Seven Tips For Finding a Good Family Attorney In Myrtle Beach

Seven Tips For Finding a Good Family Attorney In Myrtle Beach

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Finding a good family law attorney IS hard! 

However, there are a few things you can look for to help you narrow down your choices in any search. 

Write Down What You Need

This might at first seem a little simplistic.  But, there is a good reason to be a bit regimented about reaching out to law firms and attorneys in particular.  You want to compare apples to apples, but you also what to make sure that for every person you speak with you are clear about your “ask.”

What is it that you need?   Divorce, Adoption, Mediation, Parenting Plan, Something Else?

What do you want?   Representation, Document Review, Advice?

How soon do you need help?  Today, 2 Weeks, 1 Year…you get the idea.

Ask Who Else Is In The Office

In most firms, the attorneys are not doing the entire workload of developing your case.  They often have skilled paralegals and other support staff in-house.  Your relationship with a Family Law Firm should take into consideration your ability to connect with that support staff.  Ask any prospective family law firm, “is there someone assigned to my case?” And, “can I/you talk to them too?”

The point here is to evaluate the entire firm, in addition to the attorney.

Look For Reviews & Testimonials

Look at the Family Law Firm’s website.  Take a look at Google.  Look at Yelp & Avvo!  How are they doing for their previous clients?  Are they leaving glowing reviews? Or are they someone you should run from?  In the biggest overstatement of all time, not all lawyers and law firms are overly friendly!

Check Out Their Blog

How dedicated are they to making sure YOU know what’s going on?   If they don’t spend the time to educate you on your case or claims, will they spend the effort to do so for a judge?  One of the best ways to tell if your lawyer is “for real,” is to read their blog.  You should be able to find it on their main page, and it should provide you with good information about a variety of issues surrounding your situation.

If they don’t have a blog, you are going to have to find the answers from their competitors…who certainly will.  Wouldn’t that be awkward?

Look at Their Social Media Too!

You can get to know the personality of a Family Law firm simply by watching their interactions on social media.  Take a look at their Facebook page.  Do they respond promptly to questions?  Are they actively answering the tough questions? Are there any reviews?

It’s a new world!  As important as the website and blog are for a law firm, being able to use, understand, and communicate using social media may even be more critical.

We could take this one step further and throw out a hypothetical.   Is some aspect of Social Media responsible for your divorce, or other family law needs?  You shouldn’t have to explain how social media works to anyone just to demonstrate your reasonings.

Create A List of Questions

If we circle back to the first tip, we said to write down what you need.  Don’t forget to start building a list of questions.  Think about what you want to know and what you need to know.  For instance, how much will all this cost you by the end?

If you are at a loss for questions to ask, take our advice from earlier and read their blog (if they have one).  After an article or two, you’ll no doubt have a lot of informed and focused questions to ask.

Fill Out A Contact Form, Or Call

People are not always great at getting back to you.  Obviously, or perhaps not so obvious, a phone call is what they’re hoping you’ll use to contact them.  However, the contact form is a great equalizer.  Fill it out, see if they get back to you!  In fact, fill out a couple and see how the response is

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Speaking of Brad Pitt … and family law

A little over a week ago we published a blog piece about a great David Bowie song, Putting Out the Fire. We included a clip from Inglorious Basterds where it was used to memorable effect. Right away we posted it, something else hit us. Inglorious Basterds featured one of Brad Pitt’s best roles, Aldo Raine, the Jewish, hillbilly from Tennessee who hunts down Nazis – which he pronounces Noz -zis.

Two things hit us. First, Aldo Raine and Billy Beane (Moneyball) are scarily similar characters. Second, Brad Pitt just went through something that some of our clients have been through and it looks as if it was every bit as unpleasant for him as it is for clients.

It was the stuff of tabloid front pages for months – Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were getting divorced, Angelina was the one who filed. That news filed the airwaves, TMZ, and the covers of every magazine and tabloid, About a week after that scintillating news, a bigger story broke: Angelina filed because Pitt abused one or more of the kids during a flight on their private plane, something that escalated when it landed in Minnesota. That paired with the revelation that Jolie was seeking full custody of the children threatened to put the Presidential election on the back pages.

