Choosing the best paternity lawyer can require hours of research and several interviews. The time spent, however, can be the best way to protect your rights and that of the child in question. First, you will need to narrow down all of the paternity lawyers in your area to a select few. Then, depending on your budget, you will need to have an initial consultation with these lawyers to determine which one is the best fit for your needs.
Begin by making a list of each paternity lawyer in your area, including lawyers who specialize in family law as well as paternity. Once you have a good idea of the options available, contact your local bar association to ask questions about the lawyers on your list. Make sure to request information on any complaints that may have been filed against them. If your list is extensive, ask the bar association to help you narrow it down. In many cases, the bar group may be able to make a recommendation.
After you’ve talked to the bar association, make sure to talk to family or friends who have recently resolved a paternity case. If you don’t know anyone in this situation, ask friends or family who have used a family law lawyer for recommendations. A family law lawyer will often act as a paternity lawyer as well. This can be beneficial in that it can allow you to use the same lawyer throughout both the paternity case and any subsequent custody or support proceedings.
At this point, your list should be significantly smaller. Now, it is time to start calling the remaining lawyers on your list and asking a few brief questions. If possible, try to narrow your list down even further by asking what percentage of the cases each lawyer handles actually deal with paternity. Your best bet could be to retain a lawyer who dedicates 50-80% of his or her practice to paternity hearings.
Next, begin setting up consultations with the remaining lawyers on your list. A paternity lawyer will often offer an initial half hour consultation for free. This can help you get a feel for the lawyer's experience and whether he or she is best suited to help you. In some instances, a paternity lawyer may charge a small fee for this consultation. Depending on your budget, narrow down the list to your top choices and set up appointments with each lawyer.
At your initial consultation, briefly describe your case to the paternity lawyer and detail the outcome you are looking for. Ask about experience, how many cases the lawyer has handled and won, and for any client references. Pay attention to how the paternity lawyer treats you and the office staff. The attorney should be able to make you feel comfortable and explain, in detail, how your case will be handled. During each meeting, take notes so you can compare lawyers later; make sure to ask for fee information and payment options.
Once you’ve interviewed all of the lawyers on your list, it’s time to pick the one you to represent you. Review your notes from each of the consultations. If all of the lawyers are equally competent and personable, compare the prospective costs and decide from there.