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Top 5 Tips for Choosing the Right LA and San Fernando Valley Divorce Lawyer

  Donna A. Laurent, CFLS at the new Dunkin' Donuts in Encino, CA

The San Fernando Valley is in love with Dunkin’ Donuts. I recently joined the Encino Chamber of Commerce, which happens to be right across the street from Encino’s newest and most popular spot to gather–the Dunkin’ Donuts at Balboa and Ventura. New San Fernando Valley Dunkin' Donuts in Encino, CAI watched in amazement as lines of people formed out the door and around the corner for the first few days the place was open. Several weeks later, the lines, and the smiles on customers’ faces, are still never-ending.

While inspecting the endless donut varieties and watching the families gathered there interact last week, I shared their enthusiasm and delight. But I do wish insight about family law was as popular in the Valley as delicious Dunkin’ Donuts. I couldn’t help but wonder how people go about finding a family law attorney when they are faced with divorce or other challenging family transitions.

Too often people get stuck with the wrong lawyer because they failed to do their homework prior to choosing that lawyer.

Top 5 Tips: Finding the Right LA or San Fernando Valley Family Law Attorney for You

1. The lawyer must be experienced in practicing family law in the courts of the county and neighborhood where you reside. Attorneys that have been Certified as Family Law Specialists by the State Bar of California are best situated to assess your case properly because they have the most relevant and up-to-date knowledge and experience to handle your case efficiently. A lawyer with that CFLS after his or her name knows the family law judges and other family law attorneys in your area. If you live in the San Fernando Valley, the case that determines your future may be heard in Van Nuys or Chatsworth. But it might also be in Pasadena. Or in downtown L.A. Many family law clients are surprised to learn their case may be heard quite far from home. The location depends on your zip code and sometimes on which court the initial filing party chooses.

2. You must feel comfortable with the lawyer you hire if you are to work effectively together. You need to have a sense of trust and confidence in the attorney. The relationship between lawyer and client in a family law matter is especially important. You will be sharing intimate and emotional facts about your life. You should feel comfortable asking questions and not feel intimidated by the lawyer. Is the attorney a good listener? Does he/she have a practical game plan for your case?

3. It is good news when you have an attorney actually willing to give you the bad news. The hallmark of an excellent lawyer is that he or she will tell a client things the client does not want to hear. Yes, we pride ourselves on our unique compassionate treatment of clients at Laurent Legal. We are supportive to the max. We have a master list of effective resources that provide well-being for clients and their children during family transitions. But a good lawyer gives clients bad news. She does not allow clients to hold onto unrealistic expectations. As a CFLS, I have an unlimited number of insights, practical strategies, and methods to help clients deal with with consequences of whatever bad news arises, but clients must hear the news before we get to those. Unfortunately, in divorce cases, there is usually a good deal of bad news, such as:

  • Your standard of living is definitely going to change. As a matter of simple math, there will not be enough money to maintain two households at the exact same level as one.
  • You will likely have to sell the family residence.
  • You will see your children less because they will be dividing their time between two homes.
  • You may be required to pay some or all of the other party’s attorney’s fees. (And there are still ways to thrive and to create a wonderful individual and family life despite the inevitability of some bad news.)

4. Get ready to interview your lawyer and consider interviewing several lawyers before deciding which one to hire. Too many people hire the first lawyer they meet. This may or may not be a good idea. About half of the cases I handle come from clients who first hired another attorney.  Because most experienced family law attorneys in the Los Angeles area charge for their consultations, be prepared to tell your story and have a list of questions with you. Take a list of your assets and debts and sources of income for both you and your spouse or partner. Listen carefully to the lawyer’s answers and write them down. Listen not only to the information provided, but also to the way it is presented. Is the lawyer able to relate to you in a way that you understand?

Donna A. Laurent, CFLS at the new San Fernando Valley Dunkin' Donuts in Encino, CA5. Choose a lawyer who is a peace-maker and problem-solver vs. a “fighter.” There are people out there who want the meanest, toughest, most carnivorous attorney they can find so they can punish the other side to the fullest extent possible. These attorneys may make a client feel powerful as they humiliate and harass the other spouse, but they cost their clients tons of money and they always make things worse–for both parties. Mean lawyers mean a money pit for the individuals they are hired to serve! You will fare far better if you hire a lawyer whose style is to cooperate with the other side while always safeguarding your interests. I tell clients that their money would be far better spent putting their own children through college rather than mine. The truth is that a knowledgeable, experienced lawyer can successfully advocate for a client without engaging in a war that is both costly and emotionally devastating long-term for the family.

In the end, when choosing the lawyer who is going to help you navigate through what can be one of the most traumatic, life-changing events of your lifetime, you really have to do some homework and you really have to trust your gut. If something seems wrong, it probably is.

Get more insights on taxes during divorce and additional topics in CA Family Law from other posts from The Laurent Legal Blog. Contact Donna A. Laurent, CFLS here.