Details, of course were sketchy. Brad was verbally abusive, Brad hit a kid, the altercation was in the air, the altercation was on the tarmac, Brad was drunk, Brad was sober when it happened but got drunk after, people were pushed, no one was touched, Brad and Angelina were arguing and the kids were upset … and every possible combination of the above were reported. Over and over and over.

When Brad and Angelina arrived back home in Los Angeles, the Department of Children and Family Services became involved. While no one claimed responsibility for contacting them, they are duty bound to investigate allegations of abuse … they could hardly ignore allegations on every TV channel and social media feed. As most people making an allegation, however obliquely, know.

In any event the investigation became news. Meanwhile the divorce moved along. Then came the announcement that because the alleged incident happened on a plane, the FBI would have to investigate. In a few weeks the news was that the FBI had ‘expanded’ the investigation in Pitt’s actions. Through it all Brad was not allowed to see the children.

So, to summarize, Brad Pitt was dealing with a divorce, his wife was claiming full custody, he was very publicly being investigated by Children Services and the FBI for abuse. Not the optimum environment to navigate a family law issue.

After several months of this, Pitt was cleared, both investigations were dropped. A few days after that, Pitt and Jolie agreed to joint custody. In the end then, nothing happened. But, this had the potential to be so much worse.

What made this an okay outcome for Pitt is probably the fact that he kept quiet through the whole thing. No statements of outrage, and, more importantly, no counter-accusations. He didn’t feed into it, he didn’t burn bridges, he didn’t open his mouth and confirm that he has a temper. He did what we ask ALL our clients to do. Not easy inthe face of allegations.

We see these kinds of situations every day. An accusation is made – frequently for leverage. By the time it’s found to be baseless, words have been said, actions have been taken, things have been made much worse. The tragedy is that it doesn’t have to happen. As Pitt and his lawyers show.

David Bowie, Inglorious Basterds, and My Practice

A little while back there were a series of movies that explored unintended consequences. Films like Crash, Magnolia, Traffic, Babylon, all somewhat based on the theme that a series of random events come together over time to seamlessly intersect and effect, profoundly, the protagonists’ lives.

These films were critically acclaimed for the most part and certainly did well at the box office. Probably because everyone wants to think there’s some kind of plan guiding day to day events and contact with our fellow humans.

A few critics found fault with them. The chief complaint was that ‘it’s unrealistic.’ Things don’t come together so perfectly in real life. ‘Matt Dillon is never going to get the chance to save the women he wronged, what are the odds.’

As someone who has made her career involved with the nicest people during one of the worst times of their lives, I have a rather different take on these films. I see it in my practice. Not the random acts, per se, but certainly random words.

That is, words said when a family law issue begins tend to bounce all over the ether and end up – almost always – at

the exact place the person who said them would least like them to go. Inevitably.

That is the one clear message in family law. Family issues are tough. The process is stressful, almost debilitating. It’s a lot of things, few good. One thing it most certainly is not, however, is the time to do or say something that will have lasting effect across a swath of relationships, past, present, and future.

That’s a solid lesson. Some people, though, remind me of a great song. The late, great David Bowie’s Putting out the Fire – if you saw Inglorious Basterd’s you know the song – and can never forget the scene. (see below).

Some of the lyrics go this way:

Ya wouldn’t believe what I’ve been thru
You’ve been so long
Well it’s been so long
And I’ve been putting out fire
with gasoline
putting out fire
with gasoline

Another line lays it out further: “A judgement made can never bend.” These lines go perfectly together. Family law issues are, obviously, flammable. Emotions are there, usually smoldering. Tossing fire on it has the obvious effect. And, more often than not, leads to irrevocable breaks – a burnt bridge.

Looks simple, but it’s not. Emotions at the beginning of a divorce, custody, name the process, run high. Very high. When emotions run high, thought is not usually present the way it would and should be before one says something. Internal censors don’t really function.

