Divorces are challenging – on many levels. And they take their toll on the parties – financial, emotional, time, and energy. They also impact those well beyond the parties – children, family, friends, work, social engagements, church, and more. And the results of a divorce can have a lifelong impact. Who will be your divorce lawyer could be the most important decision you will make about your divorce, second only to whether to get one, if you have that option. Here are some things to consider in selecting your divorce attorney.
First, and most importantly, remember that you have a choice.
There are lots of lawyers out there. You don’t have to use a particular lawyer simply because he or she was recommended by someone. Every case is different. And every person is different.
Meet with more than one lawyer. Interview them. Your conversations with them are confidential and privileged, so feel free to speak freely. Be honest with him or her about your goals and interests. What is important to you? What do you hope to accomplish? Can you prioritize your interests? Obviously, their advice and counsel will help you make some of these decisions, but you ought to go in with some idea of what your interests are.
And be honest with them about the true facts. It is better to be truthful than to tell the lawyer what you think they want to hear. What they want to hear – and what they need to hear – is the truth. The whole truth. And nothing but the truth. You may have to pay for this initial consultation, but it will be money well spent.
Ask your potential lawyer about his or her experience – experience with your spouse’s lawyer, with the court that will hear this matter, with cases which have facts similar to yours, with clients like you.
While an attorney must keep client matters confidential, he or she should be able to relate some examples to you without revealing the identity of current or former clients. If they don’t keep that information confidential, then they probably won’t keep yours confidential either. Move on to someone else.
Ask your potential lawyer about his or her fee.
Simply stating an hourly rate is not enough. How much do they think it will cost? Granted, every case is different, and a lot depends on what the other side does, but they should be able to give you a ballpark estimate and explain what could change that estimate. This is another reason that you need to be honest about the facts. Will they require a retainer? How does that work? Remember there is no such thing as a non-refundable retainer. A lawyer must hold a retainer in his or her trust account and doesn’t earn a fee until they provide the agreed services.
After quizzing your potential lawyer, you will need to ask yourself some questions.
Is this lawyer a good fit for me?
Are his goals and interests consistent with mine?
Do I feel comfortable with her?
Do I trust him?
Does she understand me?
Does he listen to me?
Do I feel respected?
Can I afford her?
Again, just because “everyone” says that you should hire so-and-so doesn’t mean that you should. The person you are hiring will wear many hats – advocate, counselor, and advisor. Can this person comfortably wear those hats for you?
Choosing a divorce lawyer is not something to be taken lightly, nor should it be based solely on others’ recommendations. Recommendations are important but do your homework. It is better to spend the time, energy, and perhaps a little money finding the best fit for you than to embark on this difficult journey with the wrong person.