When faced with a divorce it is often difficult to know at what point you should think about talking to a lawyer. Divorces are never pleasant; they are time-consuming, require a financial investment, and if kids are involved it can take even longer and incur additional expenses.
It is ideal to talk to a reputable family lawyer specializing in divorces and child custody (if applicable) as soon as the idea of a divorce enters the picture. This way you can prepare for the worse with expert help while hoping for the best. Once you find your lawyer, there is certain protocol to follow that will make the process easier on you.
Here are 6 tips for choosing the best family law attorney who can help you achieve your divorce goals, and tips on how to work with him in a constructive manner.
1. Treat Your Divorce Lawyer Like a Lawyer
You need to be realistic when you sit down with your divorce attorney. Lawyers appreciate that their clients are hurt, angry, and emotionally devastated. But they are not therapists nor do they want to be treated like one. You may feel the urge to unload your emotional baggage on your attorney’s table but don’t. Not only will you put a strain on the professional relationship, but if you are charged by the hour you will be paying one hell of a bill for counseling services from the wrong kind of counselor!
2. Understand Your Priorities
Your goal is to get divorced without any huge hit to your lifestyle. If you allow your emotions to flare up in negotiations over material goods that have little or no value to you, you will simply delay the process and rack up your attorney fees. Avoid unnecessary litigious work and instead focus on your goals of getting that ring off your finger as cost effectively as possible.
3. Is there an Alternative to Hiring a Lawyer?
In some cases, finding an alternative to traditional litigation will work just fine, if not better for the soon-to-be divorcee. If you don’t have children, a shared estate, a business, or mutual investments you could probably seek a mediator to help negotiate the terms of the divorce. Even if you have kids but both you and your spouse are both on board for being equal co-parents, a mediator specializing in collaborative divorces should be sufficient while saving you thousands. If, however, you have an estate, children, and tension is high, a family attorney specializing in divorces and child custody is your safe bet.
4. Choose Three Lawyers
You may be in a hurry to get the process rolling, but don’t jump on the first lawyer you talk to. Just because there are thousands of divorce lawyers doesn’t mean they are all the same. Do some basic online research; look for law firms and attorneys who have a polished online reputation with a professional website, and look for lawyers who have the legal knowledge specific to your situation along with proof they have won most of their cases.
5. Interview Your Top Three Divorce Lawyers
Now that you have the front runners identified, start interviewing them. Ask them to talk about their experience within family law. Ask them to paint a picture of their ideal client, and describe the main types of clients they have worked with. Talk about their rate and how they bill clients.
Most divorce lawyers offer a free consultation; don’t pay for the interview. You will also want to ask who will be responsible for handling the details of your case. Most lawyers don’t touch the day-to-day tasks that build the case. Instead, they designate this to a team or a paralegal. You should ask how often the lawyer communicates with the team or individual handling your details, and ensure the second party is trustworthy.
6. Look for Warning Signs
Unfortunately, some attorneys will tell people what they want to hear just so they can add another client to the books. As previously stated, divorces take time and are complicated. If the attorney promises you the moon on every single question you ask, this is a major red flag. You will want to find a lawyer who is upfront and honest in presenting you with realistic expectations.
No reputable lawyer will ever make a guarantee. You should also pay attention to how they communicate with you in the interview. If the attorney is easily distracted by incoming emails, phone calls, and foot traffic, it is a good sign he has issues in staying focused. Also, check with the state’s bar association to make sure the attorney is licensed, and no complaints have been filed against him.