Choosing Your Divorce Lawyer
(Questions to Ask)
Hiring a divorce lawyer is a big decision. Your sanity and finances may rest on this person's shoulders for many months (or years) to come. Don't hire the first person you see. It may be well worth the cost to pay for consultations with three (or more) lawyers until you find the one that you will be comfortable with and will treat you right.
One question I find often neglected is “who is the lawyer on the other side.” (If known or if it can be found out.) You DO NOT want to hire a lawyer who hates the lawyer on the other side. This adds an additional level of messy conflict. (We want them to be able to "play" well together.) Likewise, if the other side is using a lamb, you want a lamb too. (Works out best in the end.) And, if the other side is using a shark, sadly, you need a shark too. Finally, if the husband is being an ass, it may be wise for the wife to hire a male lawyer. (This gender dynamic doesn’t usually play out the other way. When the wife is being an ass she is just as likely to act up with a male or female on the other side.)
At the end of this article, I include links to three articles that discuss this topic. Using these articles, and my own experience, I created the following list of questions to ask a potential divorce lawyer, before you hire him/her.
· How often can I expect updates from you?
· How long do you think my case will take?
· Do you have an assistant or paralegal that I will work with regularly?
· What is the best way to get in touch with you?
· How much experience do you have with going to trial?
· What is your hourly rate?
· What is your paralegal's hourly rate?
· What percentage of your practice is family/divorce law?
· How long have you been practicing family law?
· How many family law cases have you handled?
· How big is your current caseload?
· How many people in your office will be working on my case? Can I meet them?
· Do you have any vacations (or time-off) planned for the next year?
· If you are out of the office, who will I talk to?
· Do you answer your phone on weekends?
· What costs can I expect to pay while working with you?
· What is your approach (strategy) to divorce cases?
· Do you practice collaborative law?
· How long do you take to return phone calls?
· How can I get a hold of you if there is an emergency?
· What do you consider an emergency?
· What is your retainer? At what point will I have to replenish the retainer? Is any part of the retainer refundable?
· Do you usually settle divorce cases with the other lawyer or during mediation? (Along with what percentage of your cases go to trial?)
· What Is the average cost of divorce for your clients?
· What other costs should I expect to pay (PIs, forensic accountants, vocational rehabilitation experts, etc.)?
· Ultimately, how much is this case going to cost? Keep in mind an honest attorney will not want to tell you how much your actual divorce will cost as there are so many variables. However, this is an important question to ask as it will help you size up the attorney.
· Do you encourage/allow me to negotiate directly with my spouse?
· How can I keep my costs down?
· Are there tasks I can do myself to keep costs down?
· Post-divorce what are the things I will have to do? (File deeds, separate retirement accounts, notify insurance companies, re-do my will, etc.)
· Based on what I have told you, if we could get in front of a judge tomorrow, what do you think the judge would rule? (Can you give me my best-worst case scenarios?)
· Can you explain the tax effects of the decisions I will have to make?
· Are you Board Certified in Family Law?