The following is a list of common and frequently asked questions about Family Law Firm and Divorce Lawyers in New Jersey.
When you are going through a divorce or family law matter, it’s a given that you will have many questions regarding your legal situation. We understand that each family and legal issue is unique. While laws may be static, your questions and concerns are not. If you’d like to ask a question that you don’t see here in our FAQ section, please see our Ask Your Question page to ask your questions about divorce or family law.
Please note that our answers fall under New Jersey jurisdiction and may not apply to you should your family law or divorce legal issue be located out of the state of New Jersey.
How do I find the best divorce attorney for me?
Finding the right divorce lawyer is such a personal decision. What you need to understand is that you have to have absolute confidence and trust in this person’s ability to take on your most personal and intimate interests. Not only your finances, but your children. What could be more personal? So, go meet with the prospective attorney and make sure that that person is well equipped on the issues of family law. Make sure that that person’s every day is dedicated to family law and divorce related issues. After all, you want to make sure that this is their specialized trade. You want to make sure that they deal with this issue day in and day out and they understand the nuances necessary to handle your specific issues. You also want to make sure that they understand what is important to you and that they’re listening to what your objectives and your goals are. So go and meet with the person if it’s possible. You want to know if this attorney is someone that you just get a good vibe from. Is this someone who you can just sit down and talk to? Is this someone who is going to have your best interest at heart? And is this someone who’s going to fight for you and your family?
Get the answers to your questions about family law or divorce attorneys, from how to choose a good divorce lawyer to terminating and even writing reviews.
How do I find a good family law or divorce attorney?
Finding an attorney that is a good fit for you and your case deserves some investigation. Does he or she specialize in family law? Are they familiar with the courts in your area? Do they have experience in the areas of law that mean the most to you, such as custody of your children or division of complex assets? Especially important, is your comfort level with the prospective attorney. Did he or she give you enough time to explain your issues and what is important to you? Is the attorney’s approach to your matter too aggressive or too passive?
You can also research a particular attorney on websites such as Avvo.com, which can provide you with client reviews and ratings and whether or not an attorney is in good standing with the bar. It is essential that you feel comfortable with your prospective attorney and their experience and methods.
How can I find out if a divorce lawyer is in good standing?
You can find information about any attorney licensed to practice law in New Jersey by visiting the New Jersey judiciary website and searching their New Jersey Attorney Database. Information includes the attorney’s dates of admission to practice law and whether they are in in good standing with the bar.
How do I terminate my lawyer in writing?
It may not be necessary to fire your attorney in writing. However, if your retainer agreement (contract with the attorney) does specify that you must let the attorney know in writing that you no longer wish to use their services, then you may have to. Consult your retainer agreement.
What is the correct way to address an attorney in conversation or in writing?
It is appropriate to address any attorney as Mr. or Ms. when speaking with them either in person or when writing to them. However, it’s also very common for your attorney to invite you to call them by their first name. If you are comfortable doing so, this is more than fine.
How do I write a good review of my attorney?
Websites like Avvo.com allow clients to write reviews and rate their attorneys. Good reviews are always appreciated and let the public know how your attorney was helpful to you and therefore, possibly helpful to them with their matter. Your review should focus on specifically how the attorney helped you in your particular case, and how he or she solved whatever legal problems you were facing. Be sure to avoid identifying details so that you and the other party in your matter remain anonymous.
What documents should I bring to my consultation with my divorce attorney?
At your initial consultation with your attorney or shortly thereafter, there are certain documents that you should consider bringing to the attorney to make the process more efficient. Some documents include: your past three years of tax returns, if you have them, and your past three years of W-2 statements or any other 1099s or compensation documents such as pay stubs. You will also want to bring with you any financial account statements such as IRA statements, 401K statements, pension documents, any bank account statements: not just in your name, but in your spouse’s name. If you hold account statements as joint custodians for your children, you’ll want to bring those to the lawyer as well including 529 account statements for college education.
If you and your spouse have an interest in a business entity, make sure that your attorney is aware of it whether that business entity is an active participating business where you’re currently working at that business, or if it’s just a silent partner kind of interest. You want to make sure that your attorney also has access to a fully completed case information statement. This is a document that is nothing short of the lifeblood of your actual divorce. It will be utilized by the court and your attorney — in the form of discussions with the judge or presentations at court or otherwise in preparing your settlement papers. The case information statement identifies all of your respective incomes. It also identifies your monthly budget, including shelter expenses, your transportation expenses and your personal expenses. Not just for you but for your spouse and any children of the marriage.
On top of it, you want to make sure that that case information statement includes an identifiable, accurate and completed list of all assets and liabilities, everything that you know. Liabilities being credit card statements, outstanding, not just those that are being paid every single month but those that have revolving charges. Any mortgages, home equity loans, outstanding medical bills, car loans or car leases, make sure it’s in there. Your attorney’s going to need to know.
If you are going through separation, divorce or have a family legal matter, one of the most important decisions you may need to make is in choosing the best New Jersey divorce lawyer or family law attorney for your individual needs during this process. Whether your goal is to amicably resolve or litigate your divorce or family law matter, the right lawyer will clearly outline your options and guide you toward solutions that will protect your interests, and if applicable, the interests of your children.
