Separation and divorce are usually very stressful. Many people find it difficult to make clear-headed decisions and end up choosing the wrong lawyer. Sometimes you don’t even need one!
Selecting a right divorce attorney is important if you want to get the best outcome of your case, save costs and time, have less stress for you and your kids, cost.
Many people change their lawyers during their divorce process, because they didn’t make a right choice at the beginning..
Our top divorce experts share with you their secret tips on how to find the best divorce lawyer and avoid mistakes during selection process.
~ I developed a unique perspective in the practice of family law while litigating family law cases and working through my own divorce. Traditional divorce encourages resentment between spouses. My experience with non-traditional divorce gives me the ability to provide my clients with support and compassion they need to work through their legal issues. I think outside-the-box to achieve positive results for my clients and their families—solutions that work over the long-term. Collaborative Practice and mediation are the focus of my work because I believe these processes provide lasting solutions. Because both parties agree to the terms of the settlement, the rates of compliance are much higher in the long run. Many of the techniques I have learned to work with and the conflict experience I have in divorce and family situations are transferable to non-family conflicts and I have opened my practice to include other types of disputes. http://westchesterfamilylaw.com/
The best way to choose a divorce lawyer is to focus your energy on the opening interview. While you likely have already chosen your process before this interview (Collaborative, mediation, or litigation), the lawyer can explain more here about what you will experience as you head down that path. Beyond that, however, it’s in your best interests to come prepared with questions for your lawyer.
It makes sense to clarify with a lawyer what their level of experience is with the process being chosen. You might want to know, for example, how many mediations a mediator has had as part of your selection approach. You might wonder if they teach or have personal experience in the area in which they work. While these may not be the deciding factors, they do allow you a window into the lawyer’s experience and commitment.
There may be other factors about the lawyer you are interviewing that you care about more. For example, you might wonder how much this lawyer cares about their clients, whether or not they enjoy their work or how well they work with their colleagues. These factors might impact their work with you even more than their level of experience or other more measurable considerations. The subjective nature of these questions brings a new question to mind: how will you discern this information given that a direct yes or no answer will probably not give you enough information—bearing in mind that I would certainly not consider working with a lawyer, doctor or any other professional who answered that question with a “no.”
Certainly, making a list of questions to ask and bringing it with you to the interview makes sense. Those questions can and should clarify the easily discernible information, such as experience, fees, communication styles, etc. as well as answer any substantive questions you might have about your situation or the law as it impacts you and your family.
- Can you think of questions you could ask that would give you the other information you want?
- How about asking the lawyer about a client they worked with particularly well and why?
- Or a situation they found challenging or intriguing?
- Can you think about what worries you most about the upcoming negotiation with your spouse and ask the lawyer how she might address that concern?
Questions of this nature will help you better understand the lawyer’s approach and style and might help guide you to someone who can best help you through a difficult period in your life.
Andrew G. Vaughn
~ Andrew G. Vaughn (“Drew”) is the CEO of NuVorce where he practices divorce law, he is also a Professor of Advanced Domestic Relations Law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Drew invented the only formula that predicts the cost of divorce while getting his M.B.A. at the University of Notre Dame. As a result, Drew owns the only divorce firm that can answer the question “what will my divorce cost?” Drew is also the only divorce attorney who has ever been named an Innovator by Crain’s Chicago Business.
Attorney rankings/honors are bullshit. I flag this for you because many people rely on attorney ranking or award websites when selecting an attorney. To be clear, this is not the bitter ranting of a spurned attorney. I’ve been honored by SuperLawyers, Leading Lawyers, and I’m ranked a perfect 10 out of 10 on Avvo. So if I’m the benefactor of these sites, why do I say these types of sites are bullshit? One public example: an attorney once created a fake biography for another “lawyer” in his law firm. This new “lawyer” was awarded a “Perfect” ranking on one of the attorney ranking websites. If a fake biography can achieve a “Perfect” rating, what makes you think the rankings of actual attorneys are any more accurate?
So if you can’t trust these types of organizations what should you do?
