familiarity with handling such cases than an attorney who also spends time practicing in other areas.
Years of experience
An attorney is often valued by the number of years of experience that he or she has in a particular area of law. The more years of experience an attorney has in family law, the more that he or she can typically demand in fees. Further, the more years of experience an attorney has with divorce or custody cases, the more likely that he or she has worked on a case similar to yours, and can thus advise you on what you can likely expect and what the costs will be.
Some states allow attorneys to become certified as a family law specialist. An attorney may seek to become a certified family law specialist by demonstrating extensive experience and testing in the field of family law. There are certainly attorneys with experience and expertise in family law who have not sought to become a certified family law specialist, and remember that the certification is not available in all states. Attorneys that advertise themselves as "certified specialists" may demand a higher fee.
The fact that an attorney graduated from a prestigious law school does not necessarily guarantee that he or she is more qualified and more experienced in the field of family law than an attorney who graduated from a less prestigious school. The law school is, however, something to consider, because it may demonstrate how serious, dedicated, and committed the attorney was to his/her education. Additionally, some attorneys may have additional education qualifying them in such areas as accounting or psychology. You will need to determine the value of the different education an attorney has and the cost that may go along with it.
An attorney that has taken interest in the field of family law will often have memberships to organizations in the field of family law. Some memberships are available to any lawyer, while other memberships are more difficult to obtain. An attorney that does not have any memberships to organizations in a field of law can often create doubt in the consumer's mind about a genuine interest in that field.
Information such as that described above concerning attorney qualifications can often be found through State Bar websites or through Bar Associations. As you seek to know more about an attorney's qualifications, it is ultimately up to you to investigate an attorney's qualifications and set the bar on the minimum qualifications that are acceptable to you.
To file for divorce, one spouse must have lived in California for the last six months, and the county where the action is filed for the last three months. Spouses who have lived in California for at least six months, but in different counties for at least three months can file in either county. These California residency requirements must be met in order for the court to have jurisdiction of the case.
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