A child custody case is not a game, but it often boils down to a contest to see who can present themselves as the most 'fit' parent to care for the children full-time. It can be brutal, heartbreaking, sad, and scary. Going into a child custody case without an experienced, compassionate attorney by your side is never a good idea. It's important to have an attorney you trust, and to know how to choose an appropriate attorney with child custody experience.
Free Consultations - One thing you should know is that most attorneys offer a free consultation, where they meet with you or speak to you on the telephone about your child custody case and about the kind of representation you need. This is the perfect chance for you to determine whether you feel comfortable with a particular attorney or not. Speaking to a few different attorneys is a great idea, because you want to make sure the attorney is compassionate and really out to help you, as well as meshing well with your personality.
Experience - You'll need to find out about the attorney's experience before you move forward and hire him or her. Don't be afraid to ask about how many child custody and divorce cases the attorney has represented. If the attorney is worth anything, he or she will be more than willing to discuss their experience, and how many cases they've represented. Many attorneys will have files on hand with the numbers available; the number of cases they've represented, and their wins/losses.
Cost - One of the biggest factors in choosing an attorney is the cost. Attorneys can be very expensive, and if the divorce is contested - meaning that you and your wife haven't agreed on all the terms of the divorce - it can cost even more. Typically, attorneys will charge a retainer, and then they'll bill you for hourly costs against that retainer. So, if the attorney charges a $1,000 retainer and bills $150 per hour, he will work until the $150 per hour has depleted the $1,000 retainer and then you'll be charged additional costs. It's important to determine what you can afford and be up front with the attorneys. Some will work with you on the costs by allowing you to make payments.
Finally, you should know that some attorneys try all kinds of family law and others focus solely on divorce and child custody cases. Some people feel as if those who specialize in the child custody cases are more competent and can represent you better. Remember - do it right the first time - it is extremely difficult to get rulings and decisions reversed later.