When you are facing divorce, one of the first questions that comes to mind is “How do I find a good lawyer?” Knowing how to choose a divorce attorney who will provide you with the legal advice you need, at a price you can afford, and be the right fit for your situation, isn’t easy. Here are 7 tips to guide you in your search.
1. Decide what kind of legal service that you need.
While everyone who is going through a divorce needs legal advice, not everyone needs a $500 per hour big city divorce law firm on their case. In fact, most people don’t. As many who chose a high priced cirovce attorney will tell you after the fact, it would take days to hear back from their attorney on simple issues. Or a “junior” attorney often was assigned the day to day management of their case.
If you have a lot of assets, own companies, or have a complicated financial situation, then, yes, you are going to need an experienced lawyer who is equipped to handle a complicated divorce. If you have a short marriage, no kids, no real estate and are not dividing any retirement plans, then a lawyer may be able to help you resolve your case for a reasonable amount of money.
2. Ask around.
The absolute best way to find a good divorce lawyer is, was, and probably always will be, word of mouth. If you know someone who has been through a divorce in the past few years, and was satisfied with their divorce lawyer, get that lawyer’s name. If you know any non-divorce lawyers, ask them for a referral. Lawyers know each other. Your neighbor who is a real estate lawyer may be able to lead you to an excellent divorce lawyer.2. Figure out what you can afford.
3. Find a lawyer who is experienced in family law.
This is not the time you want to talk to your cousin’s boyfriend’s uncle who specializes in estate planning, but is willing to do you a favor and handle your divorce. You need a lawyer who regularly works in divorce. That doesn’t mean that you can’t hire a sole practitioner who does other things besides divorce. You just don’t want to hire someone who only handles one divorce every couple of years.
4. Decide what divorce process you want to use.
This is the FIRST decision you need to make!
You have to decide whether you want to use mediation, litigation, Collaborative Divorce or cooperative divorce. Then you can start looking for a divorce lawyer who is experienced in getting people divorced using that divorce process. In other words, you have to match the lawyer to the divorce process. Otherwise, you are not going to be satisfied with the result you get in your case.
5. Interview at least 2 or 3 lawyers before you choose a divorce lawyer.
Going to several different lawyers’ offices and telling your story over and over again can be exhausting. It’s tempting to want to just hire the first lawyer you meet. Resist the temptation. Take the time to meet at least two different attorneys.
Why? Different lawyers have different perspectives. You may get two very different views on how you should handle your case. Then you can choose the attorney who recommends using the approach you are the most comfortable with.
6. Make a list of questions to ask BEFORE you interview any one.
It’s normal to be nervous when you go talk to a lawyer, especially about something as personal as divorce. It’s also normal to be super-emotional when you are going through a divorce.
Both of those factors make it more likely that, once you are in an attorney’s office, you will forget what you wanted to ask… and you won’t remember until after you are back home. Making a list of the questions you want answered makes it much more likely that you will actually ask, and get an answer to, those questions.
7. Go with your gut.
The first factors are logical and rational. But, when you meet a particular lawyer your gut starts screaming “Run!,” do yourself a favor. Listen to your gut. If you are not sure what it is saying, here are a few hints:
The lawyer who is right for you will not make you cry. The lawyer will talk in words that you understand, and will not make you feel stupid or unimportant. If you leave an interview with a lawyer and don’t feel like s/he heard a word you were saying, that is NOT the lawyer for you.
Finally, trust yourself. If you walk out of a lawyer’s office and you have that kind of nauseous, uneasy feeling that you get when something is not right, then maybe s/he is not the right lawyer for you.How to choose the divorce lawyer who will be best for you? Use your head, but pay attention to your gut.
If you are interested in a free consultation on divorce issues including asset distribution, child custody, child support and alimony, contact MILLER LAW GROUP for an appointment. We provide family law services in King, Snohomish and Pierce county regularly. Our offices are located in down town Seattle. We offer services in other counties as our schedule allows.
Original content authored by Karen Covy, divorce attorney. (Content was edited.)
(Follow Karen Covy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KarenCovy)