720-934-0901

Main Office 7350 E. Progress Place, Greenwood Village, CO 80111.    Also Offices in Lone Tree, Cherry Creek, Denver, Aurora, Littleton, and Lakewood.

Hi - I'm Jeff Alter and I'm a Family Law Attorney.  My office is an independent law firm that custom-tailors family law representation for my clients by focusing on substance rather than glitz and glamour.  I have many office locations making it very convenient for you to meet me for a free consultation to discuss your case - including "why me" or "why us" and/or  share a cup of coffee.  AND take some time to read through this site.  It'll be worth it if you're looking for a family law attorney...

Get the Right Attorney

Next to being involved in a family law case, the most stressful event is choosing a family law attorney.  There's a lot of them out there charging different rates with different levels of competency - most of them all too happy to take your retainerAn advance of funds given to the attorney at the start
and start charging by the hour the day you meet them.  And how do you know they are going to work that full hour they charged you for, and are going to do what they are supposed to do?

Well, you have to trust them.  Here, have a bowl of stress.

Some of them have extra degrees, wrote legal articles or books, taught a law class, had speaking engagements, are members of umpteen bar associations, won awards, etc. (actually, most of us did).  But they didn't do this for you.  They did it for themselves and their professional development which may indicate that they are capable and skillful, but does not show that they are right for you.  I have heard so many stories of different people praising and condemning the same attorney.

This is because their experiences differ - for some it was the right attorney - for others, not so right.

Now you may think that most family law cases have "winners" and "losers", so the losing side just thinks they had the wrong attorney.  O.K. First, there are no "winners" in family law cases - just losers.  The key is to minimize your losses and get on with life so you can start winning again.  Second, the "right" attorney for a client is an attorney that the client respects no matter what happens in their case.

This is because the client knows that the attorney has been open, honest, forthright and has shown competence throughout their case - And that it probably would have been worse with a different attorney.

I have seen very "good" attorneys be very "wrong" attorneys for their clients.  Sometimes the chemistry just isn't there.  I remember working as an associate for a prominent attorney who had long-standing instructions that if Mrs. _______ calls, he was unavailable.  Poor Mrs. _______ must have thought that the prominent attorney was one of the busiest attorneys in the state...

So, below are some attributes that you should consider when looking for an attorney.  If you can find one that has them all (or even most), you can throw the bowl of stress away.

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Honesty & Integrity

Lies, deceptions and half-truths occur more in family law than in other areas of the law.  Your attorney should be open and honest with you about your case.  As you can imagine, many family law issues involve a "he said, she said" dispute. 

Judges are humans, not gods, and the credibility of you and your attorney is paramount.  The "appearance" of truth-telling is unfortunately sometimes more important than the truth itself. 

Remember the boy who cried "Wolf!" and lost the village sheep to a hungry wolf because the villagers did not believe the boy who had previously lied?  Liars are not believed even when they speak the truth.  It is very important that your attorney be honest with you, appear to be honest AND have a reputation of honesty with the court.  A judge who doesn't trust your attorney will likely not trust you either.

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Lexis Non Perplexus

Your lawyer should talk with you in plain English, not legaleseHard to understand formal and technical legal vocabulary.
  Family law is complicated enough without the use of words that you might not understand.  Many attorneys do not even know that they are using legalese - particularly in family law. 

For instance, an attorney may tell you that a court will make a parenting time decision based on the best interests of your child.There are many factors a court uses to determine the "best interests" of the child. The statute is C.R.S. 14-10-124.
  While that is true, "best interests" is actually a legal standard comprised of factors that a court must consider.  Without knowing what those factors are and how judges use them, the seemingly simple "best interests" is legalese and is unhelpful to your understanding of how parenting time will be determined.

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Settlement Minded

For many lawyers, going to trial is their bread and butter - their main form of sustenance.   However, family law parties almost always come out ahead when they participate in a serious structured settlement to negotiate and resolve their disputes.   

Your sanity, resolve and pocketbook will be pilfered during a trial and its preparation.  It will be devastating for your kids if they are involved.  A good family law attorney understands this and will truly not only emphasize mediation, but structure your case to get a settlement. 

There is a saying that most cases settle on the courthouse steps - meaning right before or at trial.  This is because many attorneys do not really get prepared for the case until the eve of trial with exhibits, focused issues, witnesses, etc.  Where this has been done many months before in preparation for mediation, there is a much greater chance that there would be no trial.   

