How to Find a Good Divorce Attorney
When you’ve decided that your marriage is no longer working, it can be tough to navigate the legal nuances of divorce. You will want to find an attorney who will act on your behalf in a competent and professional manner. Depending on your situation and how amicable your divorce is, there are several options for getting the legal assistance you need
Decide whether you need an attorney. Before beginning your divorce attorney search you should first consider whether a divorce attorney is actually necessary. If you and your spouse can resolve the situation amicably, and have no marital property, it is possible to file for divorce pro se, ie. without the assistance of an attorney. In fact, most divorces don’t require court proceedings, especially if there are no children involved and the divorce will not be contested
Consider using an experienced mediator if you and your spouse’s relationship is amicable and you foresee comfortable and friendly negotiations. A mediator can work with you and your spouse to come up with a division of assets agreement that is agreeable to both parties. After the assets have been divided, you and your spouse can file for divorce on your own
Give yourself and your spouse some time before officially filing for divorce. You and your spouse can reduce both the fear and perception of the need to “lawyer-up” by mutually agreeing not to take any steps that will materially affect either of your financial situations. Even if you later decide to retain a lawyer, the divorce process will be much easier if you try to cooperate with your spouse
Evaluate you and your spouse’s financial situation. While many attorneys provide general divorce services, others specialize in divorces involving children, high-net worth individuals, and some lawyers even choose to represent only husbands or only wives in divorce proceedings
Steps To Choosing The Right Divorce Lawyer
First, you need to realize that divorce is a legal process with the sole purpose of dissolving your assets and resolving custody issues. Your divorce attorney’s job is to represent you to the best of his or her ability in this process. While you might want them to listen to your anger, frustration, pain and sadness, that is not their job. They are not trained to be your therapist or coach, and they don’t want to be. Since your attorney has higher rates and the clock is always running, it’s a gross misuse of your money if this is how you’re using them. And divorce attorneys have seen it all. What seems immensely important to you might barely register for them within the scope of the legal process. So be realistic about the role of your divorce attorney, and what you can expect from them
Stay focused on the goal.
Your ultimate goal in this process is to get divorced, and hopefully you can do so without any major depreciation of your lifestyle. Don’t let your emotions jump in and run rampant when it comes to negotiating over material things that don’t mean much to you in the big picture. If you do, your divorce will be longer, more litigious, and definitely more expensive than otherwise. Is it worth it? No. So keep your focus on getting divorced as quickly, and with as little financial damage, as possible. Ask yourself, what kind of divorce will do that for me?
Know what you want.
Before you rush out to hire a divorce attorney, consider other alternatives to traditional litigation. If you aren’t completely entangled with children and finances, you could hire a mediator to help you negotiate the terms of your divorce. Mediation is the fastest, cheapest way to get divorced, and you might not need to hire an attorney at all! If your negotiation is more complicated, you’ll have to hire a divorce lawyer to negotiate a settlement with your spouse’s attorney. Or you could consider a collaborative divorce. A collaborative divorce is focused on negotiation with the goal of preserving a co-parenting relationship. Your last resort is a litigated trial. Typically, these are the cases when neither side will compromise. So you need to determine what type of divorce attorney you need based on your unique circumstances. Realize that any divorce attorney you talk to will try to steer you in the direction of their own specific expertise. It’s up to you to know what you want first, so you can make the right choice
Identify at least three potential attorneys.
Don’t jump to hire the first lawyer you meet. They are not all the same. Find at least three divorce attorneys that you can interview before making your decision. Clearly, you need to hire a lawyer that specializes in family law and one that’s experienced in the specific type of divorce you think is best for you. The ideal attorney has the legal knowledge and experience you need, helps you understand the process, communicates and negotiates well, solves problems creatively and is experienced in your specific court system. So you need one that’s local to you. Regardless of whether or not your divorce is headed to trial, your attorney needs to be experienced with the family law judges in your jurisdiction so that he or she can advise you appropriately on legal strategy. How do you find potential attorneys? Ask you friends for personal recommendations. Ask your trust or estate lawyer for divorce attorney recommendations. Go online to the numerous websites that provide client reviews of attorneys local to you.
Interview and research potential attorneys.
Start with an initial phone call. Ask them about their experience and specialization within family law. Ask them about what type of client they typically represent. Ask them about their rates. Most divorce lawyers charge an hourly fee and require a retainer — a fee charged in advance. Some lawyers will also negotiate fees based on anticipated settlements. Don’t waste your time (or theirs) on a meeting if they’re out of your cost range. Most divorce attorneys provide a free consult to discuss your specific situation and what their legal approach would be. So take advantage of it to gather as much legal advice as possible! Typically, the attorney you meet with will not be handling the day-to-day issues related to your case, so ask to meet the colleague or associate that would. The divorce process can also include financial experts, parenting coordinators, coach facilitators, and forensic appraisers. Find out your attorney’s access to these resources and if any would be relevant to your case, as it will affect overall cost. And even if you have no intention of heading to trial, look at the attorney’s trial record and history of success in court. This track record is an indicator of your attorney’s success in negotiation.
