You’ve come to the end of the road: your marriage isn’t working, and you want out. But you don’t know the first thing about how to begin the divorce process, or what the steps are between filing and finalization. So the obvious move is to find a divorce lawyer… but how do decide who would be best for you and your situation? How do you select one who will help you get what you want without emptying your wallet?
If you can’t get a recommendation from someone you know, look for the following qualifying traits and/or know the questions to ask for finding the best divorce lawyer to suit your needs:
1. Experience with family law is the key to success in divorce cases, so look for an attorney whose main focus is on family law. Would you go to a chiropractor if you needed heart surgery? No! So don’t hire a tax attorney or a criminal lawyer to represent you in a divorce, even if the attorney is someone you know and trust.
Best choice: A family law specialist who is well-versed on changing family law.
Key question to ask: “Do you keep up on case law and family law rule changes?”
2. It may seem like a good idea to go with a lawyer in a solo private practice, but you’re actually better off finding someone who works in a divorce law firm — one that has the capacity to find answers for all clients regardless of who represents them. Solo practice attorneys may be hard to reach when you have legal questions. Attorneys in a firm always have someone else who’s qualified to field questions if they’re not available.
Best choice: A firm in which the head partner is a certified matrimonial lawyer.
Key question to ask: “Do you have associates who can answer my questions if you’re not available?”
3. The ideal divorce attorney is someone who treats the issues of your divorce as important, addressing them with the same sense of urgency and seriousness you feel. This attorney will partner with you to ensure you know exactly what the next steps are and help you get your paperwork in order.
Best choice: An attorney who is willing to send emails, texts, scanned documents, and forms electronically in order to make sure the client has all the information as quickly as possible.
Key question to ask: “Are you able to send me documents and paperwork electronically?”
4. Last, but not least, your divorce attorney should demonstrate responsiveness. You should not have to wait several days on an answer or listen to a collection of excuses for why he or she didn’t get back to you. Even if you have a complicated problem that requires tracking down documents and case precedents, a good attorney will at least let you know he or she is working on a solution, rather than leave you hanging.
Best choice: An attorney who will answer your pressing questions quickly — even if that means communicating over the weekend — because he or she doesn’t want you to lose sleep.
Key question to ask: “How often do you communicate with clients during a divorce process?”