Tips on Hiring a Divorce Lawyer
It’s always tough to find the right divorce lawyer, but when you find yourself in the middle of life-changing marital strife, the task can feel even tougher. Looking for tips on hiring a divorce lawyer can leave you finding multiple pieces of information with potentially conflicting ideas. What’s the best way to find and hire a divorce lawyer? The first thing to know is for you to know that you are in charge of when and how you retain a divorce attorney. When sorting tips on hiring a divorce lawyer, it’s easiest to take a deep breath and start at the beginning.
The Logistics Depend On Who Wants the Divorce and Who Files First
One of the reasons filing for divorce can feel so overwhelming is because of all of the logistics and strategy involved. Initially, for a divorcing couple, there are many unknowns. Understanding how the logistics will work during a divorce depends on who wants the divorce and who files for divorce first.
For example, if the husband files for divorce and contests it, the wife will be considered the defendant. If she is served with court papers, she has a limited time to answer the paperwork properly. If she fails to do so or files an improper response, the divorce can possibly go through without her input.
This example works the same way if the wife files for divorce first. The person who files first may temporarily have the upper hand in court until proper responses are made. The person who did not file first, but has court paperwork served upon them, will have to respond at set times and in certain ways to properly navigate the process.
If one spouse wants the divorce, but the other spouse does not, then most likely, the one who does will be the one who wants the divorce to file first. If the other spouse is not aware of the actions taken by the first, it can be shocking to receive court paperwork served by a sheriff or other process server.
The person who files for divorce first is not under any time constraints to file, giving them more time to mentally adjust and prepare for the chain of events that come later. If you are the one to file for divorce, in theory, you will have more time to find the right family law firm before your spouse will.
Find a Family Law Firm with Experience
When sorting through the tips on hiring a divorce lawyer, you want to ensure that you only start with the law firms that specialize in family law. Many lawyers can handle family law cases, but not all specialize in them. Because of this, some law firms will have more experience than others.
When you begin interviewing lawyers, you want to ask them about their qualifications surrounding your case. While divorce proceedings all follow similar steps, different things can happen within each step based on what happens at each juncture. A family law firm that primarily works on family law cases will have seen and experienced far more scenarios and tactics used by the other party than firms with less experience.
Narrow Down Lawyers By Those You Can Afford
While it’s said you should always use the most expensive lawyer you can find, that doesn’t necessarily hold in family law. Other tips on hiring a divorce lawyer include scouting based on referrals from friends and family. Maybe you are friends with a family law firm that you trust. You should interview a few different lawyers to find the one that you feel comfortable with and is within your budget.
Look for Law Firms With Several Paralegals
One of the more unique tips on hiring a divorce lawyer involves finding a law firm that has more than two paralegals. Law firms with multiple paralegals may be slightly cheaper than those with only one or two. The fees for paralegals are less per hour than attorneys themselves. The paralegals are the ones who handle a hefty portion of paperwork and research. In this situation, if paralegals are doing a lot of the work, then the overall cost of the case could be cheaper, especially in situations where there is less conflict involved.
Try To Find Lawyers With Mediation and Collaborative Divorce Experience
One of the best tips on hiring a divorce lawyer involves specifically looking for lawyers who prefer to work within the realm of mediating a divorce rather than fully battling things out in court. Mediation can be cheaper and faster than dragging out a lengthy divorce case through the courts. When mediating a divorce, the lawyers involved, as well as a trained neutral third-party mediator, will sit down with everyone involved and work through one or more sessions to find a resolution.
Law firms who prioritize these tools to help divorce couples are genuinely looking to help ease the pain and financial burden that a divorce can cause. Other law firms may insist on dragging out a divorce case as long as possible. In those cases, know that it will always be more expensive. Collaborative divorce and mediation are two tools that help couples work through each side of the divorce process in ways that can ease burden, stress, financial strain, and help come to compromise faster.
Find a Lawyer With Child Custody Experience
Not all family law cases involve children, but many do. In those situations, one of the best tips on hiring a divorce lawyer that you’ll hear is to be sure to work with family law attorneys that have significant experience in working with child custody matters. Often, lawyers with child custody experience have seen and heard of situations in court that may also develop later in your case. They may also be able to give you advice that can help you work with your spouse as you move forward.
A child custody lawyer can be beneficial for parents or grandparents who may be interested in visitation with the children. Any lawyer in family law should be able to help you work out a plan for visitation. Still, child custody lawyers have the experience working in these types of cases that other family law attorneys may lack. If children are involved, it’s well worth adding a divorce lawyer with significant experience in child custody matters to your list of potential candidates.
