Hiring a good divorce attorney to represent you in court matters. Your choice can potentially make the difference between (a) getting what you deserve or (b) walking out of court unhappy, poor and perhaps with limited access to your children if you have any.
Emotions run high during divorce and they can be brought to a head when trying to arrive at a settlement. But try to keep in mind that this is a process consisting of a series of small, manageable steps. Divorce is a means to an end. While separating yourself from such an emotionally charged even is a real challenge, hiring the right attorney for you can help ensure you get the best outcome possible.
Special considerations may have to be made if you signed a prenuptial agreement ahead of being married. Apart from the basic financial division, you may have to consider what to do with retirement accounts, joint savings, and who will retain ownership of your house.
Note: This article is for educational purposes only.
1. Have Realistic Expectations and be Professional
Divorce is the process of dissolving your marriage, separating your property, and figuring out child custody and support. Your attorney is a part of the negotiation process and acts as your representative in court. They aren’t there to be your friend or to hold your hand throughout.
An experienced lawyer has probably seen and heard it all. You’re unlikely to say something shocking that will completely change the nature of the case. Nevertheless, try to keep your attorney-client relationship professional.
Manage your attorney in a responsible, careful and respectful way that works for you. They are neither your boss nor servant. You are hiring them to deliver a service. But it is a service in an area where they most likely have far more expertise than you.
2. Focus On The End Result
In trying to choose the right divorce attorney, you might find yourself sidetracked and overwhelmed by everything you have to consider. You’ve built up quite a life for yourself and your partner. Even if you don’t want it to end, you know somewhere deep inside your gut that it’s the right thing to do.
As you interview attorneys to potentially represent you, be up front about your issues and lay them all out on the table.
The goal, the reason you’re going through all of this, is to end your marriage. That’s where your focus should be. Anytime you find yourself distracted by upcoming court dates or a confrontation with your ex, remind yourself that the conflict will soon be over.
While you might be inclined to spend hours venting your problems and frustrations, that’s not what your attorney is for and it could end up costing you a fortune! Focusing on the key issues will not only help your case but will also save you money.
3. Know What You Want
Even before scouting out divorce attorneys or following up on your friends’ recommendations, make a list of what your ideal post-divorce life looks like. What will it take to get there?
If your divorce will be contentious or complicated, you’re better off having your attorney deal with everything from start to finish.
By far, mediation is the fastest and most inexpensive way to get divorced. This may be an option if there are no persistent conflicts over alimony, property division, or child custody and support. For difficult cases, a judge may order a separating couple to attempt mediation if they haven’t tried private mediation already.
4. Narrow Your List Down to Three Potential Prospects
Everyone and their neighbor will have a name for you to call. Sure, call ‘em all! Feel them out. But don’t hire the first lawyer you meet.
Regardless of what you think you know, not all lawyers are the same. Don’t rush into hiring someone just to get it out of the way. Check them out first. Some things to consider are:
- How long has the attorney been in practice?
- Does he or she specialize in family law?
- If there are unusual issues in your divorce, is this attorney qualified to handle them?
- Can you afford this attorney?
5. Interview Your Top-Three Choices
Once you’ve narrowed your list down, schedule consultations with your top three choices. Schedule your initial consultations in person (if possible) and get a feel for how much time they spend talking about the complexities of your case.
Spend an adequate amount of time talking about the specifics in your case, and answer his or her questions honestly. Take a list of your own questions and a notepad and pen to jot down notes. End the visit by letting each one know that you’re considering all your options and you’ll be in touch within a few days.
6. Watch for These Red Flags
Watch out for anyone who tries to pressure you into signing with them immediately. You shouldn’t feel like you have to retain anyone without thinking it over.
Generally speaking, good lawyers want you to hire the right person for you. Steer clear of an attorney who makes you feel uncomfortable or suggests tactics that strike you as unethical.
A lawyer who seems distracted or busy with text messages or sending emails might have a full caseload. You don’t want to add to that and end up being last on their list of priorities.
7. Making Your Selection
Once you have all the info you need and are ready to make a decision, make your choice. In a perfect world, you don’t want cost to be the number one decision factor. Retain the best attorney you can realistically afford.
Keep in mind that, when it comes to alimony, child support and property division, you may end up paying far more in the long run if your attorney can’t skillfully negotiate a good divorce settlement.
Once you have made your decision, listen carefully to your attorney’s advice, and keep him or her updated on any changes or new information in your situation. With good representation, you will successfully get through your divorce.
Final Words on Choosing Your Lawyer
You can’t anticipate all complications or predict how the process of hiring legal services will turn out. All you can do is reach a point where you feel comfortable that you’ve chosen the right attorney to represent you. You want someone who has been at this a while, and who you feel can help you get through your divorce as cleanly and quickly as possible.