You need to ask one question: will this attorney add value to my case? To understand what is a value add in divorce, you need to understand the fundamentals of divorce law. Every divorce attorney on the planet will tell you that divorce is unbearably complex. That is a lie. Let me demonstrate. I can tell you how many issues you will need to address in your divorce case by asking just one question: do you have kids under 18?
If the answer is yes, then you need to address 5 issues:
(1) custody – decision making for the kids,
(2) visitation – who has what time with the kids,
(3) child support – income used to support kids,
(4) alimony – income used to support former spouse, and
(5) property – dividing your assets and debts.
If the answer is no, then you only need to address the last 2 issues: (1) alimony and (2) property.
So, if you want to determine if an attorney will add value: ask them what the likely outcome is for your 5 or 2 issues if you didn’t have an attorney – i.e. what the law would say the outcome should be. Then ask your attorney what, if anything he/she can do to change that outcome.
You should define the value that an attorney adds based on what they can actually change. And really aren’t results that the metric attorneys should be judged on? As a client, you don’t want to pay your attorney for trying really hard. You want to pay them to make a difference in your case.
If you take this approach, be prepared to piss off some attorneys. The reality is that most attorneys will not add value to your case and they will not like that you’re pointing this out. But that should be the first indication that you should not hire them. When you find the attorney that will add value, you’re set.
Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
~ Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network which provides valuable resources for parents who are facing, moving through or transitioning after a divorce. She is also the author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? For Rosalind’s free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, visit: www.childcentereddivorce.com.
Finding the best divorce lawyer for you is a major decision for anyone facing this life-altering reality. However, when you’re a parent, the decision is far more complex and significant.
In our culture divorce is looked upon as a legal battle between two parties with opposing sides. Legal battles are about “winning,” which means all effort goes toward not “losing.”
Sadly, parental divorce is more than the dissolution of a marital contract. It’s a highly emotional experience that deeply affects everyone in the family. Not all divorce attorneys approach divorce in the same manner. When you’re a parent you must not only protect yourself and your financial interests, but your children as well.
If you hire a divorce litigator, whose primary focus is “winning” through the courts, you are exposing yourself and your children to lengthy periods of stress, heightened conflict and the loss of power over important decisions that can affect your family for years to come.
That’s why so many divorce, parenting and mental health experts recommend choosing mediation instead of litigation. Many attorneys are divorce mediators who don’t approach divorce as a battle. Mediation is about finding a win-win resolution – a way for mom, dad and the children to have their needs met on a long-term basis. Collaborative divorce attorneys are another option for family-focused outcomes.
Mediators and Collaborative attorneys talk to both parents. They address all issues related to the divorce in ways that focus on compromise and cooperation whenever possible. Working in this manner Mediators and Collaborative attorneys create a mutually acceptable Parenting Plan that addresses the unique needs of your family.
The process sets parents up for meeting the challenges of co-parenting together on behalf of the children you both love. This is in sharp contrast to families coming out of lengthy, expensive, court litigation. That choice takes power out of your hands and sets parent up as adversaries. Ultimately judges, who know little about your family dynamic, make decisions that too often compound conflict which leads to anger, hostility and destructive parenting following the divorce.
Before choosing your divorce attorney, read the descriptions on their websites. How do they refer to the divorce process for parents? Do they stress litigation, collaboration or mediation? Ask questions that focus on your family’s emotional needs when discussing their services and processes. Whenever possible, choose divorce attorneys who stress the desire to resolve your divorce in the most cooperative possible way, encouraging positive co-parenting for your children in the years and decades ahead.
Susan E. Guthrie
~ Susan E. Guthrie is the owner of The Law Offices of Susan E. Guthrie, Specializing in Family Law and Mediation. Established in 2012.
After more than 20 years of approaching divorce from the more litigious mindset prevalent in much of the divorce arena, Attorney Guthrie is firmly convinced that the non-adversarial approaches to divorce provide a better, healthier and more productive outcome for the client in almost all cases. Engaging in a process that allows for self-determination and empowerment, rather than the passive role of the client in a litigated divorce, allows the parties and most importantly, their children, to move forward post-dissolution in a more amicable and cooperative manner.
