As a practicing divorce attorney, I see many people totally blow one of the most fateful decisions they will make in their divorce case: which lawyer to hire. To help you avoid these mistakes, we will look at 3 of the costliest mistakes you can make, and what to do instead.
Mistake #1: Hiring a generalist. This is easy to do. Many people do not know a divorce lawyer (that is usually a good thing). So, when they do need to hire one, they go to the lawyer that did their will or the lawyer that helped them with a real estate deal. This may be OK if that lawyer also has a substantial divorce practice, but it is not acceptable if they are what is called a threshold lawyer (i.e. they take whatever case walks through the threshold of their office).
If you needed back surgery, would you go to a general practitioner? Similarly, there are many lawyers who are general practitioners that will handle a divorce case. In addition, they take business matters, bankruptcies, criminal cases, etc. That is not the type of lawyer you want handling your divorce case.
What to do instead: Hire a specialist! Ask the prospective divorce attorney whether they specialize in family law. Ask them what percentage of their practice is divorce and family law matters. If it is not at least 70 percent to 80 percent of their practice, go elsewhere.
Mistake #2: Hiring a lawyer that bills you by the hour. Divorce attorneys normally set fees in one of two ways: they either charge a fixed fee or they charge a retainer against which they bill an hourly fee. One of the problems with hourly billing is that the lawyer cannot tell you upfront what the total fee will be. Many clients in that situation feel like the lawyer is asking them to write a blank check because they cannot tell you the total fee upfront. Do you really want a meter running every time you need to talk to your divorce attorney? Another problem with hourly billing is that it rewards inefficiencies. The longer it takes the lawyer to get your divorce, the more money she makes.
What to do instead: Seek out a lawyer who will represent you on a fixed fee (a.k.a. a flat fee) instead of billing you by the hour. Fixed fees are becoming more common, so you ought to be able to find a good lawyer who is willing to throw away the time sheet and set the fee upfront. Whatever the fee arrangement is, make sure you know and understand it before you write a check to the lawyer.
Mistake #3: Hiring a lawyer to represent you solely because they have a reputation of being the meanest lawyer in town. This is probably the biggest mistake I see folks make. They get scared. They get nervous. They want revenge. They get bad advice from someone. Whatever the reason, this type of lawyer can cost you thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal fees and make sure you have the Divorce from Hell.
There is a difference between being an assertive and being aggressive. Many of these types of hired guns are aggressive only for the sake of appearances without regard to whether it is in the long-term best interests of their own client.
What to do instead: Find a lawyer who is assertive when he needs to be, compromising when it benefits your long-term best interests, and always aware of the many different consequences his actions have on you and your family. Divorce attorneys like this recognize that reaching a fair settlement is always better for you than trying the case and leaving it up to the judge. Yet, he also knows that if a fair settlement is not forthcoming, then he must be willing and able to prepare to effectively litigate the case in court.
That is the type of lawyer you need to find. Ask the prospective lawyer about his approach to divorce cases and what efforts he will make to try to settle or mediate your case. His answers will help you determine whether he will have your interests at heart or not.
You may not need a lawyer to represent you in your divorce case. You do have the right to represent yourself. Representing yourself is a lot cheaper than hiring a lawyer. However, you may be familiar with the old saying that the person who represents himself has a fool for a client. The fact of the matter is that if you represent yourself, you potentially risk giving up important rights. So how do you know whether you need a lawyer or not?
I recommend that you hire a lawyer if you answer any of the following questions in the affirmative:
Is custody of your children disputed? Even if you are a good parent, you do not want to risk losing custody of your children. A lawyer will help you present a stronger case for custody to the court.
Has your spouse hired a lawyer? The laws and procedures involved in a divorce are quite complex. Do not let yourself be outmaneuvered by someone who knows the ropes. The court will not protect you when you make errors. Even in an uncontested divorce case, do not make the mistake of thinking that the lawyer your spouse hired can represent both of you. A lawyer is ethically prohibited from representing both sides of a legal dispute (it is called a conflict of interest). If your spouse gets a lawyer to draft a proposed agreement, at least retain a lawyer to review it and make suggested changes on your behalf.
Do you have significant assets to protect? Obviously, the more you have at stake, the more value you stand to receive from hiring a divorce specialist to represent you. A lawyer will ensure that you pay only a fair amount in support payments and that the property is divided fairly. An experienced lawyer can also minimize the amount of taxes you pay by structuring the property settlement properly.
Is your spouse claiming spousal support? The area of spousal support is the most uncertain area of divorce law. Alabama does not have guidelines for determining alimony, and courts sometimes come to very different conclusions about how much spousal support should be paid, even on similar facts. Your lawyer will help ensure that the amount of spousal support is fair.
Do you have a retirement account (and your marriage is 10 years or longer)? For many of my clients, their second most valuable asset after their home is their retirement account. In Alabama, if you have been married for more than 10 years, then the portion of the retirement account that has been acquired during the marriage can be split equally. The law regarding how these accounts should be divided is complicated. Your lawyer will help ensure that it is valued and divided fairly.
Does your souse tend to dominate you in your relationship? There is an imbalance in power between you and your spouse. If your spouse is domineering or controlling, you will be better off dealing with him or her through a lawyer.
