An Ounce of Prevention: Choosing an Attorney
The legalities of divorce are a foreign language. The vast majority of us didn’t plan on being divorcees; we’ve had little to no experience with the legal ins and outs associated with the divorce process. Arming yourself with the best team possible will provide you with a quick and fair process, unlike the stories you’ve heard of emotional, drawn out financial nightmares. Choosing an attorney is the most important step.
There are many lawyer fish in the sea – let’s help find the one that’s right you.
Here are a few things to consider when you’re choosing an attorney:
Your divorce attorney’s entire focus is to dissolve your assets, resolve custody issues, take care of paperwork and deadlines, and handle all the other tricky logistics of your divorce. Interactions will be business related. Don’t take it personally when your attorney isn’t interested in listening to your stories of pity, bitterness or anger. Your attorney is not there to tell you that you’re the good guy and make you feel like the winner. Your attorney’s job is to make the process quick, painless, and hopefully as inexpensive as possible.
Attorneys have track records. Ask them for their history in the courtroom: successes, failures, what they’re the most proud of, what they could have done better. Treat it like a job interview and you are the employer. Compare attorney statistics just as you would a flight or a hotel. If they can’t provide their history, their response to the question will tell you a lot about the type of lawyer they truly are.
The best way to show a judge you know your stuff is to be prepared in the courtroom (or in mediation). Your attorney should also be fully prepped and organized. Make sure you’re choosing an attorney who is willing to work as a team and is someone you’ll feel comfortable working with closely.
Response time can make or break trust in a professional relationship. You want someone who is going to be available for you when you have questions regarding your case. Explain your expectations to a prospective attorney and agree on an acceptable time frame before you hire. Keep an open line of communication throughout the process and you’ll avoid a lot of unnecessary anxiety and headaches.
Choosing an attorney who practices family law will increase your chances of success significantly because this is their area of competence. Even if you have an attorney friend or acquaintance willing to represent you, you’d be taking a huge risk if they don’t specialize in family law. It would be better to ask these friends for referrals for family law practitioners.
Attorneys aren’t known for being cheap, that’s for sure. In addition to choosing an attorney who seems competent and trustworthy, you also have to find one you can afford. If your budget just won’t stretch, talk to them, and see what they are willing to do. Also, contact a local legal aid office. You may qualify for free legal help. Do you research. Devote some time to this – it’s important. Your divorce process doesn’t have to bankrupt you and take all of your strength and energy.
For help finding the right attorney for you, check out our article on this topic.