Ten Things You Should Ask Your Divorce Lawyer
We all consult experts about almost every aspect of our lives. We visit a doctor to know whether or not we’re healthy. We go to an accountant to discuss what we might do to reduce our tax liability. We even sit down with an estate planning attorney to make plans for our assets after we pass away. A divorce lawyer is no different. While you don’t need to choose the first lawyer you consult with, you want to make sure that you’re seeking out true, professional divorce attorneys, and that you’re prepared to ask your divorce lawyer questions so that the process is as efficient as possible.
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Making The Right Choice
There are lots of lawyers out there, and many advertise themselves as “family law” or “divorce” attorneys. However, family law is technically a sub-specialty that involves complex legal principles, which take time and experience to master. Within the area of family law, there are even further sub-specialties, such as custody law, international custody law, guardianship, etc. It is extremely important to hire a good lawyer early in your divorce process, but how do you determine who is a “good” lawyer for your situation? What lawyer questions should you ask? Here is a list, asked from the point of view of a potential divorcee, looking for an attorney:
- How much of your practice is devoted to family law? You don’t want to hire someone who is just starting out in the practice of family law. There are many intricacies and nuances that can only be learned with experience. Now is not the time to give the “rookie” a chance – experience trumps personality, affordability, or charm in this situation.
- How do you charge for your time? Some attorneys have different rates for their time, whether in-court or out-of-court, and you need to know this upfront. In addition, you want to know in what increments of time you will be billed. Some attorneys break down their time into portions of an hour, while other attorneys will charge a minimum for drafting letters or appearing in court.
- How much will a divorce cost? Do not expect the attorney to give you a specific quote on fees, but they should be able to give you a rough estimate and a list of services covered by that estimate. The more experienced lawyers should be able to provide you with a roadmap of the process and the cost for each step. You should be very skeptical about an attorney who quotes you a fixed rate or guarantees that your entire divorce will only cost a certain amount. Remember – you get what you pay for.
- Do you prefer to negotiate and settle, and what is your attitude toward mediation? You will be best served by an attorney who is looking for ways to solve problems, not to create disagreements or make them worse. An attorney who is willing to try all possible avenues to resolve your case can help make your divorce less costly, both financially and emotionally.
- How will you communicate with me when needed? Whether it’s via email, phone calls, or text messages, you need to know how attorney best communicates with their clients and the time frame in which they communicate. You don’t want to have an unfulfilled expectation of how long you need to wait for a response from the attorney – that will only cause frustration on your part.
- Can you explain the legal issues in my case, as well as the legal process? A solid attorney should be able to easily identify and explain the legal issues and concepts of your case and help you understand the legal process behind the proceedings. You do not want to hire an attorney who needs to refer back to the law book every time you have a question.
- What is your game plan or strategy for handling my case? Your attorney should be prepared to provide you with their overall strategy, even if it isn’t as detailed at first as it will be. You want your attorney to be proactive and not just reactive, which will save you time and money in the long run. Remember, the strategy may change during the course of the proceedings, but their end goals should remain the same, and be fully communicated to you.
- Do you have experience working against the opposing attorney (if there is one already involved)? This may not be important to everyone, but it is helpful to know whether or not your attorney has dealt with opposing counsel in the past, especially if they know their weaknesses, preferences, or tendencies. If they have had previous experience with the opposing counsel, your attorney can better speculate how the case might proceed. If your attorney doesn’t know the opposing attorney, it is appropriate for you to ask them to do some research.
- Will I receive copies of all the documents you generate and receive regarding my case? The right attorney will provide their clients with copies of everything that is received or sent out. You don’t want an attorney who is so busy that they forget to send you any documents that require your consideration.
- How can I keep the cost of my divorce down? Are there tasks that I can do myself to cut down on the amount you will charge me? If your attorney has any integrity, and if it’s at all possible, they should be able to enlist your help with certain tasks, especially if that will save them time – a decent attorney’s end goal should not be to extrapolate as much money as possible from their clients.
Can You Predict My Case Outcome?
No divorce attorney can predict outcomes with unmatched accuracy. A seasoned divorce lawyer can give you a probability (likelihood) of which way the case will go. However, they can’t guarantee anything. What’s more, they must hear the facts of the case in detail first before saying which way a case is likely to go.
If your case is very unique to others, don’t expect a clear outcome. However, an experienced lawyer has probably dealt with cases like yours in the past. He/she should therefore be in a position to give a good prediction. However, don’t confuse likelihood with the ultimate outcome.
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How Will My Case Affect My Taxes?
