Finding the best child custody lawyer in Chicago may seem like a daunting and intimidating process if you have never been involved in a legal dispute. This is especially true when it comes to a custody case involving your children and fighting for what is best for them.
Just something to keep in mind: a few years ago Illinois stopped using the term “custody” and “visitation”. Instead, the Illinois law defines the correct terms now as “parenting time” – the schedule for when the child is with each parent – and “decision-making responsibilities” which determine who makes decisions for the child/children regarding their education, medical, religion, and extracurricular activities. So when the word “custody” is used, we are actually talking about parenting time and decision-making responsibilities.
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A child custody case involves complex legal matters and can be very emotional, so it is important to find an effective attorney that can advocate for you and your children. Here are some tips that can help you in the process of selecting the right attorney for your case:
Do some research.
Asking friends, family, and co-workers about their experience with or knowledge of a child custody attorney or family law firm they have experience with is a good start. There are also several online attorney guides that can help you do your research including Avvo, Martindale-Hubbell, and even Google and Facebook. However, remember that with the online reviews you can never be sure who actually posted the review and the reason behind it. Once you have a few names of attorneys and law firms in mind, you can move on to the next step of the process
Schedule an interview or consultation with the attorney.
It is very important that you actually speak to the attorney that you are considering hiring for your case before retaining them. This allows you to gauge if this particular attorney will be a good fit for you and your children, while also asking crucial questions about that attorney’s experience with child custody cases. Speaking to the attorney also enables them to learn about the facts of your case and about your relationship with the child/children. During your consultation, the attorney should get a feel for the parenting time schedule and parental decision-making responsibilities you are seeking for your children.
What forms of communication does the attorney’s office use to keep in touch with clients?
The relationship you have with your attorney is very important as you want to feel that the attorney understands your goals and will fight for what is best for the child/children but is someone who is compassionate to the emotional nature of a custody case. Communication is also key as you will need to be in constant contact with your attorney about your case. Make sure you ask the attorney about how they communicate with clients. Some attorneys prefer phone calls over email, or perhaps in-person meetings, while others may rely heavily on email and only use the phone when necessary. You should be comfortable with the way you and your attorney communicate.
What is the billing structure used by the law firm?
Also be sure to confirm how the process of the case works, and how the billing is structured. An attorney’s billing process should be clear and statements for the work completed on the case sent out monthly.
Ask yourself “Do I like this lawyer?”
After you meet with or speak to the potential attorneys you are considering, you should be able to determine if this is someone you can have a working relationship with. Do you like this attorney’s personality? Do you understand how this attorney communications and does that work for you? Does this attorney have the experience and knowledge necessary to effectively represent you? If you realize too late that you don’t actually like the attorney who is handling your case, this could lead to a stressful working relationship during the case.
Make an independent decision.
Don’t make the mistake of just choosing the lawyer labeled as “the best” by your friend who hired them for their custody case, or the attorney that has the most commercials on television. Also don’t just choose an attorney based on your preference for a male or female attorney. The child custody lawyer you choose should be someone you will feel comfortable working with. Don’t forget that the attorney you choose should also be the best fit for your budget so no additional stress results from the billing process.
Do a thorough review of your notes from your interview with each attorney. It might be helpful to do a pros and cons list as well. It is important that you analyze all the variables before deciding on who will represent you and fight for the best interests of your children. By doing your due diligence you can be sure that you have considered all possibilities before selecting the best child custody lawyer for your case.