Finding The Best Gay Family Lawyer For Your Relationship
A lesbian reader from Florida recently asked GayWeddings.com if she and her partner could legally get married in D.C.
Ahhhh, such a tricky question!
The short answer is yes, of course, you can. You just need to follow the requirements of the District and you’ll find yourselves legally betrothed . . . in the District at least. But take a quick spin in your rent-a-car around the beltway that circles the District, and that will change as you pass into Virginia (no, not married there) and Maryland (yes, probably married there, but with caveats).
The longer answer is it depends. The best advice any non-Florida lawyer can give you is this: if you want to see if you’re married in Florida following a legal ceremony in the District, ask a lawyer. And that begs the questions: who should you ask?
Family law lawyers are a dime a dozen, but selecting a lawyer on these issues is important. The legal landscape changes nearly daily, so you’ll want to find a specialist in LGBT family law. That is, you’ll want to work with someone who works with clients in similar situations and who makes a point of keeping up with developments (both good and bad). There are a variety of LGBT advocacy organizations that post lists of lawyers, but there’s no replacement for asking around. Who did your friends use? Friends-of-friends?
Once you get a few recommendations, make some preliminary phone calls. Phone the lawyers on
your list and figure out if they might be a good fit. Ask about availability, rates, experience. This will give you a sense of how the office works for this particular attorney and should give you some initial impressions about him/her.
After that, you’ll set up appointments for initial consultations. These appointments are typically an hour (or a little more). You should expect to pay for this consultation; family law lawyers (at least in our area) don’t usually give their time away for free, it’s the only way we make money. This is your opportunity to ask questions both about the attorney’s experience and questions about your particular situation.
Some clients have a hard time warming up to their touchy questions in this first face-to-face, but trust me, an experienced attorney has heard it all and you should be as honest and as direct as possible. Once you’ve done all that, you’re ready to make a decision! If you and your partner are hiring together, take the time to talk about it outside of the law firm. You might not have the same impressions. This is a decision you should make together and both be comfortable with.
As always, we welcome your questions and encourage you to ask them before your big day.
Heather & Emily
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Heather McCabe and Emily Russell are family law practitioners who regularly serve the LGBT community in all kinds of legal affairs – from adoptions to dissolutions/divorces. McCabe has taught family law and legal writing and has been on the faculty at Georgetown Law, American University, and University of Baltimore. Russell worked as a lobbyist before coming to the law. Whether through document drafting, mediation, collaborative law, or litigation, McCabe and Russell are committed to the creation and security of the unique families they serve.