Questions to Consider Before Hiring a Divorce Attorney
Walking into a lawyer's office, especially when your mind and emotions are occupied with a looming divorce, can seem intimidating. However, preparation will go a long way and ensure that you find a lawyer who best suits you and your situation.
When you schedule a consultation with an attorney, begin jotting down any questions you can think of that you'd like to discuss. Your time is valuable, and you should get as much information out of meeting an attorney as possible.
Having questions ready beforehand will not only help alleviate some anxiety, but it'll also help you assess whether the attorney is a good fit for you.
If you begin a professional relationship with a lawyer without asking pertinent questions, you may discover important facts later that leave you unhappy with your decision.
Preparation is key to finding a divorce attorney who's a good match.
You'll want to avoid hiring a lawyer who doesn't have time for you or your case. It will only create angst and frustration when you try to contact your attorney, and it takes days to get a response.
Take a list of questions to the divorce attorney’s office and check off the questions as you ask them. Pay close attention to the answers. It's important to get a good understanding of how your divorce attorney handles his or her divorce cases and how available he or she is to clients. You should be looking for an attorney with a philosophy that you agree with for your divorce and one who has experience with both contested divorce and dissolution.
One of the first questions most divorce lawyers hear is "How much is this going to cost?." While that is not an easy answer to give since each circumstance is different, it is good for you to know how your attorney expects to be paid and what fee structures are set up.
- How do you charge? A flat fee? By the hour? Contingency?
- What is a retainer and how does it work?
- When do you do billing?
With any type of fee arrangement, you should ask what costs and other expenses are covered. Find out if the fee includes the lawyer's costs and overhead or are those charged separately? How will the costs for secretaries or paralegals be charged?
You want to hire an attorney who has the experience and knowledge to handle your case. This attorney should also be comfortable in the courtroom but also willing to negotiate without the need of going to trial.
- How long have you been handling divorce cases?
- Do you specialize in any sort of cases of divorce or family law?
- Do you have courtroom experience?
- What percentage of your cases are divorce cases and what percentage of these cases generally goes to trial?
- What kinds of resources and expertise are available in your law firm? (Financial specialists, psychologists, etc.)
You'll want to look for a lawyer who tries to reach a reasonable settlement after analyzing all the facts surrounding your divorce. It's a good idea to hire an attorney who has experience with collaborative divorces and dissolution, which is the least painful and most economical type of divorce. By the same token, an attorney who has extensive courtroom experience is also needed if the divorce is disputed or results in a contested divorce.
Ask enough questions to make you feel comfortable with the lawyer's availability. Having a lawyer that is not easily available or takes several days to get back to you will only lead to frustration in what is already a stressful situation.
- What is your current caseload?
- What kind of timeframe do you anticipate for my divorce?
- Who in your firm will work on my case and who will I generally communicate with?
- When and how will I contact you?
- What's your general response time for clients?
Find out what makes this attorney unique to handle your case. Most divorce lawyers can give you legal answers but you want to make sure that you hire an attorney that will be with you every step of the way and get you to a better place.
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