Divorce is a huge step, and how it's handled can have lasting impacts on the rest of your life. No matter which side you're on, it's wise to seek experienced legal representation. Most likely, you've never been divorced before, so the process is new and uncomfortable. Before hiring a divorce attorney, you need to do your homework to ensure you're getting the best for your situation.
Research every prospective attorney's experience, as well as how your case will be handled, and what attorney fees you will pay.
If you or your spouse are in the military, you need to ensure you don't hire a divorce attorney with no experience in military divorce. If you are wealthy and own your own business, you don't want to hire an attorney who has never dealt with the nuanced financial issues that come with splitting large assets. You need a divorce attorney who specializes in what makes your life unique.
Ask the questions you need to ask to make sure an attorney can handle your particular divorce case. Below is a list of 31 questions to ask before contracting with an attorney, for starters.
Questions to Ask an Divorce Attorney About Their Experience
1. How many divorce cases have you handled?
2. How many of those cases were you able to settle out of court?
3. Do you practice collaborative divorce?
4. Do you know my spouse?
5. Do you know my spouse’s attorney?
6. Are you familiar with local family court judges and how they rule?
7. Do you believe it is better to mediate and negotiate than go to trial?
8. Do you have experience negotiating child support, spousal support, large financial settlements, or business valuation? (Be specific about issues you feel will come up during your divorce.)
Questions to Ask About How Your Divorce Case Will Be Handled
9. Will you or another attorney from the firm be handling my case?
10. Can I meet anyone else who will be involved in handling my case?
11. If others from the firm will be involved, what experience do they have?
12. Are you available via phone or email?
13. Do you have a heavy case load? Will you have time to devote to my case?
14. If I need to reach you, what is the best time of day?
15. Will I receive copies of documents filed with the court, all communication with my spouse’s attorney and any other documents related to my case?
16. Will I be kept informed of all developments in my case?
17. Will you ask my opinion before planning a strategy?
18. What are your personal feelings about spousal support?
19. What are your personal feelings about joint custody versus sole custody?
Questions to Ask About the Divorce Attorney's Fees
20. What is your retainer fee?
21. What is your hourly billing rate?
22. Do any fees I pay include the services of any associates who work on my case?
23. If my case goes to divorce court, will there be extra fees?
24. Will I sign a contract outlining the fee arrangement?
25. Will I be sent itemized bills?
26. Will I be kept updated on how the retainer fee is used and when it is used up?
27. Will you petition the court for my spouse to pay my attorney fees?
28. How much do you charge for letters and phone calls to my spouse’s attorney or me?
29. How much will you charge for copies of all relevant documents?
30. Will there be other costs such as court filing fees, process server fees, or other extraordinary fees? Are these costs included in your fees or do I pay them separately?
31. Will I be billed for communication via phone or email? If so, what is your billing structure? (Find out exactly how much the attorney feels his time is worth and how time is billed.)
Once You Decide
Once you have interviewed and decided which attorney you want to hire, have that attorney draw up a fee contract. Do not give the attorney a retainer fee until a contract is written and signed by both you and the attorney. If the attorney refuses to do this, find another attorney.