When your marriage seems destined for divorce, it is important to start preparing yourself for the process. From a practical standpoint, this may include putting aside some money in an emergency fund, compiling a list of your assets and debts, and, possibly, looking for a new place to live. Your preparations should also include a search for a reliable divorce attorney to help you through proceedings. Going through a divorce without a lawyer can be dangerous and could end up costing you more than you might expect.
To find an attorney, you will want to compile a list of possible candidates, perhaps taking recommendations from friends and loved ones. As you go through your list, reach out to each firm with a list of concerns that will help you narrow down your choices. For example, the attorney you choose should be able to provide satisfactory answers to questions such as:
- How long have you been practicing handling divorce and family law cases? An attorney with significant experience is likely to have a firm grasp of the process and can provide valuable insight along the way.
- What percentage of your practice is devoted to divorce and family law? Some firms handle divorce and child-related matters exclusively, while others only take a small number of such cases each year. Are you content to have an attorney who primarily handles personal injury cases, for example, managing your divorce?
- How many cases does your firm handle at a time? You need to be sure that the attorney you hire will have time to devote to your case. If the firm is overloaded with cases, some—possibly yours—may get pushed to the back burner.
- Who will be handling my case? It is not uncommon in some firms for a paralegal or associate to most of the work on a particular case only to have a partner put his or her name on all the paperwork. You deserve to know how your case will be treated within your lawyer’s office.
- What will I be charged for? How a firm handles its billing practices is a major concern when choosing a divorce attorney. You should clearly understand if your lawyer charges by the hour, what fractions of an hour, and what constitutes billable time. Are phone calls and emails charged at the same rate as in-person meetings? With a clear fee structure, you could rack up thousands of dollars in unexpected expenses.
- How many of your divorce case settle and how many go to trial? Some attorneys take pride in settling every case outside of court. Others take pride in never settling. Most, however, fall somewhere in between. An attorney who settles most of his or her cases may possess strong negotiating skills, but it could also be a sign that he or she gives in too easily. You will need to decide what is best for your unique situation.
Of course, you will probably have dozens of other questions for a prospective divorce attorney, and these are just a few of the most common.