Deciding to divorce can be a traumatic experience. You may have discovered your spouse was cheating, uncovered addictions or financial discrepancies, or perhaps you’ve just had years of arguments and strife. Regardless of the reason for making the decision to end your marriage, you are probably dealing with a lot of pain and upheaval. Finding a reputable and best divorce attorney should not add to your struggles.
Below is advice for individuals seeking a divorce attorney that can assist with their case, so that the legal process is as painless as possible during a time that is already marked with difficulties.
If you are unsure where to begin your search for a divorce lawyer, you should just sit down and is making a list of family law attorneys in your area. Ask friends and family members who may have recently gone through a divorce. They may be able to recommend someone or may have researched local divorce lawyers themselves. Be sure to ask them about bad experiences as well as good ones. You want to avoid attorneys who do not meet your standards.
If you have a lawyer for other needs, such as your finances, you can ask for a referral. The legal community is often familiar with professionals in other specialties and will happily suggest colleagues who may be a fit for your case.
Research lawyers online through resources such as the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML). State board certification lists are also great resources, as an attorney must meet certain criteria set up by state specifications, such as practicing law for a certain number of years, completing jury trials, and doing appellate work. Online directories are available that provide users with ratings and reviews from past clients.
Be wary of paid advertisements that exaggerate a lawyer’s services. If an ad uses words like the “best” or the “greatest,” it’s probably not a good choice for your list. These words are subjective and often superlative in nature, signifying an unreliable source. Only consider divorce attorneys who receive unpaid recognition from peers or clients.
Review Your List
After you’ve created a list of local family lawyers, you should begin to narrow it down. You can use your own personal considerations to narrow down the list, but it may include important things like:
- Consultation fee: Does the attorney charge a large consultation fee or is the consultation free of charge? This typically does not influence the quality of the lawyer, but it can be a make or break factor for you, depending on your financial situation.
- Location: Is one lawyer located in the busy part of town while the other is a ten-minute walk from your office? Sometimes, you may be able to narrow down the list to just a few by removing attorneys that are simply too far of a commute due to their location.
- Gender: While this shouldn’t be an issue, in some cases, it is. Are you a woman who is divorcing an abusive husband? You may feel as if a woman attorney will better understand your case.
- Recommendation: One local divorce attorney may have been recommended by multiple sources. Another may have been recommended by someone whose opinion you don’t value. Not all recommendations are equal.
You may attempt to have a short telephone call with a few of the options on your list. While some attorneys won’t accept calls unless you are their client, others will happily provide a short conference over the phone. This can give you insight into his or her personality, helping you decide if he or she is a fit with your case.
Meet With Your Top Choices
It’s best to narrow down your selections to a minimum of two qualified attorneys and meet with each of them in person. Even if the first one seems to be a good fit for your case, still take the time to meet with the other attorney. This is an important choice, and you want to make sure that you have selected the best professional for your situation.
Changing legal representation in the middle of your divorce can be costly both financially and for the outcome of your case. So take the time to truly understand the qualities of each attorney to ensure that you make the right choice.
Use the following questions to determine which of the two lawyers can best help you with your divorce case:
What is the cost? Ask if they require a retainer and what the hourly rate will be. Understand that just because one lawyer has a higher hourly rate, it does not mean that the overall cost will be more. Try to determine how efficiently the attorney works. Does he or she use a paralegal, associates, or junior lawyers to keep costs down? What technology does the law office utilize that may decrease time spent on tedious aspects of a case, thereby lowering client costs?
Who actually works on the case? You may want an assistant handling some aspects of your casework, particularly if it lowers the final cost of your case. However, you want to ensure that the senior lawyer will be the one at the hearings and handling the trial work. Before deciding on a divorce attorney, discuss who your legal team will include and who handles which aspects of the case. You will need to be comfortable with the balance between proper representation and what it will cost.
How will the case be handled? You should ask each attorney what their proposed strategy for your case is. Find out if they’ve dealt with similar cases, what their strategy was, and what the outcome was. If your case is unique, discuss what makes it different and describe how you think it should be handled. Has each attorney had experience working against your ex’s lawyer? Have they appeared before the judge that is assigned to your case? How were those experiences? Even if you believe that the divorce will be amicable, find out how your attorney plans to deal with any legal disputes, should the case turn hostile.
Choose the Right Divorce Attorney for Your Case
After you’ve met with both lawyers, you’ll need to choose the one that is right for your case. Consider each attorney’s attitude. Did he appear competent and willing to discuss the legal process? Was she friendly and open to hearing your opinion? The right attorney will be helpful and make you comfortable about the procedure, but will also be upfront and honest about your case. You must be willing to be completely honest in return in order to ensure that your lawyer has all the information and tools he or she needs for your case. A good lawyer can often gauge the outcome of your case based on previous cases that are similar to yours; however, there are never any guarantees in court.
Divorce cases are often intensely emotional and may involve obscure legal procedures and detailed debates. You want to have the best representation, but you’ll also want to feel as if your legal team has your best interests in mind. Take the time before your case begins to research local family law offices to find the right divorce attorney for you and for your case.