The selection of your divorce attorney is truly one of the most important decisions that you will make in the divorce process. At a time when you are most emotional and perhaps having difficulty thinking clearly it is imperative that you select wisely in choosing your counsel.
Your attorney is the person who will guide you through the divorce process and who will give you advice regarding critical decisions for your family and finances. It is a very good idea to meet with and interview several family law specialists before you make your final selection so that you can get a feel for each individual and their style of practice. Some attorneys are more supportive, some are more aggressive while others are more focused on working in a collaborative fashion with your spouse in order to reach a more amicable settlement for the benefit of the family.
Try to consult with at least three attorneys prior making a selection so that you have an opportunity to find the individual that will work best for you. It is very common to get a referral from a close friend or family member but do consider that your divorce is specific to you and the attorney that worked well for your friend or family member may not necessarily be the best choice for you.
Try to identify your top priorities, such as parenting access or perhaps the disposition of the marital residence, before you meet with the attorneys for the initial interview. This will help guide you when you are interviewing the attorney at that first meeting.
Remember, you are the client and you want to find the best attorney to fit you and your unique situation. Your divorce attorney will be your closest ally in working toward an equitable settlement for you and your family so be sure to take your time and choose wisely.
~ Michael Hanasab, a partner at Jamra & Jamra, has been exclusively practicing family law since he graduated from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. Michael’s practice focuses on all aspects of family law, including dissolution of marriage, paternity actions, child custody, spousal and child support, domestic violence, highly contested cases involving custody evaluations and other related issues involving family law matters. Michael has a clients-practical resolution outlook and an aptitude for aggressive litigation when necessary. Michael’s versatile personality allows him to be a tenacious litigator while persevering in efforts to facilitate a settlement.
When you are looking to find a family law attorney to assist you in a divorce or any other family law proceeding, such as a paternity action or a domestic violence matter, I believe there are a few very critical factors you should look for.
First, and aside from selecting an experienced and knowledgeable attorney in the field, I think it is important to look for an attorney who understands you, your goals and the issues the matter most to you, whether you are a parent, in a long term marriage, short term marriage or same sex marriage.
You need to be able to relate to your lawyer during this emotional and often time complicated process and if there is inability to see things from the same perspective then your relationship may compromise your specific goals and the issues that matter most to you. I, as well as all of the attorneys at Jamra & Jamra, impart this message to our clients from the very first meeting.
Second and equally important is that your attorney should be resolution focused but also prepared to litigate if necessary. Family law can go one of two ways. Your attorney should be qualified and prepared for either way.
Finally, your options and solutions should be tailored or custom made to your life. Your lawyer’s strategy and approach should and must suited to your specific needs. Your unique circumstances mandate that you not follow a strategy that applies to all others. Often times, firms place all clients on the same “conveyor belt” of options and strategies. At J&J, we strongly believe in developing a custom made strategy for your unique and individual circumstances and family to achieve the results that matter most to you.
Dean Tong, MSc.
~ Dean Tong is an internationally noted author, forensic consultant, and expert witness, concentrating in the areas of divorce, child custody, abuse accusations, albeit, sexual or physical child abuse, domestic violence, et al, Parental Alienation, and Sexual Allegations In Divorce (SAID). Check his website at http://www.abuse-excuse.com.
Choosing the best divorce lawyer is in my opinion similar to choosing the best car for your money. But like a car that you would want to test drive before you buy it, you clearly will want to interview your prospective divorce attorney in person. You do NOT want to just visit www.lawyers.com and after talking to an attorney or two by phone retain one based on a 30 minute free phone consultation.
- Does s/he have a resume?
- Does s/he have a web site?
- Is s/he AV rated in Martindale Hubbell?
- Is s/he board certified in family law?
- How many years of experience (similar to miles on a car) does the attorney
- Does the attorney specialize in collaborative divorce (mediation), or is
s/he an experienced litigation trial attorney?
- If your divorce case includes children you want to glean beforehand from the lawyer does the state statute offer shared parental responsibility, joint custody, timesharing, et al relative to the kids and the other parent?
- Likewise, does the state statute offer periodic permanent or rehabilitative or block alimony?
It would be wise to google and fact check said attorney online BEFORE you hire her/him to make sure the lawyer has no bar complaints past or present, or ethical hits against her/his name.
