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Things I Wish I Knew Before Hiring an Attorney in Access to Children Matter.

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Have you received a text message, a phone call, voicemail, stating something like: “you will never see your children again!” If yes, you understand the rush of blood, shock! Next, you think this can’t be real. There are no ways your former spouse, partner, wife, or husband can be serious by stating such a claim. While problems exist due to a breakup, there’s no possibility they would use your children as a form of revenge. Then, you realize it’s real! What now?

The way we have been conditioned as a society, the course is to hire an attorney to battle in court for your right to be part of your children’s lives. You intend to hire the best, the most aggressive attorney you can find. You will show them!

Any person who finds themselves in this situation are so startled, genuinely shocked about the prospect of not being part of your children’s lives, a person often jumps before properly vetting the attorney they hire for such a situation. Here is what I wish I knew before hiring an attorney after I received the text message stated above.

Any person who finds themselves in this situation scrambles to hire an attorney just for hiring an attorney. I did. While I spoke with 2 different attorneys, I was not calm and composed while interviewing them. I ranted about how I was wronged and how I wanted revenge. While the attorneys listened, hindsight is 20/20. I now know I only wanted another person to listen to my rant. I never let them speak. Furthermore, I always regret not speaking about my child, I only spoke about myself and my want for revenge against me ex. Unfortunately, any person who has the misfortune to find themselves in this situation understand.

My first piece of advice is to compose yourself, remember more is at stake than just your want of revenge or “getting even.” Your children did not choose to be caught in the middle of this terrible situation. Think of them. Talk about them and what it would mean for them should you be extricated from their lives. I wish I had put my “feelings” to one-side when interviewing attorneys.

Both attorneys agreed to take up my case, while explaining they could not guarantee outcomes. I hired #2 because he was cheapest (cost-effective). Like most things, “cost-effective” is not always best.

My next piece of advice if hiring an attorney to help you protect your rights and gain access to your children. An empathetic attorney will let you rant on the initial call. Once the rant (you will instinctively rant) has finished, the attorney being interviewed could offer a 2nd call while explaining the need to get facts, get your side of the story which will give them a better picture of the situation. The attorney should explain the need to ask probing questions, and you must be perfectly honest. An empathetic attorney will invite you for a follow-up call once your initial rant has been heard.

My next piece of advice is to ask the attorney you are interviewing (remember, the attorney is interviewing for a job) if they intend to take the facts, stitch those facts with the law and precedents? The attorney must take the judge through the timeline and facts. Remember, it’s not a judge’s job to find the facts, not a judge’s job to know the law. It’s your attorney’s job, as your advocate, to present to a judge the law, with the facts, and how previous cases, which contain similar fact patterns, were decided, the precedence. This is your attorney’s job. Or, is the attorney prone to engaging with an aggressive opposing attorney. If the answer is the latter, you will be in-and-out of court for the foreseeable future. You see, if all a judge hears is 2 attorneys squabbling, a judge will explain how that judge is not hearing anything they need to hear. A judge will invite everyone to attempt to work it out among themselves, and add, “see you all again in 90-days for an update.” There’s another 90 days, 3 months without access to your children. A judge is not the “finder of facts,” a judge is the “decider of facts” which have been presented by your attorney.

I wish I knew about telling a story to a judge when interviewing my attorney. A story is built with facts, laws, and precedents. Had I known a judge is but the decider of the facts, I could ultimately have saved myself thousands in attorney fees, and, most importantly, not have been away from my child any longer than the task required. You see, my attorney engaged with the aggressive opposing attorney and the judge always invited us back after 90 days.

My final piece of advice is to try to get a sense of whether the attorney actually has empathy for you, empathy for your situation, empathy for your children, or whether they only care about a billable hour. The reason I state this is that a person in this situation is in a very vulnerable state. It’s dark and lonely. I bring up 1 instance from my experience. Between court appearances, 90 days, I had no updates from my attorney. I emailed for an update. I received an update stating, “everything is going according to plan. See you at the next appearance. PS, find attached a $$$ charge for emailing.” WOW! Needless to say, I never emailed again. I came to the conclusion my attorney had no empathy for me or my situation. I was a billable hour.

This raises another point: how can an attorney advocate for you, tell your story, if you are fearful of emailing them because you would rather not be invoiced for 1 sentence emails. The next point is: know what the plan the attorney speaks of is.

An attorney, especially involved in a highly emotional, highly charged situation, should be making regular attempts to update their client. Updates help you feel like things are at least in motion, and helps you to not feel so lost. An update is a wonderful thing. An update further builds trust between you and the attorney you hired.

So, this is my advice if needing to hire an attorney if you have received the “text message” that you will never see your children again. These are some steps I wish I took when interviewing an attorney for such a situation.

Today, I am an attorney who concentrates on representing parents having legal issues gaining access to their children. I was a construction worker when my experience happened. I wouldn’t wish my experience on my worst enemy. Consequently, I returned to school with the sole mission of becoming an attorney to help others avoid the hurt and heartbreak I suffered. Children deserve 2 loving parents in their lives. The above are only some steps I incorporate into my practice.

If you, or someone you know in Minnesota, are experiencing legal issues gaining access to their children, please contact my office to schedule a free consultation (rant). After an initial consultation, we can get down to business.

E-Mail: pwalsh@thelegaldad.com

Phone: (716) 776–9726

Padraic D. Walsh

Attorney at Law

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