When navigating divorce’s personal and procedural complexities, having a skilled attorney by your side can be a lifesaver. But how do you find the right divorce attorney for your case? Not all divorce lawyers are equally equipped for all types of disputes.
These questions are designed to help you assess a potential divorce attorney's experience, expertise, and compatibility. The answers will give you insight into the lawyers' methods, communication style, fees, and overall ability to handle your case effectively.
What is your experience in handling divorce cases?
The more experience handling divorce cases, the better. At least 20-30 years of experience is recommended for the best results. Your divorce lawyer should have decades of litigation experience, even if you plan to go the mediation or collaborative law route. Most lawyers have little to no courtroom experience. You never know if you will have to go to trial, and switching lawyers mid-divorce can be stressful and complicated.
How many divorce cases have you successfully represented?
The more cases a lawyer has handled successfully, the wider the variety of problems and rare scenarios they have been exposed to and can solve. Every family situation is different, and your odds of getting what you want from your divorce increase with the number of cases the lawyer has won.
Are you a member of any professional organizations or bar associations?
An experienced divorce attorney can give you a list of professional memberships, certificates, bar admissions, education degrees, awards, and honors. A good divorce lawyer will have received recognition, served as a board member of lawyers' associations, specialized legal training, been involved in community programs, and been admitted to several legal bars.
Will you be the main attorney handling my case?
Most high-profile divorce lawyers have some level of help from interns, assistants, paralegals, associates, and partners. Make sure that the lawyer you hire will be the one working the most closely with your case. Otherwise, you may not get the experience, credentials, and quality of service you signed up for.
What is your approach to divorce settlement negotiations?
This question can give you a feel for how the lawyer communicates. Are they straightforward and clear in their answer? Do they use legal jargon that makes you feel inferior or confused? Do they brush over the topic with a vague and generic answer? If you don't understand, ask them to clarify. The answer should make you feel confident in the lawyer's negotiation skills, how the lawyer will handle your demands, and whether the lawyer can fight for what you want from the divorce settlement.
Are you comfortable taking the case to trial if necessary?
Again, you never know if you will have to go to trial. Even the most cordial break-ups can erupt into a courtroom trial when money and custody are involved. You don't want to risk paying the financial and emotional expenses involved in switching lawyers halfway through divorce because a lawyer isn't equipped to represent you in trial. So be sure your lawyer has extensive litigation experience and will take things to court if necessary.
Do you specialize in any particular area of divorce law?
Different lawyers have different sets of skills. It is best to choose a divorce lawyer specializing in an area of law related to your case. Specialties may include high-net-worth divorce cases, cases involving domestic abuse or substance abuse, special needs custody cases, child support matters, spousal support issues, domestic or international relocation cases, complex property division, same-sex marriage disputes, adopted child custody, and prenuptial agreements.
Will you be able to handle my case within the desired timeframe?
Divorce proceedings can take months to years. An experienced divorce attorney should be able to assess your case in an initial consultation and provide a rough estimate as to how long it will take. In addition, experienced divorce lawyers are in high demand. To provide quality representation, they must schedule their time to allow dedication to each client. If you have a specific time frame, ensure your lawyer's schedule can accommodate this goal.
What is your hourly rate, and do you require a retainer fee?
This question can give you a feel for how the lawyer communicates. Are they straightforward and clear, or do they give a vague, generic answer? If you don't understand, ask them to clarify. The answer should make you feel confident in the cost of their services, any fees the law firm requires, and the expected payment timeframe.
Can you estimate the overall cost of my divorce?
In addition to lawyers' fees, various court costs are involved with divorce. In simpler cases where the couple can communicate productively, and no unique concerns or circumstances are involved, the lawyer should be able to give a rough estimate of court costs and attorneys' fees. However, this is not always possible for cases involving more complex matters. Regardless, you should feel comfortable and confident in the lawyer's answer.
If needed, will you involve other professionals, such as forensic accountants or child psychologists?