Divorce affects taxes. Couples are likely to change tax brackets after divorce. Generally, joint fillers have a higher income tax bracket. As a result, individuals who earned more than their spouses are bound to pay more tax after a divorce.
There are also tax implications on property. While divorce attorneys aren’t experts on taxes, a seasoned attorney will have an answer to tax matters in relation to divorce. Alternatively, they should be able to arrange for expert help on tax matters.
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How Can I Continue Communicating With My Spouse Amicably?
Divorce shouldn’t end with anger and bitterness towards a spouse, especially when there are children involved. The need for amicable communication when co-parenting can’t be overemphasized. A seasoned divorce attorney is equipped to handle the entire divorce process in ways that result in respectful dealings.
He/she should give you “tools” for diffusing conflict. If your preferred attorney struggles to answer this question, he/she is probably not experienced. While a lawyer’s main job is to handle their client’s matters, prudent divorce attorneys ensure they don’t damage relationships further. In fact, their focus is ensuring the process is smooth and fair. They understand how to communicate and handle people based on their personalities. Most importantly, they can tell when communication should stop.
How Will My Divorces Files Be Kept Securely?
Divorce proceedings involve the handling of confidential documents with sensitive personal information like bank a/c numbers, Social Security numbers, addresses, etc. As a result, it’s understandable why you should be worried about confidentiality. The divorce attorney you hire should have systems in place to guarantee data security. Any divorce attorney who doesn’t answer data privacy and security questions properly shouldn’t be hired.
What Divorce Information Can I See?
Divorce proceedings involve requests and submission of a lot of personal information from both ends. Generally, you should be able to see every file concerning your case. Avoid hiring an attorney who doesn’t give clients access to their files.
Unless portions of a file have been protected via a court order, i.e., a child custody evaluation, everything should be accessible to you. In most cases, you should be able to view everything. However, a law/court order can stop you from having a copy if you are being represented by a lawyer.
Can You Provide Client References?
A seasoned divorce or family attorney with a great track record of winning cases shouldn’t have a problem letting you know and/or talk to past clients. By talking to past clients, you should be in a position to judge their suitability. While there may be confidentiality issues when sharing unsolicited contacts, a seasoned lawyer knows how to give potential clients access to past clients for purposes of verifying their expertise.
If the lawyer in question has won a custody or property dispute case in court, providing referrals should be easy. The same applies to other aspects of divorce cases like custody, alimony disputes, etc. If the lawyer in question can’t share verifiable past clients for you to talk to, don’t hire them.
Are The Testimonials & Reviews On Your Site From Real Former Clients?
Let’s face it. Many lawyers are guilty of posting unverifiable client reviews, yet the essence of a testimonial is to offer accurate information on what an actual client feels about a service. Choose lawyers who have believable or verifiable testimonials only.
Having “fake” reviews is dishonest and unethical. While some clients may want anonymity, a seasoned divorce attorney with years of experience won’t lack several real customers who can post genuine reviews about their work.
Who Will Appear In Court For My Case?
This is yet another important question you must ask potential divorce attorneys. The lawyer you hire should be the one making court appearances. However, this isn’t always the case. The importance of getting a confirmation can’t, therefore, be overlooked, especially if the lawyer appears to be too busy.
Given the implications of divorce proceedings, you need a lawyer who will be 100% invested in your case in every way. Busy lawyers who juggle a lot or those who like passing over cases to other lawyers aren’t the best.
How Much Will I Get Paid In Alimony Or Spousal Support?
If you are a lower-income earner, you should be concerned about spousal support ordered during a final judgment. Most cases also have temporary spousal support before a final judgment. Only seasoned divorce attorneys are capable of offering detailed answers about spousal support.
While a detailed or exact answer isn’t possible in most cases, experienced family lawyers can give accurate estimates based on the specific facts of your case. By analyzing your spouse’s income, and other factors such as your income stream and the marital standards of living, they should give an accurate spousal support range. Avoid lawyers who give definite figures or unrealistic estimates without looking into the case information in detail.
The above information highlights many important questions to ask potential divorce attorneys before hiring one. Generally, the best lawyers are receptive to questions. In fact, they should have a free first session for asking whatever question you have.
The best-of-the-best divorce attorneys don’t struggle to answer any question. They have a deep understanding of family law in their state and unmatched experience handling cases like yours for years. If a potential lawyer doesn’t inspire confidence when answering questions, find another one.
If you have divorce lawyer questions that need answers and you’re in the greater Huntsville, AL area, Charlotte Christian Law is the partner for you. Our vast experience and knowledge of the system can help you get the win you need in your divorce proceedings. Call us today at (256) 769-0508 and schedule a case evaluation!