How to Find a Divorce Lawyer Who Won’t Screw You Over
now that you and your partner have made the difficult decision to get divorced, you have to set about the task of finding a lawyer. Unfortunately, it’s not something that you can resolve with just a simple Google search. Before settling on a divorce lawyer to oversee your proceedings, you have to make sure you haven’t left a single stone unturned
Do. Your. Homework.
Just like any other major decision in your life, you want to make sure that you go into the divorce process with your eyes wide open and as well-informed as possible
Know What You Want
Before you settle on a lawyer, ask yourself what it is that you’re hoping to get from them. Are you looking for a lawyer who’s emotionally supportive? An impersonal but focused attorney? Are you looking for a team or a one-on-one personal experience?
If you know of friends or family members who’ve been through a divorce, definitely reach out to them and ask for advice and suggestions on who they went with and how it worked out for them. “However,” says Benjamin Valencia II, a partner and certified family law specialist, with Meyer, Olson, Lowy, and Meyers, “it is important to remember that every case is different and just because one lawyer was great in a friend’s case does not mean he is right for your case.”
Meet with More Than One Lawyer
Part of the research process for a good divorce lawyer should include multiple meetings with various attorneys. This will allow you to see how each lawyer will approach your divorce and what they will do to build the best possible case
How do I find a good divorce attorney?
What Type of Attorney do I Need?
When you’re getting a divorce, you’ll need an attorney who is experienced in family law matters. A old college friend who now practices medical malpractice law isn’t likely to be the best choice to handle your divorce. Different areas of the law have different rules and requirements. Attorneys in each practice area have different skill sets. Divorce can be a complex process and it’s essential to have an attorney who knows the nuances of family law and is familiar with your local court’s rules and judges
Can My Spouse and I Share an Attorney?
The short answer is “no.” The professional rules of conduct governing lawyers prohibit attorneys from representing both spouses in a divorce. This would create a conflict of interest for the attorney, since your interests, rights, and needs in a divorce are adverse to your spouse’s. A single attorney can’t ethically give good legal advice to two people in adverse positions.
How Do I Know If an Attorney Is the Right fit?
You should interview any prospective attorney just as you would someone who was applying to work for you. You need to like your attorney. It’s also important that you have confidence in your lawyer’s abilities and respond well to communication style. Some lawyers pride themselves on an aggressive demeanor, while others highlight their ability to collaborate and settle most divorces without a drawn-out courtroom battle.
What Resources Are Available?
If you’re unsure where to begin your search, you can start by reviewing Nolo’s Lawyer Directory. Nolo’s online directory allows you to look for attorneys by practice area and provides a detailed profile with each attorney’s experience, philosophy, and expertise. Your local state bar is another resource for finding an attorney trained to handle divorces.
How to Find a Good Divorce Attorney and Avoid a Fighter Attorney
One quick search for a divorce attorney on Google or in the White Pages and you’re likely to find 100 attorneys ready, willing, and able to take your case. However, when it’s time to hire someone to be your advocate, what qualities matter most? Sure, many attorneys may promise to be the best choice for your case, but before you sign on the dotted line to hire someone, it’s essential to do your research
Hiring a “Pit Bull” Attorney
If you’re considering a divorce, or if your ex recently filed for divorce, it’s not uncommon for your first instinct to be to hire the most aggressive “Pit Bull” attorney in your area. Of course, it’s natural to want to protect your parental rights, your personal property, and your money, but hiring an attorney who wages a battle over every issue in your case may end up costing you more in the long run.
Finding a Good Divorce Attorney
First and foremost, look for an attorney with experience and knowledge of your state divorce laws. Although it can be overwhelming to search for a quality attorney, asking your friends or family for personal recommendations may be the best first step in finding the right attorney for you.
When you’re calling attorneys, one of the essential qualities to look for is honesty and someone who willing to tell you what you may not want to hear. Many divorce clients expect to hear that they will walk away from the divorce with everything they want, but a good divorce attorney won’t tell you that, especially during the first meeting.
A quality divorce attorney isn’t afraid to tell you that you may need to pay your ex spousal support, or that you must sell your marital home to pay your marital debts. Although hearing that the court will probably award your spouse 50% of your retirement accounts isn’t pleasant, it’s your attorney’s job to tell you all the news, not just the good.