An experienced divorce lawyer will know all types of professionals needed to help you achieve your goals in a divorce case. Such professionals may include expert medical witnesses, forensic accountants, business valuation experts, appraisers, vocational evaluators, child psychologists, and others who can help resolve the specific requirements of your case.
How do you communicate with clients, and how often can I expect updates on my case?
You should come away from your initial consultation with an understanding of how you will communicate with your lawyer. Generally, a lawyer should provide regular progress updates and updates on specific changes or case developments. Most lawyers will update their clients at least once a month. You should also be clear on how you will communicate with your lawyer. Find out whether you should expect to be contacted by phone, email, or in-person meetings.
Can you provide references from past clients?
Experienced divorce lawyers should be willing to provide evidence of their service quality and success. Always ask the attorney if they have any client testimonials or references you can consult, then follow through and do your research to ensure that clients are pleased with the lawyer's services.
Have you handled cases like mine, and what were the outcomes?
Be sure that the lawyer has handled cases similar to yours successfully. Tell the lawyer about your specific concerns and ask about their approach and experience in dealing with those concerns. Your lawyer may be willing to provide past client references or testimonials of past clients with similar cases.
How long have you worked in this jurisdiction?
Family court law and procedures can vary widely between states and counties. The more courtroom experience a lawyer has within the county and state of your divorce, the better your odds of a successful outcome. Lawyers with more experience in your jurisdiction are familiar with the judges, opposing counsel, laws, and procedures, allowing them to prepare your case with this preexisting knowledge.
Do you have any conflicts of interest that could affect my case?
A conflict of interest could derail your divorce case at any point in the process, causing you to start all over. Double-check that no conflicts of interest exist before hiring a lawyer. Examples include an attorney who has previously met with your spouse, a law firm representing your spouse, or an attorney in a business relationship that is connected in some way to your spouse.
How do you approach child custody and visitation issues?
If children are involved in the divorce, ensure that your lawyer has significant experience in handling child custody matters involving children of a similar age to yours. They should also have experience in developing parenting plans and visitation schedules that work for both parties, whether those parties can communicate effectively or not. Ask how the lawyer would propose you address custody and visitation issues specific to your case.
Have you dealt with high-conflict divorces, and how do you handle them?
High-conflict divorce involves numerous legal issues and procedures that low-conflict disputes may never encounter, including securing protective orders, temporary custody orders, restraining orders, uncovering hidden assets, and fighting false allegations. If your spouse tends to be dramatic, erratic, or highly emotional, you should select a lawyer specializing in high-conflict divorce.
Would you recommend alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation or collaborative divorce?
A good divorce lawyer will attempt to resolve a case in the most cost-effective, low-stress, and speediest method. If you are in a low-conflict relationship with relatively few issues on the table aside from property division and a working parenting plan, your lawyer should recommend that you resolve your case outside of the courtroom through an alternative dispute resolution method like mediation or collaborative law.
How do you handle confidentiality and ensure my personal information remains secure?
Personal privacy can be difficult to maintain during divorce. Court records may become public. Custody evaluators and child psychologists may scrutinize your home, lifestyle, and parenting practices. Personal information may be passed over the phone and computer. It is important that your lawyer understands and can clarify the law firm's practices regarding privacy and client security.
What is your strategy for achieving the best possible outcome in my divorce?
A good divorce lawyer should have a relatively clear-cut, proven approach to handling divorce cases and family law matters. This final question is a great way to get a feel for the lawyer's methodology and game plan for handling cases like yours.
It's best to meet with multiple attorneys to compare their responses. In addition to the answers, evaluate your trust and comfort with each attorney you consider. Feeling secure and heard when in the presence of your lawyer is vital since they will be guiding you through one of your most challenging periods.
Ultimately, finding the right divorce attorney requires thorough research and careful consideration. They will not only guide you through the legal process but also provide emotional support during this challenging time. Take the time to research and interview potential candidates to find someone who is knowledgeable, trustworthy, and compatible with your goals. The right divorce attorney will be your advocate, helping you navigate the complexities of the legal system and achieve the best possible outcome for your future.