Many studies show that divorce is among the top three greatest lifetime stressors. Accordingly, when navigating the divorce process, it is imperative that you are confident in the divorce lawyer you choose.
Where to Start When Selecting A Divorce Lawyer
Reviewing an attorney’s website and obtaining personal referrals are a good way to start your search for a divorce lawyer. After you have selected several attorneys you would like to meet with, contact the attorneys for an initial consultation. This is essentially your chance to interview your lawyer. During an initial consultation, an attorney will review the divorce process with you and discuss the pros and cons of litigation versus other forms of dispute resolution.
I recommend that you conduct the initial consultation either in person or via Zoom. You’ll be able to better evaluate your comfort level with the attorney through an in-person or virtual meeting as opposed to a phone call. During the initial consultation, you should be able to get a sense of whether you are comfortable communicating with this lawyer. Do you feel that s/he understood your primary goals? Do you feel as though s/he listened to you? Were you provided with an opportunity to ask questions? Finally, is this someone you will feel comfortable having speak on your behalf? Your attorney will be representing you to the Court. Are you satisfied that this is the person you want representing your interests to the Court?
All divorce lawyers are required to have a written fee agreement with their client for cases involving in excess of $500 in fees. Thus, you should expect to sign a written fee agreement memorializing the terms of the engagement.
Questions to Ask Prior to Signing a Fee Agreement
As you continue to learn more about a prospective divorce lawyer and try to decide whether to hire this person, ask these important questions:
- Do you frequently practice in this area of law? Find out what percentage of his or her practice is devoted to family law. Is this individual comfortable with the issues that will be presented in your case?
- Are you the attorney who will actually work on my case? Be sure you are interviewing the person who would be representing you in court. You don’t want to hire someone only to be handed off to another attorney in the firm.
- What is your policy for returning phone calls or emails? You want to have solid communication with the lawyer who will be representing your interests. If you’re always left waiting for a response to your call or email, you won’t have the reassurance you need to trust that your situation is being handled properly.
- What is your fee structure? You don’t want any financial surprises once you begin working with an attorney. Find out up front how the legal fees work, how fees will be billed, and how long you have to pay them.
- What is your accessibility? This question should include both appointment structure and location. Will appointments be conducted in person or virtually? If a Court session will be conducted via Zoom, where will the attorney be physically located during the hearing? How will the lawyer handle communication with you during a virtual Court hearing?
Choosing a divorce attorney is an important decision. Much is at stake when negotiating a divorce settlement or litigating a case. You want to find someone with whom you can communicate effectively, who is prepared and will listen to you so that s/he can advise you as to how to obtain the end result that is in your best interest.