No attorney will disseminate her/his client reference list to a new potential client, but you can check out www.avvo.com for attorney reviews and ask the attorney if s/he has successfully tried e.g. hotly contested and acrimonious divorces before.
Finally, my web site devotes an entire web page to tips to locating your dream team lawyer.
Joshua E Stern, Esq.
~ I’ve been practicing family law for about six years and own my own family law firm in Evanston, Illinois. I am trying to change the way family law is practiced by making it more responsive, client-focused, and transparent. Our website (jesfamilylaw.com, which is in the middle of an overhaul) is full of information to help client’s educate themselves about the legal process.
The common advice is to find someone you like and trust. Unfortunately, it’s hard to make that call during a 60 minute consultation. I would suggest clients ask the lawyer whether he or she charges the same hourly rate for every client. Attorneys are allowed to bill different rates for different cases, but it’s not in the client’s best interest. An attorney shouldn’t charge one client more for the same work simply because he or she earns more money. I would suggest that any attorney who sets their billable hour rate based on the client’s income is not sufficiently client-focused.
Todd A. Spodek
~He is a Managing Partner at Spodek Law Group P.C. Mr. Spodek’s practice is split between criminal defense, and family and matrimonial law. Throughout the years, Mr. Spodek has successfully represented his clients in custody, visitation, and support proceedings in Family Court as well as with pre-nuptial, post-nuptial, and highly contentious divorces in Supreme Court. Mr. Spodek has earned a reputation for being honest, straight forward and hardworking. He is known for obtaining results through strategic negotiations and at trial.
I think that you need to find a divorce lawyer who is empathetic to your plight, and will strategize with you to obtain the best post possible result within the parameters of your case. Whether this means litigating all issues, or focusing on the ones that matter the most and have the odds in your favor – taking into consideration the financial costs of litigation as well as the emotional costs of the litigation.
I would ask to speak to past or existing clients or speak to opposing counsel who can attest to their tenaciousness as a litigator and strategic negotiator.
~ an attorney mediator who specializes in divorce. Learn more about Eileen Coen at www.ECmediation.com
I suggest the first and most important tip is to first consider an attorney mediator. The process a couple chooses to use for divorce has a tremendous impact on the success of their divorce and the quality of their future lives. Attorney negotiations and litigation are the most intrusive, disempowering and potentially destructive ways to divorce. Mediation is the least intrusive process for divorce and should be considered first — it is always possible to pursue more adversarial means later if necessary.
Mediation styles vary depending upon the mediator’s background, experience and philosophy. Professional mediators tend to draw upon skills from their training in law and/or psychology which will influence their approach to mediation. Some use a directive approach and may offer opinions and suggestions based on experience, while others focus on organizing and clarifying information, guiding discussion and generating options for resolution. Still others aim primarily to promote constructive interactions and transform conflict through mutual understanding. Regardless of where a mediator is on the continuum, a skilled mediator will employ a broad range of techniques. Here are some of the characteristics you can look for during the initial consultation to determine whether the mediator has expertise appropriate for your situation:
Does the mediator…
• ask questions to seek clarity and acknowledge your concerns?
• listen closely and grasp what’s important to YOU?
• have command of the legal and practical information relevant to divorce?
• identify obstacles and options for addressing them?
• appropriately manage expectations about the time, costs and effort involved in succeeding in mediation?
• provide tools to guide and organize your discussions and progress?
• furnish resources and referrals as needed along the way?
• foster respect and safety to express different perspectives?
• encourage and sustain productive conversations – especially about those topics that are too uncomfortable or too difficult to address on your own?
• model effective communication skills?
• project optimism, creativity and confidence in problem-solving?
The bottom line is this: Does the mediator inspire confidence that he or she will give you the best opportunity to achieve an amicable divorce that works?
~ The majority of Meghan’s practice focuses on Freed Marcroft’s family law and estate planning and probate practice areas. She is particularly experienced with alternative dispute resolution, including arbitration and mediation, is a graduate of Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation, and has supplemented her formal legal education with advanced training in mediation. She is a member of the Connecticut Council for Non-Adversarial Divorce.