This section will help you understand what to consider when seeking out the best divorce lawyers, family law attorneys and firms to represent you during your family law matters:
- Different Types of Lawyers & Law Firm Specialties
- Ways to Keep Legal Fees Cost-Effective During Divorce or Family Law Matter
- Basic Questions to Ask a Family Law Attorney in an Initial Interview
- Selecting the Right Lawyer to Help You in a Divorce or Family Law Matter
Different Types of Lawyers & Law Firm Specialties
Lawyers, and the law firms they may be associated with, come in differing shapes and sizes – this includes lawyers in New Jersey and other states. With the various legal issues you might encounter during your divorce or other family law matter, specializations and expertise of individual lawyers will differ as well. Understanding the different types of lawyers you may encounter on your search for the best one may include some of the following:
- Sole Practitioner Lawyers – There are many lawyers in solo practice, and New Jersey is no exception. The idea of a sole practitioner can be appealing, because it may seem to you that the lawyer will be able to give your case more personal attention. Keep in mind, however, that sole practitioners work alone and often juggle many legal cases at once. They may find themselves stretched very thin when several matters need attention at the same time. When interviewing sole practitioners, be sure to ask about caseload and support staff. Also, find out what attorney would cover for them in an emergency situation should they become unavailable.
- General Law Practitioner – A lawyer who works as a general practitioner handles a variety of legal matters and does not specialize in any one practice area. For example, a general practitioner might handle real estate, personal injury, and criminal matters in addition to divorces. When interviewing general practitioners, take the time to focus on your specific family law issues. Take the time to ensure that they are up-to-date on recent case law. New Jersey divorce and family law is highly complex. A small mistake or oversight by a misinformed lawyer could severely jeopardize your case.
- Lawyers and Law Firms Exclusively Practicing Family Law – A law firm dedicated exclusively to family law practice is typically on the cutting edge of recent family law developments. Lawyers who devote all of their time to family law are very familiar with all facets of divorce and separation because they see it every day. They deal with everything from domestic violence to alimony and child custody and even civil union and domestic partnerships. A law firm focused solely on family law also offers distinct advantages over a solo law practitioner or a general law practice with only one family law attorney on staff. Family law attorneys in practice together are able to share ideas and best practices for successful client representation. Additionally, law practices are typically better equipped to offer flexible appointment hours and availability.
Ways to Keep Legal Fees Reasonable & Cost-Effective During Divorce or Family Law Matter
In addition to finding a divorce or family law firm with the right focus and expertise, you will undoubtedly want to find one that will work in a cost-effective manner and keep your legal fees in check. To protect yourself from unscrupulous lawyers who might prey on your vulnerability during this highly stressful time of your life, please keep the following precautions in mind:
- Understand Your Fee Agreement – Watch out for lawyers who present a low retainer as an incentive to get you to sign their retainer agreement quickly. The retainer is a down payment towards the legal costs of your case, and a low retainer fee is no guarantee of overall total costs. Making sure the firm has extensive experience in divorce matters similar to your own and gauging your comfort level with the lawyer are much more important than simply knowing the dollar amount of the retainer. Ask the lawyer exactly what the retainer covers and also be sure that the fee agreement doesn’t include a provision that lets your lawyer keep any unused retainer funds at the end of the case. This alone could potentially cost you thousands of dollars. Also, be careful of the “flat fee” arrangement. These arrangements will either lead you to paying more than you should or underpaying and having your legal representation suffer because they are no longer being paid on the work they are doing.
- Watch Out for Overly Aggressive Lawyers – The emotional distress of divorce can tempt you into looking for an attorney who promises to be a gladiator in the courtroom. Beware of the overly aggressive or “shark” attorney. As is all too often the case, many of these so called “sharks” are very skilled at creating extra work to pad their bills because they may sense they can get away with it. For example, an aggressive attorney can push for your case to go to court when it could be just as easily settled out of court because they know that court ligation is one of the surest ways to rack up exorbitant legal fees. You do want a lawyer who is ready and willing put up a fight when it is called for, but you also don’t want a lawyer who spends time and money taking irrational or unnecessarily combative positions.
- Look for a Lawyer Who Gives You Both Pros and Cons – A lawyer who tells you exactly what you want to hear in your initial meeting may just be trying very hard to get you to sign their retainer agreement. Don’t be fooled by this approach. The right attorney will create a realistic strategy based on your needs and objectives, and will also let you know when something is unrealistic. You want a lawyer who listens to you, who is genuinely concerned about your needs, and will work hard for you.
Basic Questions to Ask a Family Law Attorney in an Interview:
- How long have you been practicing family law?
- What percentage of your practice is family law?
- Are you certified in matrimonial law, or is the head of your firm certified?
- Do you have experience as a family law settlement panelist?
- Will you personally handle my case?
- Do you generally recommend mediation?
- Who will provide back-up if you are unavailable?
- What should I expect as far as time for regular communications when working with you?
- How often do you accept or return phone calls and emails?
- How much is your retainer fee and what does it include?
- What is your hourly rate?
- What other costs and fees can I expect to incur in addition to legal fees?
Selecting the Right Lawyer for Divorce or Family Law Help
As you evaluate a list of potential lawyers, it can sometimes come down to asking yourself, is this lawyer someone I feel comfortable around? Can I see myself working very closely with this person concerning the most intimate details of my life? Am I seeing signs that this person will listen to my needs and objectives and not focus on their own self-serving agenda?
Divorce and family law issues can be very complex. If you sense that a lawyer you’ve contacted is not right for you or you encounter red flags, keep going until you find the one who is right. Trusting and feeling confidence in your attorney can play larger roles in your divorce outcome than you might expect, so be sure these sentiments are there from the very beginning of your relationship together. Because of the stakes involved, finding the best divorce attorney should not be a matter of compromise.
Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group can provide you with a team of New Jersey divorce attorneys who will help you plan a strategy that fits your family’s individual circumstances. Our lawyers will listen closely to the details of your case and help you formulate effective solutions for your divorce or separation.
Divorce and family law issues is very complex; the time you spend now in selecting the right attorney will have a lasting impact on your life and that of your children. Please contact us at (855) 557-9111 if you would like to schedule an initial CONFIDENTIAL consultation with one of our experienced NJ divorce and family law attorneys.