Hiring an attorney to handle your divorce is a very important decision. If you are leaving a long-term marriage with children and assets and debts that need sorting, you will need someone with the right experience to help you out. Beyond that, their past clients, consultation fees, and communication skills will contribute to your decision on whether to hire them.
With all the confusion surrounding divorce proceedings and lingering emotions, use this guide to find the best divorce attorney for your case. With great representation, the rest of the proceedings will hopefully go smoothly.
Any divorce attorney you consider should have substantial experience in handling divorce cases in your area. An experienced divorce attorney will know what to expect from the judges in your jurisdiction and should be able to use this knowledge to your advantage.
Additionally, the attorney should practice primarily in the field of divorce or family law.
If your situation is special—for instance, if you or your spouse are in the military or if you are gay—find an attorney with experience handling those cases.
The best way to decide which divorce attorney to use is to find out what former clients have to say about the attorney. If you do not know someone who has been a client of that particular divorce attorney, you should consider asking the attorney for a list of clients that you can contact who can describe their experience with the attorney.
You can also call your state's bar association to see if any former clients have filed grievances against the attorney.
Ease of Communication
When a client becomes unhappy with a divorce attorney, one of the most common complaints is that they were unable to communicate with the attorney.
It is very important that your divorce attorney is accessible and prompt in responding to your phone calls, emails, and requests for meetings.
While you can ask the divorce attorney about their office policy, another way to assess them is by hearing what former clients have to say.
Not only should you be satisfied with the level of communication, but also with the connection you have with your attorney. Do you feel understood? Do you feel, via their communication with you, that the attorney is a true advocate?
When you make your initial appointment with the divorce attorney, you should inquire about a consultation fee. Some attorneys do brief initial consultations for free, however, most experienced divorce attorneys will charge between $100 and $200 as a consultation fee, or will charge their normal hourly rate.
Find out what the attorney's hourly rate is, what the up-front retainer will be, whether any portion of the retainer is refundable if it is not used, and how often you can expect to receive invoices that detail their hourly charges and expenses.
Insist on a contract signed by you and the attorney clearly outlining the fee agreement before contracting with an attorney.
Your Own Comfort
While all the above are important, there is one final question you should ask yourself before hiring a divorce attorney: Are you comfortable with the attorney, and are you confident in their abilities? Does the attorney appear to be genuinely concerned about your case and willing to spend the appropriate time to advocate for you during your divorce?
It may take a couple of meetings with an attorney to determine whether or not you're making the right choice for you and your situation. Don't be rushed into contracting with an attorney until you are certain they are the right attorney for you.
If the answer is anything other than a resounding yes, you should keep looking. Your case is too important to entrust to someone who does not have your full confidence.