The question about whether or not someone needs an aggressive attorney is reasonably easy to answer, but with some significant qualifications.  When you stop to consider that you’re entering into a legal battle over how much parenting time, child custody, and loving interaction that you’ll have with your children for the foreseeable future – it’s reasonable to presume that you don’t need a timid, docile, or meek attorney.  However, you don’t want an aggressive attorney just for the characteristic of being an aggressive legal personality.  A bad aggressive attorney can do as much harm as a simply poor attorney, if not more.

When we speak of the need for an aggressive child custody attorney, we qualify that need by defining the overall features of the aggressive attorney:

  1. The attorney must have plenty of experience with high-conflict divorce & child custody.
  2. The attorney must be well-versed in personality disorders and their role in contentious litigation.
  3. He must clearly demonstrate an understanding of what’s at stake for your family.
  4. She must listen to you at least as much as she talks.
  5. Suggestions for a settlement that leaves you far short of at least a goal of equal custody should be very low on the priority list.

Many parents end up throwing away thousands of dollars on attorneys whose approach are passive.  They are unwilling to ask tough questions during examinations.  They often don’t listen to what they’re clients have to say or are asking.  They are quick to suggest a settlement far below your child custody expectations to take the retainer and move on to the next client.  If an attorney utters the phrase, “…this is the best deal you’re going to get…” – they’re probably not trying hard enough.  Consider that if you’re a father, you generally has at best a 10%-20% change of obtaining equal custody or better in the majority of contested child custody cases.  Therefore, going through a child custody hearing and losing will generally not leave you with a whole lot less child custody than a passive attorney is telling you is “the best you’ll get.”

Find, research, and hire an attorney who is on the aggressive side.  They should primarily, if not exclusively, practice family law, child custody, and have many years of experience in that area.  Ask for client referrals.  If an experienced child custody attorney exceeds your financial threshold, at least be sure that you leave your meeting with a good sense that he or she is aggressive and will fight to win child custody for you.

Don’t be afraid to conduct a solid interview of those you believe will suit your needs.  When you find candidates, research them:

  • Yes – “Google” them.  Find their law firm, their biography, their experience, etc.
  • Find out what law school they attended and check their rank.  Click Here: U.S. News & World Report Law School Rankings for 2010.
  • You get what you pay for in most cases.  So check where they advertise and how much.  Of course there will usually be a direct correlation between advertising and their fees, so be mindful of budget as you’re making your assessment, too.
  • Verify posted “testimonials” by getting referral information, if possible, on previous clients and follow-up!

Do whatever due diligence is necessary to make the most informed decision about your legal representation.  Most middle class divorcing parties can expect to spend tens-of-thousands of dollars on a protracted legal battle with a high-conflict, extremely litigious ex-partner.  Keep this in mind.

Be wary of any attorney is too quick to ask you to settle for something less than you feel is appropriate.  If there is any question in your mind that your child custody or child support “settlement” circumstances are unfair and not the best you can get, consult with another attorney.  For most people, financial resources are not unlimited.  Work to walk that side of the line that is spending appropriately and not cross over to spending wastefully.

Don’t let your attorney drag you into the trap of allowing the usual custodial arrangement to occur.  If you truly believe that the “usual” custodial arrangement is not what’s is best for your children and your family’s future, then fight to maximize yours and win child custody – the maximum you can make happen.  An aggressive attorney who is not out to bankrupt you as a priority will work within the financial constraints you have in order to get you the best child custody arrangement possible in your specific circumstances.