How to Choose a Divorce Lawyer

How to Choose a Divorce Lawyer

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  1. Going through a divorce can be one of the most difficult events for a family to experience. The emotionally stressful process can often become more complicated when dealing with the issues of spousal support, child custody, and the division of assets. Trying to understand the legal processes involved can quickly become overwhelming. So how do you choose a divorce lawyer to whom you can entrust your family’s future?

    Finding a Lawyer

    When choosing a divorce lawyer it is best to look for one who specializes in family law, particularly if there are children involved. If you have had favorable dealings with an attorney in the past, you may want to find out if they are experienced in family law. If they are not, you can ask them to recommend another attorney who specializes in this area.

    Ask family and friends about their encounters with lawyers, especially those who have been through a divorce. Ask them what they liked and disliked about their attorneys. Would they use the same lawyer again if they needed one? Was the attorney equally competent in the emotional matters of child custody and the business matters such as division of assets? Most family law attorneys should be well-versed in both of these aspects of divorce proceedings.

    When couples have reached a point of desperation and are thinking of nothing but getting their divorce underway, hasty decisions are often made when choosing an attorney. With the incredible stress related to the divorce process, taking the time to find the “right” lawyer can be extremely beneficial. Make appointments with a few different lawyers for consultations. Since attorneys get paid for their time and advice, some will not see you without a charge, but may offer discounts for the initial consultation.

    Asking the Right Questions

    Decide ahead of time what questions you want to ask and write them down, allowing room to jot down notes and answers, from each attorney you interview. The questions you ask should address your concerns about choosing a divorce lawyer as well as your personal concerns about your case. Make sure you are up front about any issues that may complicate your case, such as you or your spouse planning to contest any important aspects of the divorce.

    Some questions you may want to ask when interviewing a lawyer:

    • How long have you been an attorney?
    • How much experience do you have with family law (if they are not a family law attorney)?
    • Have you handled cases similar to mine?
    • Will your current caseload allow you to dedicate enough time to my case?
    • How many divorce cases have you handled in my county?
    • What are divorce procedures in my county?
    • Are there likely to be any obstacles or problems with my case?
    • Would you recommend any alternatives in resolving the problems?
    • How long can I expect the process to take?
    • What is your hourly rate and how often will you bill me?
    • Will anyone else in the office be working on my case and is that an additional expense?
    • What can I do to reduce my legal fees?
    • What are the added costs I can expect in this case (copies, faxes, postage, phone calls)?
    • Are there additional legal fees I can expect in this case?
    • Do you have a payment plan available?
    • What type of approach will you take and why (aggressive and uncompromising or cooperative)?
    • How often can I expect to be notified of progress and updates in my case?
    • Address any personal concerns you have about your case.

    Selecting Your Lawyer

    After each interview, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each attorney by answering some questions:

    • Did the lawyer make me feel confident or anxious?
    • Did the lawyer take time to fully answer my questions and honestly address my concerns?
    • Did the lawyer listen?
    • Did the lawyer display sufficient knowledge of the law for my particular state and county?

    Once you have selected a lawyer, make sure you keep all lines of communication open. Establish all possible ways to contact your attorney: e-mail, voice mail, fax, and phone. Make sure you and your attorney are on the same page as to what procedure to follow when you are unable to contact her. Lawyers often have more than one case they are working on and may often be temporarily unavailable due to court appearances and client meetings.

    Always be completely honest with your lawyer and do not withhold relevant information that could affect your case. He cannot protect your interests without all the facts. Unexpected information suddenly coming to light during court proceedings could have a negative impact on the outcome of your case.

    Preparing Before You Search for a Lawyer

    Divorce counseling, a relatively new concept gives divorcing couples the tools they need to bolster their communication and negotiation skills to more successfully maneuver through the divorce process. It can also help couples accept the end of their marriage without the added burden of self-blame, guilt, and anger, especially when children are involved.

    Often by the time couples have reached a decision to divorce, the lines of communication between them have been broken. Divorce counseling offers a way for the couple to create “rules of engagement.” Until the divorce is final, they must remain united, especially when children are involved.

    Through the use of behavior-management techniques, couples essentially agree to disagree and set down rules for arguing. The hope is that the children will not end up being placed in the middle of their parents’ war. Divorce means the end of the marriage, but not the end of the relationship when children are involved.

    Divorce counseling can help couples prepare for the emotional roller-coaster ride of divorce. It can allow them to negotiate the important aspects, such as child custody, spousal support, and division of assets, before enlisting the aid of lawyers. Conflicts and legal costs could be greatly reduced.

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