When going through a divorce, it is important to make sure that you have the best legal representation possible. Even if your divorce is uncontested, complex legal issues can arise. Being able to get knowledgeable advice and guidance is invaluable and can keep you from making serious mistakes.
Don’t feel like you have to settle for the first attorney that you find. Instead, consider interviewing several different attorneys to determine which one is the best fit. Knowing what questions to ask before hiring a divorce attorney can make a real difference in the outcome of your case. During your initial consultation, try to get answers to all of the following questions:
Q: Do you focus solely on divorce cases or do you take on other types of cases?
Some lawyers take a general approach with their practice, handling cases that fall under many different areas of the law. Others are far more specialized, focusing solely on divorce and family law cases. As a general rule of thumb, it is always best to hire a specialist. Lawyers who handle divorces on a regular basis have a lot more knowledge and experience surrounding the specific issues that arise during these types of cases. As a result, they can usually give you far better advice and can help facilitate a smooth dissolution of your marriage.
Q: Approximately what percentage of the divorce cases that you handle wind up going to trial?
Oftentimes, divorces can be settled out-of-court through negotiations or mediation. If a large percentage of the cases handled by a particular lawyer wind up going to court, it could be a sign that their negotiation skills aren’t as good as they could be. At the same time, however, choosing a lawyer who has a lot of courtroom experience can be valuable if you expect that your case is going to wind up in court.
Q: Do you have experience working on cases that involve child custody issues?
If children are involved, you need to look for a lawyer who is extremely experienced with child custody issues. This is especially true if you and your spouse disagree about how the custody of your children should be handled. Child custody disagreements are often the most challenging part of any divorce. Having a lawyer on your side who is an excellent negotiator and who is familiar with this area of the law can go a long way toward helping you get a positive outcome for both you and your children.
Q: How are assets divided in your state?
If you aren’t already familiar with the laws of your state regarding the division of assets, you should ask your lawyer to outline how the process works. They should be able to walk you through the basics so that you can get a better feel for how ownership rights are handled in your area. That way, you can get a better understanding of what will happen with your assets during the divorce.
Q: How is alimony handled in your state?
Again, if you aren’t familiar with the laws of your state regarding alimony, your lawyer can provide you with an overview of what to expect with this part of your divorce. A lot depends on your current living situation and on how your income compares to the income of your spouse. Don’t forget to ask whether or not your lawyer has experience with spousal support negotiations.
Q: How is case-related communication handled?
Does the lawyer prefer to communicate by phone, by email, or in person? How often will they contact you to provide updates about your case? If you need to contact them about something having to do with your case, what is the protocol? Will they communicate with you directly or will they delegate the task to someone else in their office? Clear communication is essential when dealing with legal issues. Ideally, the lawyer that you hire should have a well-established system in place that makes it easy for you to know what is happening with your case at all times.
Q: How long do you expect the case to take?
Unless your lawyer has a crystal ball, they won’t be able to give you an exact timeframe for how long your case will take. However, they should be able to give you a general estimate so that you have a better idea of what to expect.
Q: What is your fee structure?
Some attorneys charge by the hour while others charge a fixed rate. Make sure to find out ahead of time how a particular lawyer bills for their time. If they charge by the hour, what is their rate? Do you have to pay that same rate if you meet with a paralegal or another staff member at their law firm? Do they charge an upfront retainer? Will they charge you extra if your case winds up going to court?
What extra fees will you have to pay? Some lawyers charge for photocopies or for sending letters to your spouse or their attorney. You may also have to pay filing fees with the court or other related expenses. Will you be charged for phone calls or emails? Do you submit your payment after your divorce is done or are you expected to pay as you go?
Ironing out all of the details regarding the fee structure ahead of time will help prevent any unexpected surprises. This is especially important in complex divorces since they often take months or years to resolve. During that time, the fees can really add up if you aren’t careful.
These are some of the most important questions to ask before hiring a divorce lawyer for your divorce. The process of ending a marriage is often quite complex. Depending on your situation, you may not only have to deal with dividing your assets but also figuring out child custody and spousal support issues. Having a knowledgeable, experienced lawyer on your side is the best way to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the entire process.