Shhhh... Listen! Do You Hear The Sound Of Divorce Lawyers?

Assuming you have not before now, probably sometime in your life you'll have to hire an attorney. With the help of my discussion with Tampa Attorney Christina Mesa, this is a selection of responses to popular and important questions.

1. QUESTION: How will I make certain my lawyer is working on my problems?
ANSWER: Every good lawyer monitors his time (fees) and expenses (costs). Your retainer contract should include a confirmation of how the attorney bills his clients - once a month, quarterly, etc. You may also track your case in some jurisidictions that provide on-line accessibility to case dockets. If the county has that set up, you're wise to often review the docket and see what activities have transpired by your counsel and the other party/counsel. Also feel comfortable getting in contact with your attorney at intervals to ascertain the status of the issue, knowing you'll likely be billed for these interactions.

2. QUESTION: Do I need to hire an attorney or lawyer in the county where the issue occurs?
ANSWER: No. Many lawyers or attorneys practice in other jurisdictions and other states, based on their licensure for the latter. Having knowledge in the county wherein the matter will be litigated is important as that lawyer will have a comfort level with the county courthouse personnel, attorneys (likely opposing counsel) and judges. One matter in hiring legal counsel outside the area in which the matter takes place is cost of journey time. Some attorneys don't charge for travel, others give you a lowered rate or preserve a billable rate for all work conducted. Discuss that question with each attorney consulted.

3. QUESTION: How do I determine if I require a lawyer?
ANSWER: If you have been served with a Summons and similar documents (Complaint, Petition, Motion), you really should endeavor to look for legal guidance now. Papers filed in court that commence a lawsuit require responses that involve exact deadlines; missing out on those deadlines could compromise your defense, reduce or avoid your recovery. Some issues by statute involve a "pre-suit" period of time that enable you to think about the legal issues and possible resolution before a lawsuit is filed. Similarly, seeking a lawyer as quickly as possible is recommended.

4. QUESTION: What exactly is mediation?
ANSWER: Mediation is a process whereby the parties to the issue present at an agreed place with their counsel (if retained) and a decided on mediator to try and resolve all or a number of the concerns involved. Mediators should be unrelated to all participants and the litigation at issue, are to stay impartial between the parties and their counsel, and maintain the confidential structure of the conference to encourage settlement and resolution. Generally the parties share the fee of the mediation equally but other arrangements can be made if all parties are in agreement in advance of the conference. Mediation is generally required in just about every case filed in court and just before a trial is held.

5. QUESTION: What kind of lawyer do I need?
ANSWER: Again, like other sectors, lawyers may specialise in a certain or more than one area. Similarly, law offices may specialize, offer general legal needs or offer services in several specific areas of law. Trial lawyers handle cases involving lawsuits; family law attorneys handle separation and divorce, child custody/visitation, child support, alimony and related matters; general practitioners handle most matters. Some areas of law are very complex, like bankruptcy or taxation; some are delineated by statute, as in worker's compensation. Any attorney should be able to go over your particular issue, determine if he/she is prepared to take care of such matters or inform you of the need to speak with another in a specialised area.

6. QUESTION: Precisely how do I pick an attorney?
ANSWER: Legal topics are as vast as those in other sectors, such as medicine, construction, finance, etc. and might be just as complex. To protect your legal rights and remedies, the ideal practice would be to research your area of need and research what attorneys are around to work with you. A recommendation from someone you know and admire can bring a personal element to the decision to hire an lawyer but should not be the only reason counsel is picked. Look into the lawyer's background of training, experience and area(s) of practice. Asking basic questions should be encouraged in this process. Self-help could be strengthening but may also limit or negate your recovery. Hiring a legal professional should be contemplated with the exact same level of thought and consideration as that directed at the choice of a doctor, accountant, financial specialist or therapist.

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