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Grandparent holding grandchild hand

Exploring Legal Options - Tips for Grandfamilies Learning Lesson

Issues to Consider When Selecting Legal Assistance

Some grandfamilies feel lost when it comes to navigating the legal system. Therefore, the second segment describes helpful ideas to consider before you decide to seek legal solutions and provides information on the process of selecting legal assistance. In the video segment, grandparents from diverse family situations discuss their experiences in preparing to work with the legal system. A brainstorming activity is designed to help participants think through their options and prepare for selecting an attorney.

Objectives

  1. Participants will learn about what to consider when selecting legal assistance.
  2. Participants will learn how to ask for what they want from an attorney and will receive other tips for working with legal professionals.

Video Viewing

This video highlights helpful ideas grandparents can consider before entering the legal system. Suggestions are provided by grandparents who had experience working with lawyers and legal aid before entering the courtroom.

Activity/Discussion/Brainstorming

The grandparents in the video segment offer suggestions for individuals who make the decision to enter into a legal situation. What suggestions did the grandparents make? Provide a list of suggestions made by the grandparents in the video. From your list, what can you do to begin the process of selecting legal assistance?

  • Stay plugged into organizations to gain valuable resources.
    • Stay focused on what you hope to accomplish. You may experience closed doors. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Advocate for what you need. Learn to be assertive.
    • Discuss what you feel comfortable sharing at support groups. Support groups are great places to gain knowledge and get referrals from other grandparents. Look for and attend community education trainings and classes about grandfamily legal topics.
    • Visit the American Bar Association's website to see what resources are available http://www.americanbar.org/aba.html.
  • Do your homework talk with other interested parties.
    • Be sure to talk to the necessary people (e.g., biological parents, all grandparents, social services, kinship navigator, etc.) to get everyone's concerns on the table.
    • Keep a record of meetings and what is discussed. Keep all documents about your grandchild and the meetings in a safe place. Think about using a folder or three-ring binder to hold important documents and notes.
    • Consider all the options surrounding guardianship and custody in your county/state. Make a list of options available in your county/state.
  • Do your research to help you decide if you need to hire an attorney.
    • Ask people you know (or meet at support groups) if they hired an attorney. If yes, why did they do this? If you decide to hire an attorney, ask the same people if they can suggest an attorney. If they did not hire an attorney, why didn't they?
    • Interview at least two or three potential attorneys. Consider asking the following questions:
      • Does s/he have a law degree and in what type of law?
      • How long has s/he practiced law?
      • What are her/his rates and how often will you be billed?
      • Does the attorney bill in 15-minute increments? Does this include phone and email contact from you only or does this also include other parties?
      • What can you do to reduce legal fees?
      • Does the attorney provide pro bono services?
      • What type of law is the focus of her/his practice? Many attorneys have not worked with grandparent/grandchildren cases. You will need to determine their ability to advocate for you and your interests.
      • Know your state's laws surrounding legal issues with families, custody, and courtrooms.
      • Be mindful of the costs associated with legal fees. Be thoughtful and prepared to ask your attorney any questions that you have regarding your case. Do not be afraid to ask questions and advocate for yourself. They are there to help you.

Test Your Learning

Please think about what you've learned and answer these True/False questions.

  1. Getting referrals from other people before agreeing to work with an attorney is an important step.
  2. It is recommended that grandparents visit the courthouse or courtroom before their court hearing.
  3. Most grandparents benefit from attending a support group.