Interview with Attorney Richard A. Heller
#1: What made you choose a career in family law?
Our firm has always handled family law matters. Family law is often an emotionally charged area of law, where there is sometimes no right or wrong, and the innocent (children) are placed in harm's way due to the disputes at issue. We have the ability to resolve such a dispute and help our clients move forward and put the past behind them. If we can be a calming influence to amicably resolve the case, then we have truly helped. If it requires a tough litigator to protect our client's right, then we step up to that role and provide that zealous representation and advocate for our clients.
#2: What sets your firm apart from other firms in the area?
We do not accept representation in every case. As the client evaluates their prospective attorney, we too will be making sure that our clients' goals are realistic, and that we can make a positive difference for them. We are very forthright in what can be expected from a financial point of view, and will often make arrangements for those in need.
#3: Tell us about a case that you are particularly proud of:
In one case where the parents were of different cultures and untrusting of the other's motives, their daughter was taken against court order to another country. After more than a year she was located and we were able to obtain the necessary emergency relief to re-unite the child with other parent. Since then the child has done exceedingly well, excelling in her education, and has maintained a good relationship with both parents. Not all such cases have happy endings, but I am glad this one had a good result.
#4: What steps do you take to prepare for a difficult case?
Cases can be difficult for a number of reasons, including the following: 1. The adverse party is obstinate and provocative. 2. The issues involved new areas of law that require much research and preparation to be sure the judge is given the best and most current law. 3. The facts are not apparent, or the other party is hiding assets or records. 4. The assets of the parties, date of marriage, contribution of asserts to a marriage, gifts to the parties, premarital assets, business interests have to be valued and a plan for equitable distribution presented.
The initial pleadings set the tone for the anticipated litigation. They must be thought through and crafted for each case. Most complex cases require significant discovery, including, interrogatories to the other party and third parties, demand for productions of documents, requests for admissions, and depositions. Often a second or third round of discovery is necessary to get to the truth. Once discovery is completed it is common for us to try to resolve the matter through mediation. If mediation is unsuccessful, then we set the matter for trial and allow the judge to hear the facts and make a determination as a matter of law.
#5: What is your role in the attorney-client relationship?
As an attorney, we are a confidant and adviser. We also have the unenviable duty to tell our clients what they do not want to hear. The truth is that every person that litigates feels they are in the right and the other person in the wrong. Sometimes the truth is in the middle. Our job is to look at the facts objectively and give our clients the best possible advice. Many times we advise our client to not accept what we consider to be a bad settlement offer. Other times we recommend an offer that our clients feel is unacceptable. In either case we will have sound reasoning for the advice given, and in the end it is our client that will make the decision.
#6: What sets you apart from other family law attorneys?
Open communication with our clients is, and always will be, a priority. We have written policies in our retainer agreements regarding our response to questions or inquiries. You always have access to the attorney, not just the secretary or a paralegal.
#7: How does having experience benefit your clients?
Any attorney out of law school can read the family law statutes. Understanding how they are interpreted and applied is something else. Knowing the judges, the system, the law, and even the judicial assistants is an edge that a person should not underestimate.
#8: What types of family law cases do you specifically handle?
We handle all areas of family law, including:
Prenuptial agreements; Support unconnected to dissolution of marriage; Divorce; Custody; Paternity; Post judgment Modification; Post-judgment Enforcement; UCCJA (Jurisdictional) disputes, Step-parent adoptions; and contempt.
#9: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Hearing a client simply say thank you for all the hard work and a job well done.
#10: What advice do you most often give your clients & why?
Choose an attorney based upon many factors. Experience, reputation of the attorney and law firm, personal interaction, and cost. Too many people put legal fees as the only factor in hiring an attorney. Do not be afraid to discuss costs and fees with the attorney. If the attorney requires a fee well out of your range, do not hire them as they may withdraw from your case when the money runs out. Keep in mind that a high priced attorney does not mean you will get a better result, or service. However, an experienced attorney also does not need to do a lot of research that an inexperienced attorney would need, and charging you for their learning curve. Experience does count! In the end, choose a law firm that will charge a reasonable fee for the best service.