While trial skills are important, and sometimes a trial simply cannot be avoided since it takes two to tango a settlement, a lawyer who has a strong record of not just using mediation, but actually resolving cases through mediation is invaluable for your case and your sanity.

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Empathy

This area escapes most people's attention.  Lawyers are not trained to be therapists and are not your friends.  So many of them keep their professional distance and follow their "script" for divorce cases, custody cases, support cases, etc.  However, you are human and will experience all the anger, frustration, pain, and sadness that almost always accompanies a family law case to some degree.  What may seem immensely important to you may barely register to a family law attorney in the legal scope of your case. 

A good family law attorney provides more than "just representation".  Just because a concern of yours may not be legally significant, does not mean that it is not important to you.  A good attorney understands that the ability AND willingness of the attorney to listen to your concerns, whatever they may be, helps the attorney-client relationship - and it is a relationship.  This makes both a better client and attorney. 

It can also help resolve cases.  I was involved in a settlement discussion where a legally insignificant apology was brought front and center to encourage resolution of a case, saving tens of thousands of dollars in litigation fees.  It matters.

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Experience

There is no substitute for experience.  You do not want a family law attorney representing you who is learning on the job.  While good attorneys learn from their mistakes, your case should not be one of those mistakes.  You should be careful when considering a larger firm that employs many attorneys because you typically do not get to choose which attorney gets assigned to your case. 

Even if you do get an experienced attorney in the firm, they may be "tag-teamed" with a learning attorney who is learning on the job - after all, this is one of the ways attorneys learn to practice law.  The result is that sometimes there can be problems that need to be fixed later.  Additionally, experience is necessary but not sufficient.  "Experienced" does not mean good

There are more than a handful of attorneys that have been practicing for many years but have not learned or evolved as much as they should - Family law changes over time, not just with respect to the actual laws, but also in the way that judges perceive and evaluate cases.

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Personal Compatibility

Your relationship with your family law attorney is especially important.  You are going to be sharing intimate and confidential facts of your life and you may not like what your attorney says or advises.  So, you must be comfortable with the attorney because you have both thick and thin situations.  The best way to scope this out is in the pre-interview and interview process. 

Are you required to jump through filters just to talk with an attorney?  Will the attorney talk with you quickly on the phone before an interview so you can get a feel for the attorney?   If you cannot get easy access to the attorney, then there may be a problem - You shouldn't feel like you're trying to meet the President when you need to talk with your attorney. 

Also, know yourself, and be as reasonable as you can about the circumstances.  An attorney that is eager to take your case without understanding the facts yet indicates you can "win" should be dismissed.   An attorney that treats you like a "customer" rather than a "client" should be dismissed.  You need to discuss things enough with the attorney so you get a sense of whether this is the right attorney for you.  This is one area where you should trust your instinct.

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Cost

If a family law attorney is not forthright about his or her fees, run.  Unless a fixed fee is charged (which is a rarity and usually only applies to specific projects) a family law attorney makes money by multiplying the hourly rate by the time spent.  Experienced lawyers know how much time it takes to draft a petition for divorce, appear at an initial status conference, etc. 

While they cannot always predict additional time required by events outside their control, they do know what a 3 hour mediation with 2 hours of preparation time will cost - and if you know their rate, you will too! Additionally, the attorney should not mark up any costs for you.  So, if there is a $70 filing fee for a document, then you should be charged no more than $70.  Make sure to ask about this in the interview.

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The Alter Commitment

I am committed to all of the qualities above that you should look for in a family law attorney.  But we all know talk is cheap.  In every client agreement, I have a clause that provides that you can "walk away" anytime you wish.  I will withdraw from representing you, and any funds that belong to you will be returned. 

I have an extensive circle of family law attorneys from which to refer you to if needed.  But I am confident that will not happen.   I do not just represent my clients, I care about them, their lives, and their family.  It makes me feel good when I help someone solve a problem, reach a goal, or perhaps just find some peace.  

On the other hand, you can flip it.  Try another attorney, and the moment you don't get a prompt return call, or start feeling uneasy, or realize that your attorney falls short in one or more of the qualities above, give me a call - and we will try to take it from there.  Unlike many attorneys, I don't just fight for your rights.  I also sing for them, plead for them, and hug for them.  I do not let my ego sabotage your case.

Give me a call or shoot me an email.  You'll see.

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720-934-0901