A tirade, even a nasty word or ten, have the immediate effect of making the speaker feel better. This, by the way, is back by science. Recent studies have found that people who swear have much higher pain thresholds than people who don’t. People going through divorce are in pain, it’s natural to want to ease it.

The problem is, of course, that words have effects on others, sometimes crippling effects. Words have a way of ‘putting out the fire with gasoline.’ They can make things worse. This is, perhaps, fixable at the time things are said. But time is the enemy of words said in anger.

The problem with words are that the people to whom the words were directed may be able to forgive. The people who hear through a friend of a friend – or see on social media – the words tend to never forget. About the only thing words do at that point is ruin relationships that you never intended to harm, relationships that you probably need and want. In-laws, grandparents, friends, gone because of words said to someone else.

And that’s the thing about putting out fires with gasoline, there is absolutely no way of knowing the consequences of words and/or actions spoken and/or made during stressful times. None.


A Little More About HBO’s Divorce

You might remember that just before Thanksgiving we published a blog piece about HBO’s new show Divorce. We wrote that they really seemed to be getting a lot right – from the emotions, to counseling, to, well, the mechanics of the whole process.

That was after three episodes. Now we’re deeper into the series and the roof has caved in on the show. After last Sunday, it’s threatening to do for divorce what Kramer vs. Kramer, The War of the Roses, and Arnie Becker of L.A. Law have. That is neither a compliment or a good thing.

The show’s putting a spin on divorce that’s not only a cliché but undermines family law as a whole. I started to feel that Divorce was headed in the wrong direction when our characters, Frances and Robert blew into and out of counseling after two whole sessions.

Okay, that happens, not everyone or every couple is going to get through counseling (but, really, two sessions?), and Frances and Robert moved to mediation. Great, that was encouraging even though, as the show was scheduled for 10 episodes and had just been renewed for a second season, I knew mediation wasn’t going to work. Too little drama that way.

Again, fine, not every couple can successfully negotiate mediation. But, it was the way the show was so … so … dismissive of mediation that started the hackles on the back of my neck rising. It’s portrayed as disorganized, haphazard, and worse, ineffectual. Pretty much everything it is not.

It’s made so much worse when a supporting character says, “Ha, mediation is where on person gets the cup and the other one gets the coffee.” A sentiment that is repeated several times by different people. That, of course, couldn’t be more wrong.

So, Frances and Robert, zip in and out of counseling and mediation over the course of a few real-time weeks. It’s disconcerting. But it gets worse.

Robert gets a high-price divorce attorney in New York City. We know he’s high-priced because (a) he tells us, the audience, several times; (b) his office is in a high-rise with a clear view of Central Park.

Frances gets a high-price divorce attorney in New York City. We know he’s high-price because (a) he tells Frances he is, more than once; (b) he’s in a high-rise in mid-town Manhattan with a gorgeous Art Deco lobby.

Two problems – first, Frances and Robert are broke. Robert has squandered their assets in a series of bad real estate investments and wild construction schemes.  Neither of their erstwhile lawyers ask for a retainer. As a matter of fact, they both indicate that they’ll get paid when they ‘win’ the case.

That is … wrong. Utterly. Contingency fees are not allowed in divorce actions. It is an ethical violation. Taking one for a divorce will, at the very least, get a lawyer sanctioned. It is not done.

Second, Frances and Robert live 30 miles north of New York City. It is a very, obviously, densely populated area. There are dozens of courts between them and their soon to be disbarred attorneys. Their attorneys would be strangers in a strange land with no connection to Frances and Robert’s court, judges, local rules.

It is ridiculous. And it gets worse. Robert’s $750/hr. lawyer promptly calls Frances at midnight one evening to let her know he’s ‘on to her’ and is having her followed. In a word, he threatens her.

Any attorney would be disbarred for that. People are arrested for things like that.

The thing that bothers me is that people are stressed out enough about their family issues without having to be exposed to a TV series that reinforces every horrible cliché every uttered about divorce and lawyers.

It also reinforces a really old, really worn, really outdated, very discredited view of divorce as something that should be ‘won.’