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Hiring a Divorce Attorney

You’ve made the decision to get a divorce. Now it’s time to hire a divorce attorney. More than likely you’ve never had to hire a divorce lawyer; maybe you’ve never had to hire any type of attorney before. Divorce can be complex so the attorney you choose has to be knowledgeable and experienced in the area of family law. So where do you begin?

What are your issues?

Rarely is a divorce cut and dry. Think about the issues that may arise in your divorce case. If custody is going to be an issue you will want someone who has handled child custody cases before. If there are significant assets to be distributed, such as a family business you will need an attorney that specialized in divorce cases involving business valuations. These are just two examples of areas of specialty within the practice of family law.

What practice style are you most comfortable with?

When hiring a family law attorney it is important to find someone you are comfortable with and feel you can trust. Would you feel more comfortable working with a female or a male? Does their age matter? Do you want somebody who is very aggressive or more on the mellow side? These characteristics may seem trivial, but they all go towards your comfort level.

The initial consultation

Many attorneys offer a free consultation. You can take advantage of this opportunity to meet with a few different lawyers before making your final decision. Keep in mind that not all attorneys will offer a free initial consultation and those lawyers that do not shouldn't be overlooked during your search. The fee they charge for the initial consultation may be the best money you ever spend if it means finding the right family law attorney.

Knowing the right questions to ask when interviewing prospective divorce attorneys will go a long way in helping you choose the one that is best for you and your case. Here are some questions to ask when interviewing potential lawyers to handle your divorce case.

Experience
  • How long have you been an attorney?
  • Is divorce the main focus of your practice?
  • How many matrimonial cases have you handled?
  • What percentage of your cases are negotiated settlements?
Fees
  • Is a retainer required? If so, how much?
  • What is your hourly billing rate?
  • What is the associate's billing rate?
  • What is your billing policy if you and an associate are both working on a case at the same time?
  • If my case goes to trial do you bill an hourly rate or a flat fee for the time in court? Do you charge for travel time and if so is it your full hourly rate?
  • What happens when the retainer is used up?
  • Will I receive periodic billing statements keeping me informed as to how much of the retainer has been depleted?
  • Can you collect your fees from my spouse?
  • What extra fees should I expect such as court filing fees, process server fees, postage, messengers, stenographers, or similar out-of-pocket expenses?
  • Are those fees due up front?
  • What are your billing increments?
  • Can I pay your fee out of the money I receive from my settlement?
Specific to your Case
  • Based on the state laws what am I entitled to in regards to pension, child, support, alimony and equitable distribution?
  • Based on past experience what problems do you foresee arising in my case?
  • Do you have strong feeling one way or another regarding any of the issues you foresee arising in my situation?
  • Can you provide me with references? Some attorneys may not be willing to give references due to client attorney privilege, but it can't hurt to ask.
  • Would you say your style is more of a diplomat or a "Go for the jugular" type?
  • Do you know the attorney my spouse is using? Have you worked with them before? Do you get along with each other?
Miscellaneous
  • Will an associate be assisting on my case?
  • What is his or her experience?
  • What work would the associate do and what work would you do?
  • If my case goes to trial who will be trying my case?
  • What is your policy on answering phone calls?
  • What hours are you usually in the office?

Finally, wait until after you have interviewed several attorneys before selecting one. Leave your checkbook at home. At the end of the consultation you might feel obligated to leave a retainer. By leaving your checkbook at home you will not make any hurried decisions. Make sure you are totally comfortable with your selection, including fees, experience and his/her approach (style).

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Additional Divorce Resources and Information:

Directory of Attorneys Directory of Mediators Directory of Divorce Services Divorce FAQ's

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