Dealing with your Family Lawyer

Welcome to Right-On with HFG Happy Families Support Network Inc. (HFG)

HFG is a not-for-profit support group that provides ongoing support to women and children who have experienced abuse

HFG is a free support group for women and children who have experienced abuse, run by women who have experienced abuse

The topic for today is – Dealing with your Family Lawyer

Before choosing a family lawyer, make sure you’re comfortable with them & feel you have their undivided attention

You need a family lawyer that will listen to what you are saying and present and defend your case as if it’s their own

You need a family lawyer to see your case as a life changing event and not just papers to be shuffled

Your ideal family lawyer have the legal knowledge & experience to handle your case, helps you understand the process

Your ideal family lawyer communicates and negotiates well and solves problems creatively

Your first and future visits with your family lawyer

It is important to ask your lawyer if you’ll be charged for the first meeting. You don’t want any surprises

The first meeting with your family lawyer is the getting to know you process. So be prepared to talk about everything

Make sure you put together copies of all the documents you have that relate to your case as your lawyer will need them

Be prepared to tell your family lawyer your story. Write down dates & important points so you won’t forget them

If it’s helpful write down your story in chronological order before your first meeting with your lawyer

You don’t want forget important details, or be embarrassed and think they don’t need to hear about the abuse

Do not hide anything from your family lawyer, even if you think it’s trivial, tell them and let them decide

Make a list of questions you want to ask your family lawyer. Do you work by yourself? If not, who will be helping you?

How much is your retainer? If our working relationship doesn’t work is a portion of the retainer refundable?

Will you send itemized bills on a monthly basis including detail of time spent on the case? Is there a payment schedule?

Ask your family lawyer about how they handle disagreements about case management & fee allocation

It is very important to ask your family lawyer what they expect from you, as you want to make sure you are helping your case

Be prepared to talk about fees. Your lawyer will need some money – a retainer – to begin working for you right away

We don’t all have savings to pay a retainer or qualify for legal aid, so ask your family lawyer about a payment arrangement

What to expect from your family lawyer

Your family lawyer should represent your interests in all areas of the legal process

  1. Your lawyer should act with responsibility & integrity. Understand the area of law they’re practising
  2. Your lawyer should Find out what goals you want to achieve & Advise you on your legal options
  3. Your lawyer should take instructions from you & provide effective representation to you in your case
  4. Your lawyer should communicate developments in your case in a timely & efficient manner
  5. Your lawyer should help you form realistic expectations of what to expect in court & help you prioritize your goals
  6. Your lawyer should tell you what your chances of success are & possible strategies you can use to achieve your goals
  7. Your lawyer should tell you what could happen if you lose your case or if you don’t achieve all of your goals
  8. Your lawyer should also give you an idea of how long the process might take & how much it might cost
  9. Your lawyer should tell you how they will bill you or Legal Aid. You should always be copied interim & final statements
  10. REMEMBER, your lawyer works for you. You don’t have to do things or sign things unless this is your desired goal

What can I do to help my lawyer?

  1. Be prepared for your conversations & meetings with your lawyer. Bring all requested documents
  2. Read letters and documents your lawyer sends to you. Make a note of your questions
  3. Keep all the letters & documents about your case in one so you can find them easily when you need them
  4. Respect the pressures that lawyers usually work under. Come to your appointments on time
  5. Call your lawyer if you will be late or cannot make your appointment
  6. Get to know the staff in your lawyer’s office. They may be able to help you. Call your lawyer only when it is necessary
  7. Have reasonable expectations. You may not be able to get everything you want. The justice system is not perfect
  8. Be straightforward with your lawyer. You need to give the lawyer both the good & bad information
  9. If you did something wrong and don’t tell your lawyer everything, they will find out from opposing lawyer
  10. Take notes when you meet with your lawyer. This will help you stay organized, and will help refresh your memory

Before you make a decision, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I understand the legal advice my lawyer has given me? Do I understand the legal language and issues involved?
  2. Do I understand all the options my lawyer has given me? Does this advice allow me to achieve my major goals?
  3. If I have to compromise on some of my goals, is it acceptable to me?
  4. Do I have to make this decision right away, or can I take some time to think about it?
  5. Do I need to speak to friends or family before I make a decision?

If you don’t understand something, have your lawyer explain everything until you understand

If your lawyer is not following your instructions, you need to meeting and discuss their reasons immediately

Keep a list of issues & questions so can discuss many things in one conversation & won’t need to call your lawyer constantly

A Family Lawyer’s Perspective on what they require from their client

Family lawyers like their clients to be reasonably organized and open minded and comfortable with them

Family lawyers suggest you stay away from talking with your ex via social media as this can show up in court documents

REMEMBER anything you write in text & email write could possibly end up in court documents

Keep your lawyer updated on all changes in your situation. They can only do a good job if they are kept informed

A good lawyer will be more than happy to keep you updated on the progress of your case

Always take notes when you’re with your lawyer, this way you will not forget important dates and tasks

Be an active part of your case. If something changes or seem odd, inform your lawyer

Create a Support Network – being in court, seeing your abuser & revisiting all events surrounding the abuse is stressful

Choose Your Battles. Concentrate on the important issues in your case. Don’t try to fight about everything

Thanks for joining Right-On with HFG

We look forward to seeing you next Wednesday October 15 for our weekly Right-On conversation

The topic for next week is – Family Court After Abuse

Please email your questions and comments to

If you would like more information on the HFG support group please email

Have a great day! HFG Hugs!!

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