How To Choose A Divorce Lawyer

So you need to choose a divorce lawyer, but don't know how to get started. Before you hire the first lawyer listed in the yellow pages, take some time to figure out what you want from an attorney and how you want your case to be handled. The article below will shed some light on the process and give you some tips on finding the best lawyer for you.

Advice to Help You Decide on a Divorce Lawyer

It can feel intimidating to talk to a lawyer. I've learned the hard way that if your lawyer can't explain things to you as if you are a smart 14-year-old, you should find a lawyer who can. A lawyer is supposed to make your life easier, not more stressful.

Need help choosing a divorce lawyer?

Your first step in your quest to choose a divorce lawyer is to ask your family, friends or acquaintances. Ask why they like him or her and what the lawyer did for them. If you're consulting a lawyer about a divorce or estate planning, it's important that he/she has experience in these areas of expertise. 

Credentials count, but this is about more than education and experience. The law is complicated enough; you need someone who can explain things to you in addition to being qualified to advise you.

In the event of divorce, you will be working closely with the lawyer. You want things explained clearly to you because you'll be emotionally upset. A lawyer's jargon and lack of ability to communicate clearly will upset you even more.

Before you choose a divorce lawyer, phone the office to ask if the lawyer will give you an introductory meeting at no cost. This allows you both to get a sense of whether you can work well together.

For example, I couldn't work with a lawyer who is patronizing. I need someone to give me information, explain all the options, show me the pitfalls, and outline the costs. Many lawyers think that reassuring and protecting a woman is doing her a favor. I call that the 'Don't worry about a thing, dear' attitude that keeps women from being able to make decisions. On the other hand, many women just want their lawyer to take care of everything. I'm not one of them.

Before Your Initial Consultation

Write out a list of your own questions. You can also include the following process questions to get started:

  1. Given your circumstances, what are the various options? 

  2. Is there any specific information the lawyer will need to begin your case? 

  3. What is the process for handling a case like yours? 

  4. Has the lawyer handled similar cases in the past and how many? 

  5. Does the lawyer practice exclusively in Family Law? 

  6. Can the lawyer give you an estimate of how much your case will cost and the method of billing for services (by the project, hour, or retainer)? 

  7. How long does the lawyer think your case will take? 

  8. Who will be handling your case, the lawyer or a paralegal? 

  9. If others will be involved in the work, can you meet with them also?

Remember, every question is a legitimate one. There are no silly questions. You just need to have the question answered before you choose a divorce lawyer to represent you.

Before The Second Meeting

Now that you've met and had the process questions answered, save time and money by organizing information your lawyer said would be needed.

Go in again with a written set of questions.

Take a tape recorder with you. Why? Because it's hard to remember all the things your lawyer says. It's like going to the doctor. You don't go when things are fine. You go when there is a problem, when your emotions are high or you're not feeling well. A tape recorder means you don't have to rely on your memory at a time when your memory may let you down.

Try to remember that a lawyer is only a person like you with extra training in legal education and procedure. What you are paying for is his/her information, skill and time. You are the client and your lawyer is providing a service you are buying. 

Article by Helga Hayse, an award winning journalist who helps women understand and gain control of their financial lives through her books and website at Financial Intimacy

The following articles also provide information on how to choose divorce lawyer, as well as how to control the costs of your divorce.