The last thing that may be on your mind when contemplating filing for divorce is picking your divorce attorney. You are hurt, confused and worried about your kids. But, this decision is one of the most important you can make during the divorce process. Here are some tips to help you pick the best one for you.
Avoid you uncle the tax attorney: Uncle Steve may be a terrific tax attorney who has helped many in your family with income tax issues. Your mother may be insisting that you use him for your divorce. But, unless your uncle also happens to have extensive family law experience, this is not a good idea. Simply being an attorney does not mean that you are well-versed in all areas of law. New Jersey’s divorce laws can be complicated and it takes a seasoned and experienced family law attorney to be able to navigate the system and represent you fully and appropriately. And, an experienced family lawyer in your county also has the valuable knowledge about your local court system, the judges, the court staff and the local attorneys, one of whom could become your spouse’s attorney.
Rethink a solo practitioner: Using a family law firm that is made up of attorneys dedicated only to the practice of family law comes with many benefits. The collective knowledge and experience that a family law firm brings to your divorce is vast and the collaborative environment that naturally builds allows you to have many experienced eyes on your case. Conversely, solo practitioners may be overwhelmed with too many cases unable to give your divorce the time and attention that it deserves. Phone calls may go unanswered and deadlines may be missed, leaving your divorce to languish and costing you more down the line.
Are you in sync? When you first met with the family law attorney, did they really listen to you? Did they give you enough time to convey your needs, goals and fears? Did they truly understand what you need to secure your future and the future of your kids? Attorneys must be aligned with you so that they can work on your behalf to achieve your goals. Attorneys that seem overly concerned with fees or simply want to discuss their resume may not be a good fit. Also, you need an approach that fits your family. If you believe your divorce can be negotiated, you do not want a pitbull who is going to rile up the situation for no reason. Likewise, if your spouse is wholly unreasonable and their attorney is aggressive, then you need an approach that is just as strong.
Are they willing to negotiate? If the attorney you meet with insists off the bat that mediation or collaboration is not for your, reconsider hiring this lawyer. An experienced family law attorney knows that mediation and negotiation is actually in everyone’s best interests in the vast majority of cases. In fact, the New Jersey court system strongly favors and encourages couples to work out their own issues and come up with their own marital settlement agreements. During the divorce, many opportunities are given to couples to negotiate and compromise with an eye to settlement, including mandatory participation in the Early Settlement Panel and economic mediation sessions. An attorney that dismisses negotiation is either inexperienced, short sighted or interested in the high fees that come with a divorce trial over representing your best interests.
In the end, trust your gut. Don’t go with the first attorney you meet with; it is not a good idea to rush when making this important decision. Remember that you are interviewing them and you need to feel confident, comfortable and assured that your kids are protected and your interests are best served.
Our attorneys here at Weinberger Divorce &Family law group really understand how important selecting an attorney is and we welcome you to come in for a free confidential consultation when you are ready.