It takes enormous resolve to admit to yourself that your marriage isn’t working, and to finally tell your spouse how you feel. Once the dam bursts, though, it can be difficult to stop yourself. You can feel an enormous sense of urgency to move as soon as possible and put an end the marriage.
However, the time after you decide to get divorced is exactly when you should slow down. You have important decisions to make at this point and they will affect your life for years to come. Many people end up with unfair divorce settlements because they hurried in the beginning and hired the first divorce attorney they found online.
While no one wants to change lawyers in the middle of complex divorce proceedings, roughly a third of all filers do exactly that. Their experience with their first choice of lawyer is that bad. Your choice of divorce attorney is crucial not just for the outcome, but also for the way the entire process is handled. When you have a good lawyer, the divorce process can be far less stressful for you and your children.
If you’re considering divorce, you want to do it right the first time. You only get one shot at this so don’t compromise or cut corners anywhere.
Here are some tips to help you make the right choice.
Find a Lawyer Early
Even if you aren’t completely sure that you wish to begin divorce proceedings, it’s a good idea to begin researching lawyers early. If things move quickly, you don’t want to find yourself scrambling.
It isn’t enough to simply try the top five lawyers listed on Google. Google is only able to rank lawyers on the basis of their marketing skills. Whether these people actually practice law very well is a different matter.
It’s a much better idea to ask other professionals that you may know, for recommendations. Ask your CPA, therapist, dentist, financial advisor, or your friends. Recently divorced friends might even suggest their ex’s lawyer.
You Want a Divorce/Family Law Specialist
The law and its practice are complex enough to challenge even those who specialize in a narrow area. It hardly makes sense, then, to hire a general-purpose lawyer. There are a great many changes made to the law and its practice on a regular basis. Only a professional specializing in divorce/family law would stand a chance.
Do Not Hesitate to Ask Plenty of Questions
The legal practice field is full of people with less than adequate training or dedication. Even if you have glowing reviews of a lawyer’s abilities, you don’t know the back story. The positive experiences could be exceptions. You can’t risk your divorce on assumptions. It’s important that you grill every lawyer on your list with meaningful questions. Try these questions:
- If I choose your firm, will you represent me or will it be someone else in your firm?
- Who will be assisting you in your case? Can I meet them?
- If I have questions at any point, do I get to contact you or your secretary?
- How long have you been in family law? How much of your experience is in this state?
- How much specific experience do you have with child custody, child support, alimony divorce settlements, and aggressive spouses?
- How many of your cases have you settled?
- What kind of retainer do I need to pay, and will I get a refund if there is an unused portion at the end?
Before you speak to a lawyer, find out if he has ever appeared in the media, say, in a celebrity case or on a news channel to explain a point of law. If there are media appearances, you’ll be able to look them up on YouTube and get a feeling for the way the lawyer works. In South Florida, for instance, James S.Werter of Werterlaw.com has numerous media appearances to his credit.
Write Everything Down
You can’t expect to remember everything you see, hear, and feel at the lawyer’s office. It’s usually a good idea to make a point of recording everything, with the lawyer’s permission. You can think more clearly when you listen to your recording at home.
At this stage, it’s important to trust your gut. If you feel comfortable going with a certain lawyer, you should. If not, you should keep looking.
Guest Blogger: Lance Estep is a retired attorney that still likes to keep his mind in the game. While enjoying his retirement, he also enjoys passing on his insights through blogging.