Child custody is defined as the right to care for, control, and maintain a child, that a court might give to one of the two parents following a separation or divorce. For all or most of the time, the child will live with the parent that gets custody, although the other parent will get access – permission to meet the child at set times.
Before we look at ways to find the best child custody lawyer, let's discuss the different types of child custody.
Types of Child Custody
Joint custody: In some cases, both the parents might get custody. With joint custody, both parents will be allowed to control and care for their children and participate in important decisions that might affect their children’s lives.
Shared custody: With shared custody, the children spend at least 40% of their time with either parent. Child support calculations are performed based on the exact time that the child spends with each parent.
Sole custody: This is when the children are living permanently with one parent, although, as we mentioned, the other parent does get access. However, all the key decisions about the child are to be made by the parent with custody, even if the other parent does not agree with some of those decisions.
Split custody: A recent phenomenon, split custody is where one or more child remains with either parent (for instance, if you have three kids, one might remain with one parent and the other two with the other parent). Even with parents' consent and agreement, courts are quite reluctant to grant split custody because they feel that it is best to keep all the children together.
Find the Best Child Custody Lawyer
Child custody is perhaps the most important and delicate aspect of divorce, and of course, you would want a family law attorney that can effectively handle the matter and get you what you want. Here are some tips to help you find the best child custody lawyer:
1. Start by educating yourself on child custody
Gone are the times when you could not learn about the law without consulting a lawyer. Today, all you need to do is whip out your smartphone, and you can get a sound legal understanding of your problem.
You could start your research by going through websites that deal with child custody issues, look up FAQs that might help you find answers to your specific questions, or even turn to YouTube for interactive, brief, and easy to understand videos on the subject.
However, just like with any other topic, you cannot rely on merely one website or internet source. Not all websites post accurate information, which is why it is essential to visit multiple websites and verify the material.
It is possible that much of the advice and information you find on the internet might not seem useful to you at the time. It will help you when you start meeting child custody lawyers, as you would be better able to understand what they are talking about, which will ultimately help you choose the best attorney.
2. Collect the names of potential child custody attorneys
If you know any child custody lawyers nearby, that would be the best place to start. Connect with them, briefly describe your problem, and see if they are willing to take your case. Even if you need to contest a case in a different state, those lawyers might be able to recommend some lawyers that practice in that particular state.
If you do not know of a child custody lawyer, the next step would be to turn to trusted friends or colleagues. They will be able to give a fair assessment of their lawyers and whether they are fit for your case or not.
Also, you can, once again, turn to the internet to help you out. Search for child custody lawyers in your specific city or state and look up the results.
3. Search for a firm that focuses on family law
You would want a law firm with family law experience handling your case, rather than one that claims to be the jack of all trades.
The law continues to get complicated, and contemporary lawyers prefer to work in one or a few areas. For instance, a DUI lawyer might also handle other types of criminal cases, or a lawyer who works in estate planning might also be good at elder law planning.
But beware of firms that tell you that they can handle anything. The truth is, they will make it seem like they are handling your case but drop the ball the moment things go south. You cannot have that, especially when your child, your futures, and your entire lives are at stake.
4. Request the firms’ information packages
Once you have narrowed down your list of law firms, ask them to mail any reports, DVDs, CDs, or books that they have prepared for your case.
Even though you have to sue within a specific time frame, it is better to take a bit of time and do your research from the comfort of your residence, rather than at the lawyers' offices where you are subject to all kinds of sales tactics and other constraints.
To make your decision easier, ask your shortlisted firms to send over anything that might help you convince that they are the right choice for you.
5. Go with a reliable child custody law firm
It is important to find a law firm specializing in your problem, but it is just as vital that they are people you can trust. You will already be under the gun with your separation and child custody issues, and the last thing you want is to doubt whether your law firm is genuinely working in your best interests.
A lot of firms publish free e-books and reports on their websites. We recommend that you go through this information even before making the first phone call.
6. Consider your financial resources
Legal battles can stretch across weeks and even months, and the longer it goes on, the more money goes out of your pocket. Before hiring a child custody lawyer, it is crucial to have a good idea about your financial strength and stability, and how much you can afford to spend on an attorney.
Some firms also take pro bono (free of charge) cases. If you can find such a firm and convince them to take your case, that would be a massive burden off your back.
7. Communication is essential
This not only refers to the communication between you and your family law attorney, but between your lawyer and the opposing counsel, the judge, your spouse, and perhaps even your children.
Before you trust a lawyer with your and your kids’ lives, you need to ensure that they are someone you can easily share your situation with, can understand you, and communicate their own ideas with clarity.
8. Provide all key documents
When interviewing law firms, do make sure to produce all documents relevant to your child custody case. These might include any medical records, child custody orders, child support orders, school records, birth certificates, and any other information that you think might prove useful.
This information will help your potential lawyer understand your case better and come up with what they think is the best strategy. Consequently, it will be easier for you to determine which child custody attorney you should go with.
Contact Our Family Law Attorneys
Even with all the care and due diligence of the world, it is not uncommon to make a mistake while choosing a child support lawyer. Do not hesitate to question your child custody attorney and their commitment to your case. After all, child custody is not something to be taken lightly.
Even if you are halfway through the case when you realize your mistake, do not shy away from finding new counsel. The best practice is to change attorneys as early on in the case as possible; the longer you delay, the more difficult your case will become, and the more difficult and expensive finding a new attorney will become for you.
Our family law attorneys have years of experience in Orland Park and all across Cook County. We are dedicated to serving our clients with compassion and understanding while handling their legal family issues. If you need the legal advice regarding divorce, child support, child custody, or order modifications in Cook County, Tommalieh Law is here to help. Contact us today to schedule your FREE consultation so we can determine how to best serve you and your family's interests.