Check Their Credentials
To be a practicing attorney in the state in question, the lawyer will have to be registered as a member with one or more professional associations for legal professionals, like the American Bar Association. You’ll want to ensure they haven’t had any criminal charges filed, complaints against them for potential malpractice, or any other complaints against them that have gone on unresolved. Additionally, they will have to have a business license in good standing registered in the state where court proceedings will take place. These credentials can be checked by looking them up in each state’s business license directory, usually available online.
Check the Reviews on Independent Websites
As you sort through the tips on hiring a divorce lawyer, one of them you should pay attention to is the need to check a lawyer’s reviews. While any business entity can have a plethora of blatantly fake reviews, either good or bad, it’s important to read through the majority of reviews to get a sense of whether these might be the lawyers you’ll want to choose to handle your case. After you read enough reviews for multiple lawyers, you might be able to start discerning major underlying problems rather than the surface-level, less important ones. Through this process, you’ll be able to start deciding which lawyer on the list might be better for your situation.
Check Their Social Media Offerings
In the day and age of social media, many law firms are using this as a way to reach out to potential clients. You can often get a feel of how organized and communicative a lawyer is through their social media postings. If they don’t have any, or if their posts are infrequent, it may be a sign that they aren’t taking their law practice as seriously as they should. It could also mean they are so busy solving cases they don’t have time to post. In all cases, you’ll want to avoid choosing law firms that appear negative in their responses to potential clients.
Prepare a List of Important Questions for Each Lawyer
As you begin to interview different lawyers, you’ll want to have a list of questions that are specific to your case. You’ll want to ask each lawyer the same questions. While the lawyer answers you, write down other questions that come to mind.
Some things you might want to ask about include:
- How many family law cases have they handled?
- What is their experience with contested divorces?
- What is their experience with collaborative divorces?
- Do they have any tips on keeping legal costs down?
- What is the retainer fee, and when is it due?
- What is their hourly rate, and do they offer a discount for payment in full at the start of the case?
- Do they have any payment plans?
- Do they have any experience with mediating divorces?
- What is their opinion on mediation in general?
- How long do they think the case will take?
- What is their experience with custody cases?
- What is their experience with child support cases?
- What is their experience with one party in the case not following court orders or missing deadlines?
- What is their experience with parties to the case who lie in court?
When the attorneys answer these questions, try to get a sense of whether or not the divorce attorney supports being 100% honest and transparent with the other party to the case. Some attorneys insist on it, and others do not as a matter of habit. Others only require transparency when the law requires it.
In some matters, you may have to disclose all things such as assets, debts, and other items. In other matters, such as a new dating life or new hobbies you’re exploring, you may not need to be too transparent. If the lawyer wants you to disclose certain parts of your life to the court, it’s perfectly OK to ask for a justification for doing so. The lawyer may be able to present you with a strategy or perspective you have not previously considered.
Consider Checking with an Estate Lawyer
Talking to an estate lawyer may not be the first thing that comes to mind when dealing with a divorce. Many people skip adding this as part of their tips on hiring a divorce lawyer. An estate lawyer helps with the division of assets, especially if there is a large estate. They can also help if one spouse wants to sell the house and the other does not. Many aspects of this are covered when people search for ‘ how to sell my house in a divorce‘ in a search engine.
It’s important to understand that if the house is jointly owned or if the property is considered marital property, or if you live in a community property state, there could be certain consequences to selling the house before the divorce is finalized. An estate lawyer can help both of you sort out which property should be kept, sold, or left to the children. Further, the estate lawyer can help create a trust to protect their inheritance.
Ask Lawyers If They Do Anything Else
It’s important to find out what practicing lawyers do outside of the courtroom. Many lawyers will offer services like reviewing documents and contracts or giving legal advice on extended but related situations. As your case moves forward, they may be able to recommend specialists that can help you or your children with therapy, notaries that work after hours, or medical professionals that are familiar with family court interactions. You’ll want to make sure the lawyer you choose can help you in the ways you need help as your case progresses.
You must work with the right legal team who understands your needs and will represent them in court for as long as necessary. If these tips on hiring a divorce lawyer help but still leave you feeling uncertain about which attorney is best suited for your case, consider the ones with which you feel most aligned. Do not choose the ones where something feels slightly off. The right divorce lawyer will advocate for your needs from the beginning.