Are there allegations of domestic violence or child abuse? Even if the allegations are not true, they can have a devastating effect and must be dealt with quickly and appropriately. Do not take such serious allegations lightly.
Are you unable to communicate effectively with your spouse? You will not be able to settle things with your former spouse if the two of you cannot communicate. You will need a lawyer to help ensure that you get a fair settlement.
Are you or your spouse self-employed? The valuation of a business is complicated and you will need a lawyer to help with that process. Also, the amount of spousal and child support payments that must be paid is based on income. It is often easy for someone who is self-employed to manipulate income or to hide assets. An experienced lawyer will know how to best try to prove unreported income.
I recognize my own bias on this issue. But, the truth is in only the simplest of divorce cases (i.e. very short-term marriage, no children, no joint property and no joint debts) do I think you should consider not having a lawyer. Even in those cases, if your spouse gets a lawyer to draft the proposed divorce agreement, I recommend you at least pay your own lawyer to review it on your behalf.
A lot of people fail to realize that personal injury laws and regulations can vary from state to state. In fact, procedure that can lead to a successful case in one state might be completely ineffective in another.
This article is about the state of Alabama and advice on how to handle your personal injury case if you live (or if the incident took place) in that state.
Please note that these are just tips and helpful hints, if you have real legal needs regarding personal injury in Alabama, you must contact a competent lawyer. But this article will address that too!
If You Were Injured…
Let’s start off under the assumption that you have been injured in the state of Alabama and the fault rests with an outside party. They either did something directly to you, or as a result of their negligence/incompetence you became injured.
Here are some things to do to properly prepare yourself for handling a case:
Secure witnesses to the event. If there were people around when the incident happened, be sure to have their contact information. Impartial external parties are a great way to prove your case.
Gather documentation. Any paperwork that is relevant to the case, have ready at hand. also be sure to take pictures of any injuries and of the scene of the incident if it is applicable.
Gain access to a competent Alabama personal injury lawyer. Find one that is local and skilled in your particular kind of injury. If you are unsure about how to find the best lawyer in your area, utilize a free service.
After consulting with your lawyer and with his/her guidance, be sure to make the offending party aware of the details of your ensuing legal case.
Protect yourself from further contact with the offending party and preserve your evidence as best as possible.
Alabama’s Negligence Statutes
When considering your case, realize that Alabama utilizes the contributory negligence doctrine when making decisions. That means the court and your opposition will be trying to locate any potential negligence or fault on your part that may have led to your injury.
Alabama’s Statute of Limitations
Every state has a statute of limitations which dictates how long you can wait before a lawsuit becomes nullified. The point of these regulations is to prevent people from trying to sue for matters that have taken place many years ago and have since grown stale (and difficult to prove one way or the other).
Alabama’s statute mandates that you file your lawsuit within 2 years of the event – Title 6, Ch. 2, 6-2-38 (l). That may seem like a long time, but if you were injured seriously a bulk of that time can be taken up by recuperation and rehabilitation, so it is critical to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.
There is no separate time allotment for libel and slander cases (while in some other states, significantly less time is allowed for these kinds of incidences).
An Alabama Lawyer’s Legal Process
Attorney’s in different states have certain protocols that they must follow, and Alabama’s sequence looks something like this:
* Initial investigation once contacted by a client (which is you)
* Securing of evidence, photographs, witnesses, etc
* Development of theories of liability and determining fault
* Preparation of initial documents which will lay out the lawsuit claims and desired compensation
* Deciding on case venue and serving documents to accused party
* Under Alabama law, the defendant has 30 days to file an answer to the complaint
* Initiation of discovery, which is a questioning of both parties involved
* Beginning of deposition, which is written record to be used in court
* The court case then proceeds and a verdict found
Alabama is synonymous with notable historical figures and events and is also home to several legal welfare lawyers. On the basis of the area of practice and specialization, Alabama boasts of top-notch, experienced lawyers. The lawyers are classified and appointed according to the category of their practices, such as personal injury, business litigation, criminal cases, family law, bankruptcy and adoption. The state is also known as the “Yellowhammer state,” the birthplace of the confederate states of the USA.
Alabama lawyers are mostly graduates from the prestigious law schools of the state. These include the University of Alabama and Cumberland School of Law under Samford University, to name a few. The lawyers employ different procedures to help their clients to fight their cases, depending on the case and the level of complexities involved. They are equipped with in- depth knowledge and the latest updates in the legal field. They have a deeper understanding of the serious repercussions certain cases may involve.
In order to find an Alabama lawyer for a specific case, clients can search online. They can browse through the list of lawyers. The details of the lawyers, including their contact information and educational and professional history can also be found online. Lead counsel members are often employed to initiate the search and find the right lawyer. These counsel members are appointed by prestigious firms and have experience in the relevant field of practice.
Most Alabama lawyers are associated with private organizations or practice independently as legal advisors. They offer contingency fee services and receive their fees only after winning the cases. The government of Alabama employs specialists at different levels of the administration or proceedings, for various criminal and civil purposes. The lawyers are employed at country, state and federal levels according to their experience and efficiency.