There are three main approaches to divorce – the default, litigation, plus the two alternatives to litigation, collaborative law and mediation. I recommend that you have an initial consultation with a law firm whose lawyers practice in all three approaches so that you will be able to get experienced guidance to help you select a process for your divorce.
The decision of how you want to go forward and work through your conflict will have impacts on your and your family for years to come. Each person, marriage, and family is unique and you don’t want to wind-up, for example,
in a litigated divorce just because the lawyer you met with only practices in that approach.
Instead, find a law firm experienced in the three divorce methods that is committed to learning about your family, your situation, and the things that matter most to you. Once a legal team understands your values and goals, they should be able to introduce you to all three options – mediation, collaborative divorce, and litigation – so that you can choose the right fit for you and your family.
~ Attorney at a New Hampshire law firm that has a busy divorce practice.
The best way to find a divorce lawyer is by getting a personal recommendation. For a matter as intimate as a divorce, personal compatibility with the attorney can be the most important factor. You want an attorney that understands you and what you’re looking for. Someone who has actually been through the process with a particular attorney is best-suited to help you determine whether that attorney is the right fit.
In the absence of a personal recommendation, online reviews can be a good start. If a client took the time to write a positive online review for an attorney even after spending what was likely a significant chunk of change, chances are they were pretty happy with the result.
Aubrey M. Connatser
~ Aubrey M. Connatser is known and respected across the state for her expertise in many facets of her family law practice. Her Texas divorce practice includes divorce litigation, complex property settlements, child custody and visitation, asset tracing, paternity determination, pre- and post-marital agreements, divorce decree modifications and collaborative law. She is diligent about settling family law cases, and she is highly experienced in the courtroom.
We always experience a spike of phone calls starting the day after Christmas and extending into the first part of the year. People often prefer to wait until after the holidays before they file for divorce, whether it is for the sake of the children, or due to the pressures of the holiday season or for other logistical reasons.
If a post-holiday divorce is the only option for you, it’s vitally important to do your research before you hire someone to represent you.
The worst thing you can do is hire an under-qualified attorney, because he or she could miss critical issues and handle aspects of your case incorrectly. Consequently, the attorney might be unable to give you the advice you need to maximize your bargaining power as the divorce process takes on the landscape of your assets.
9 Step Guide to Hiring a Divorce Attorney:
1. Only hire a board certified family law attorney. An attorney who specializes in family law and divorce will be far more knowledgeable about the minutiae, idiosyncrasies and relevant case law pertaining to divorce in your county and state. You wouldn’t hire a scooter mechanic to fix your BMW. Likewise, you shouldn’t hire an attorney who doesn’t specialize in family law to handle your divorce.
2. Do your research before you pick up the phone. To make sure any divorce attorney you are considering is board certified in family law In Texas, visit the State Bar of Texas website, click on the “Find a Lawyer” button in the upper right corner and verify information about your lawyer candidates by simply entering their names. You should also review the lawyers’ websites to learn more about their background, accomplishments and the types of cases they specialize in handling and consider doing a Google search as well.
3. Set out to find the right match for your circumstances. As previously noted, you don’t want to hire an attorney who isn’t qualified to handle the complexities of your case. Look for someone who has the background and experience that matches the size of your estate and the complexity of your issues. For example, you should seek out an attorney who has experience handling complex property settlements, if those issues are present in your estate. The same holds true for concerns pertaining to child custody, visitation and support.
4. Expect to pay good money for a good lawyer and avoid lawyers who offer free consultations. Be prepared to pay up front. Good lawyers charge for their consultations and for their time (FYI, that’s how you will be charged), and they expect to be paid. You should also be wary of lawyers who offer free consultations, because that’s a sign that they are trying to get people in the door, because they don’t have enough clients. It’s also important to know that while some law firms accept credit cards, many will expect you to pay for their services in cash, so inquire about payment options if cash availability is a concern for you.
