If you find yourself in an unhappy or unhealthy marriage, a divorce can dissolve your legal union and give you a fresh start. While the process is never fun and rarely cheap, there are a few things you can do to make navigating the process easier, but none is more important than finding a quality lawyer to represent your personal and financial interests.
Working with the right lawyer can reduce the stress, time and even expense associated with ending your marriage. They can also help you procure a fair divorce settlement. To get your search for the right lawyer started and your divorce one step closer to being finalized, there are a few things you can do.
Your first and best option is to ask friends and family members if they have any recommendations for a lawyer, as they can provide personal insight that no other source can match. Ask them what traits they liked in the attorney and which characteristics they disliked. Were they satisfied with the ultimate outcome of the case?
Another place to check for potential lawyers is an online review sites such as Lawyers.com. You can view the names, ratings and information of various lawyers in your area within minutes. Take time to read over the reviews for nearby lawyers. Are there any similar complaints that keep cropping up in reviews? How does the attorney address complaints? Ideally, the lawyer should respectfully reply to negative reviews, as this shows that the attorney values client satisfaction.
If you’ve previously worked with a lawyer for non-divorce-related issues (like fighting a traffic ticket or creating a will) and were pleased with your experience, ask this attorney if they can recommend a divorce lawyer. They can often suggest attorneys who have a history of providing solid legal counsel.
Look for Lawyers Who Fit Your Divorce Needs
Every couple’s divorce is different, and you should ultimately let your divorce’s unique needs influence what type of divorce attorney you use. If you and your partner disagree on nearly every aspect of their separation, for instance, you should seek out a lawyer with experience in more contentious cases.
You may have just a few issues that you strongly disagree with your spouse about. Perhaps you want your spouse to live nearby so you can continue to regularly see your children, or maybe you have some household possessions that you want to keep because they have a lot of emotional significance for you. You may benefit from a more aggressive attorney who takes pride in achieving difficult negotiations for their clients. Remember: The longer your divorce takes, the higher the financial costs and their impact on your mental health may be.
If you and your spouse agree on most elements of your divorce, then an aggressive lawyer may be less important. Instead, your goal should be finding one knowledgeable enough to guide you through the process as quickly and painlessly as possible. Depending on your situation, it may even be helpful to find one with a background in family mediation. Just be aware that not every divorce that seems like it will be amicable actually ends up that way.
Gather a Short List of Attorneys and Schedule Consultations
Once you’ve identified what you need from a lawyer. Don’t settle on the first lawyer you find; instead, take the time to interview at least a few prospective divorce lawyers. Most attorneys offer free consultations, and you can use those meetings as a way of seeing if you and the attorney are on the same page. As the attorney inquires about your legal needs and learns about your situation, you can learn about them. Do they explain things in simple terms? Do you have the attorney’s full attention? The way the attorney treats you during your consultation is a great indicator of how they’ll treat you throughout your divorce process.
You should also use the consultation to learn about the attorney’s
. It’s common for divorce attorneys to charge for their services via an hourly rate, but many also require an initial retainer fee when you hire them, which goes towards your legal expenses. Depending on the complexity of your case, you may have to make additional payments if your expenses exceed the retainer. You should also learn if they have a minimum billable time for their services.
Pay attention to your intuition. If an attorney seems like an excellent option on paper but feels like a bad fit in person, go with your gut. You’ll be working with the attorney during a highly emotional time, so it’s important to make sure you pick someone you feel at ease with.