CONSIDERATIONS BEFORE HIRING YOUR DIVORCE ATTORNEY.

If you are planning to hire an attorney for your divorce, you have what seems like unlimited options.  Without a trusted referral, this decision can be especially overwhelming.  Not all attorneys are the same.  Some attorneys are general practitioners, and some attorneys focus on one or maybe two areas of law to become experts in. 

Attorneys vary in experience levels, personalities and practice styles.  Firms that attorneys work at vary in size, case management arrangements, billing policies and overall vibe.  Some attorneys offer free consultations, and some do not.  It is imperative that you feel confident and comfortable with the attorney you hire to guide you through the difficult and personal divorce process.

While there is no exhaustive list of “must-ask” questions for a divorce consultation, this article provides you with a good starting point.  It is also my goal to give you ideas for other topics you will want to address, as every divorce, and every family, presents unique issues and circumstances.

  • Will you or another attorney from your firm be handling my case?
  • What type(s) of law do you practice?  How much of your practice is devoted to family law and divorce?
  • How long have you been practicing family law and divorce?  Approximately how many divorce cases have you handled start to finish?
  • What is your experience in the County where my divorce will be located?
  • Do you know my spouse’s attorney?  If so, what is your relationship?  Have you worked well together in the past?
  • What is your practice style?
  • What share of your cases settle and what share go to trial?
  • What can I expect as far as communication with you and your firm?  What is your preferred method of communication?  If I send you an email or leave you a voicemail, how long can I expect a response to take?
  • How does your firm handle billing?  What is your hourly billing rate?  What type of retainer do you require?  Do you take credit card payments?  Will I receive itemized billing statements and how often?  What type of work can I expect to be billed for?  Do you anticipate any costs associated with my case (i.e., filing fees, service of process, expert fees, etc.)?
  • How do your total fees in cases generally compare with opposing counsel?
  • Have you ever been disciplined for attorney misconduct?

If your case involves an issue that is not regularly presented in divorces, be sure to raise this during the consultation and ask about the attorney’s experience with that issue.  For example:

  • Self-employment income
  • Significant and complex assets (i.e., trusts, pensions, business ownership, stock options, unvested employee benefits, rental property, etc.)
  • Non-marital property claims and tracing
  • A request by a parent to move out-of-state with the children
  • Long distance parenting plans
  • Gray divorce
  • Same-sex divorce
  • Disabled children or adult children
  • Domestic violence
  • Mental health concerns
  • Addiction
  • Parental Alienation
  • A third-party intervenor such as the County or a grandparent requesting visitation

Also take note of:

  • Whether you feel comfortable talking with the lawyer.
  • Whether there may be advantages or disadvantages to hiring a male or female lawyer for your case.
  • Whether you feel the lawyer is clearly communicating with you and answering your questions.
  • How soon the lawyer was able to meet with you upon your initial inquiry.
  • Whether you feel the lawyer has your best interests (and the best interests of your children) in mind.
  • Whether you feel the lawyer is genuinely interested in you and your case.
  • Whether you feel the lawyer is telling you what you want to hear or setting realistic expectations.

At Baer Family Law, PLLC, I am prepared to discuss all of these questions—and any additional questions and concerns—you may have during a free, confidential consultation to ensure that you feel comfortable and prepared to make the very important decision of which attorney you will hire to help you through a divorce. 

Authored by: Rebecca R. Baer, Esq.

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