5. Prepare a list of questions to help vet attorneys and prepare to file. The more you know about an attorney’s processes, services and fees, the easier it will be to hone in on the right divorce lawyer for you. We recommend asking the following basic questions to learn more about the attorney, their law firm and what you can expect during the divorce process:
· How long do they expect the entire divorce process to take? (Duration varies from county to county and also depends on the complexity of your case. While the attorney won’t be able to give you an exact time frame, he or she should be able to provide a rough estimate.)
· How much do they charge for their services and under what circumstances will you be charged?
· What paperwork do they need from you in order to understand what you need from them (may include documentation pertaining to bank accounts, trusts, taxes, property, retirement accounts, children’s schooling, etc.)?
6. Meet face-to-face before you hire a divorce attorney. We strongly encourage people contemplating divorce to meet with potential lawyers before hiring them. You need to meet any divorce lawyer you intend to hire in person first, because you can often learn more about a person face-to-face vs. over the phone. If they are going to be standing up in front of a judge, advocating for you and/or your children, and/or your estate, a face-to-face meeting can help you get a good feel for them and how they would present your concerns to the court. In most cases, if you like the attorney, a jury will probably like them too. If you feel uncomfortable with an attorney during the initial consultation, keep looking.
7. Personality matters. Look for compassion AND tenacity. You definitely want to choose a divorce lawyer who has compassion, but he or she should also have spunk. Divorces typically run more smoothly when you hire someone who can empathize with you during the process, but also has the drive and tenacity to advocate for you, aggressively if necessary.
8. Hire an attorney who thinks strategically. If you leave that initial consultation meeting and don’t have a clear direction regarding how the attorney will approach your case, you will probably feel confused during the entire process. Instead, you want to hire an attorney who you can tell upon first meeting them, knows there needs to be a strategy and a game plan. You are the client, so if you feel uncertain as to what’s going to happen next, or what steps the attorney plans to take to win your case, expect that the judge won’t be persuaded to rule in your favor either.
9. Get a referral and/or speak with references if possible. Most people prefer to maintain as much privacy as possible when it comes to divorce proceedings, however good family law attorneys are typically able to provide references you can speak with prior to hiring them. Ask to speak with a client who dealt with issues similar to yours. Speaking with someone who has walked in your shoes is really a helpful way to vet a lawyer.
Choosing a Divorce Lawyer Should Not Be Taken Lightly.
If you are thinking about divorce, know that the family law attorney you choose to represent you could have a significant financial and emotional impact on your future. Advance research and preparation will go a long way toward helping you find a divorce lawyer whose experience, capabilities and personality match your unique needs.
~ Cindy Holbrook is known as the Compassionate Divorce Coach. She supports women as they traverse the emotional roller-coaster of divorce to heal as they let go of the past and rebuild their life with less stress and more confidence, courage and clarity. Responding to so many women grieving the death of their marriage, Cindy created http://CoachingForDivorcedWomen.com that is jam packed with tips and techniques to educate and empower women during this difficult transition in life.
1. You are hiring an attorney to work for you. Don’t hire the first attorney you speak to, or the one that got Aunt Sally the deal of a lifetime. Interview several attorney’s before choosing one. Do your homework, and have a general idea of what you want the outcome to be. Some of the biggest divorce nightmares have begun with the person hiring the wrong attorney and then leaving the entire procedure up to him/her. Your attorney is a part of your team, remember, you are the one that is in charge here.
2. Choose an attorney who specializes in divorce. Divorce laws are complicated and you want an attorney who is up to date on all the laws in your city and state. Even though they may seem more expensive at first glance, in the long run they save you money because they understand the laws and are familiar with the divorce judges in your area. A general attorney, would have to do more research on your case, thus charging you for more hours of work.
3. Choose an attorney who has experience with some of the challenges of your case, such as dealing with a special needs child, domestic violence, other parent being out of state, being a business owner, you and you spouse as joint owners of a business and large division of assets.
4. Choose an attorney that compliments your personal beliefs and values. You can’t completely rely on the fact that the attorney got your Aunt Sally everything she wanted. If you want to take the high road, hire an attorney that does the same. If you are out for blood, choose an attorney that will fight for you tooth and nail. Word of warning here, remember that how you play during your divorce, may have a significant impact on the rest of your life, both financially and mentally.
