Choosing a divorce lawyer can be an overwhelming task whether your impending divorce came about suddenly or over the course of several years. Finding the right divorce lawyer will give you peace of mind, a source of stability, and consistency during a time when everything else seems to be changing. Emotions run high and the journey through a divorce is already difficult, so your lawyer should ease the burden by offering sound legal advice and guidance.
How do you find potential divorce lawyers?
There are several factors to consider in selecting a divorce lawyer that is right for you, including your priorities, price range and personality. Preparation on your part is also important when beginning the process.
Before you dive into the sea of Google results for “divorce lawyer,” remember that you will want to narrow down your options to 3-5 possibilities. While you may choose the first lawyer you interview, you’ll want to meet with at least three before making your decision.
The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) recommends the following when interviewing a potential lawyer, “Tell the lawyer about your situation. Take a list of your assets and debts and sources of income with you. A copy of the last several years’ tax returns can also help speed the discussion and make it more meaningful. A narrative or outline of the important events in your relationship with your spouse can also be helpful.”
The AAML also suggests making a list of questions to ask each candidate. During the interview take notes on their answers to review later. Also consider how the information was presented, how well each lawyer related to you and whether you understood what they were telling you. Questions suggested by the AAML include:
- How much property will I get?
- How much support will I get / have to pay?
- Do I have a choice of courts? Does it make a difference?
- Do you have associates or paralegals? How do you decide who does what work on my case?
- Are you reachable by phone? If I call and you aren’t available, how is my call handled?
- How much do you charge for travel time, secretarial time, photocopies, postage, faxes, long distance calls, mobile phone calls, supplies, computer use or anything else other than your time?
- What expenses do you pay from the money I pay you and what do I have to pay directly?
- Under what circumstances would you refund all or part of my retainer fee?
- Do you have any personal feelings about the positions you would have to take if you represented me?
- How often are you out of the office in court, at conventions, on vacation, and for other things? How do you cover my case at those times?
- How much do you know about the judge who will decide my case if it goes to trial?
- Do you think we can work together?
- Will you be available at the times that are convenient for me?
“When asking for names of lawyers, when interviewing lawyers, and when deciding which lawyer to hire, different things are important to different people. For example, a person of limited means may be most concerned about cost. Another person may require experience with a certain type of family law problem. Decide what is important to you and select accordingly,” says the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
Take time before interviewing divorce lawyers to determine what is most important to you. You’ll want to consider what you think the best possible outcome would be and how you would respond to a worst care scenario. If there are children involved, what is non-negotiable and where is there flexibility?
A tip from “Choosing a Divorce Attorney” on dummies.com says, “If you need help negotiating your divorce agreement, the ideal attorney is a problem solver, works well with people, is adept at compromise, and is comfortable in court. Although you and your spouse may have no intention of going to court, an attorney’s trial record and history of success in court can have some bearing on his or her ability to negotiate a settlement with your spouse’s attorney.”
If financial matters are the priority, the article states: If your financial situation is complex, the lawyer you hire should either have a solid understanding of the issues and laws that pertain to your divorce or work closely with other lawyers or financial experts who have that knowledge, such as a CPA or appraiser. Remember, negotiating your divorce agreement is as much about financial matters as it is about ending your marriage.
One of the major factors in choosing a divorce attorney is cost. “Before picking out any attorney, you want to know what kind of a budget you are working with. Depending on the firm, the individual attorney, and how specialized they are, rates for certain attorneys may be steep. Again, ask yourself what you hope to get of the divorce and hire an attorney that will be able to help you achieve it,” according to divorcenet.com.
You’ll have to determine how much you can afford to pay, taking into consideration whether you and your soon-to-be-ex can work through things efficiently or if you foresee a longer, drawn out process.
Miolla reminds, “…you need to realize that divorce is a legal process with the sole purpose of dissolving your assets and resolving custody issues. Your divorce attorney’s job is to represent you to the best of his or her ability in this process. While you might want them to listen to your anger, frustration, pain, and sadness, that is not their job. They are not trained to be your therapist or coach, and they don’t want to be. Since your attorney has higher rates and the clock is always running, it’s a gross misuse of your money if this is how you’re using them.”
The American Bar Association suggests the following qualities in a divorce lawyer-
“He or she should be someone who:
- gives you the confidence to talk candidly,
- listens when you have something to say,
- makes you feel comfortable about the divorce process,
- is willing to answer any questions, and
- discusses (on your first visit) the costs associated with your case, including fees for legal services and the costs of each procedure.
The characteristics highlighted above focus on one basic principle: At the heart of every attorney-client relationship there must be complete disclosure of confidential and often embarrassing information. Complete disclosure will occur only if you feel comfortable with the person you choose to be your attorney. Nothing good can come from having a misinformed lawyer or you misunderstanding the consequences of an action.”
The personality type that will best meet these qualifications will depend on your own personality and expectations. If you respond well to straightforward, no nonsense communication, look for a divorce attorney who is very direct. If you prefer someone to be more sensitive to your emotional state, find a divorce attorney who demonstrates compassion and concern.
Charlotte Christian has been serving clients in Alabama for more than 15 years. She is experienced and knowledgeable in divorce, military divorce, alimony, child custody and child support. If you are looking for a divorce lawyer in or near Huntsville, AL, Charlotte Christian wants to help you. Contact us today for a consultation.