5. Choose an attorney that understands you and respects your personality style. If you are a woman, and feel that your attorney undermines you for being one, then don’t hire him or fire him. Same goes for the guys, if you feel judged or threatened because of your sex.
6. Remember that your divorce attorney is only one part of your divorce team. To have the best possible outcome, you may also need a real estate agent proficient in dealing with divorce assets, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CFDA) a divorce coach or therapist for yourself as well as a therapist for your child. A divorce coach helps you with your emotions, so that you are clearer about what you want the outcome to be in your divorce.
Morghan Leia Richardson
~ Experienced in litigation and family law issues that accompany Divorce, Morghan is a resource on issues like Custody, Child Support, Father’s Rights and Marital Property issues, including asset discovery and protection. She was named a New York Rising Star by Super Lawyers in 2013 -2016 (Top lawyers under 40) and participates on the New York State Bar Association’s Committee for Women in the Law.
Find a lawyer that you are comfortable with – whether that lawyer is a man or a woman – because you are going to be disclosing your life to that person. Look for attorneys who also offer mediation or collaborative services because those lawyers tend to better understand and appreciate the art of effective fighting: when to fight hard and when to settle.
Ask which lawyer will handle your case. Is it the same attorney who will appear with you in court? Firms often swap out associates. This can be a cost saving strategy, but be sure to know up front.
Avoid lawyers who make false promises. When you ask, am I going to win my case? The lawyer should explain that many factors will come into play in your divorce that impact the result. Court is a gamble: you may look like
the judge’s dead-beat cousin or his best friend. Steer away from lawyers with inflated promises. In reality, when you think about it there is no such thing as winning a divorce – there will be a divorce at the end of the case.
*Myth of the Pitbull Lawyer*. I was once told by a prospective client that I’m not a big enough a–hole. Yet some of the ex-spouses that have sat opposite the courtroom from me would disagree! Every lawyer has different
nuances in their style and approach. A big, dramatic a–hole may come across like a pitbull who will get you everything in the divorce. But in reality, *no one gets everything*. And that pitbull attorney may *not* know
how or when to settle, which could cost you much more in legal fees or an unneeded trial.
My philosophy: you are already dealing with one a–hole (your ex-), why deal with another one by hiring a professional jerk?
If you are too nervous to ask friends and family for a referral, the internet is a great place to start. Sources like Avvo.com and Yelp.com are great because they help identify reputable attorneys – it can be really helpful to read reviews from past clients.
Don’t be afraid to call around and ask about pricing. Some questions to ask:
· Have you seen facts like mine before and how did you approach
· What is the best and worst outcome I can expect?
· The state law says XYZ about my facts, but how have the judges *in
my county/city* been handling that issue?
Scott C. Trout
~ Scott C. Trout is the Executive/Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer of Cordell & Cordell, a firm focusing exclusively on domestic relations. Mr. Trout practices all types of divorce, including complex asset and business valuation, in Missouri, Illinois and Georgia.
The choice of an attorney might be the most important factor in the outcome of your divorce. With such a large pool of lawyers to choose from, the task of researching which attorney is right for you can seem quite daunting.
Here is a short checklist to run through when beginning your search for a divorce attorney.
*Make sure they exclusively focus on divorce and family law.*
Attorneys can practice in many different areas of law, so you want to make sure the lawyer you choose focuses on divorce. You should also look for an attorney who specializes in child custody issues, if those are going to be
a significant part of your case.
*Choose an attorney from your local jurisdiction.*
Some attorneys are licensed in multiple states, but it is critical to select a lawyer with experience in your jurisdiction since laws can vary drastically, even at the local level. You want an attorney well-versed with the regulations in your area who has established relationships with local judges and officials.
*Ensure that your attorney has courtroom experience.*
Although the goal of your divorce should be to come to a fair settlement outside of court, you should be prepared if you have to go to trial. In that case, you need someone who has experience in the courtroom to help you
get the best possible outcome.
*Pick someone you mesh with.*
How well you get along with your attorney can have a substantial impact on your case. Try to find a lawyer whose personality and values you match with. That will make communicating easier and your attorney will likely
perform better if he or she has a clearer understanding of what you want to accomplish.