What to Look For in a Divorce Lawyer
For many people, there is a lot at stake during a divorce. The way the divorce proceedings play out in court will likely have a direct and lasting impact on your life. This makes it all the more crucial to hire the right divorce lawyer.
Like most professional services, no two family lawyers are exactly alike. Legal representation may vary depending on the client’s unique needs, preferences, and goals.
While some prefer a more aggressive approach and frequent communication from their divorce lawyer during legal proceedings, others may prefer minimal communication and a quieter approach to divorce to protect their family’s privacy. No matter what you prefer, it's important to hire a divorce attorney who is a good fit for you and your family.
8 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Divorce Attorney
Divorce is usually a high-stress time in people’s lives. It can also be time-consuming. The last thing you want to do is spend several months with a divorce lawyer you dislike or aren’t satisfied with.
Most importantly, it’s essential to select a skilled candidate with credible family law experience who will maximize your chance of securing a favorable outcome in court. Both how your divorce is handled and who handles it can have lasting implications in your life and the lives of your family. Interviewing potential family lawyers to establish the best fit for you is crucial to protecting what’s rightfully yours in a divorce.
It’s important to ask the right questions to determine which divorce attorney aligns with your personal goals and expectations. Consider asking the following 8 questions when interviewing potential divorce lawyers.
#1. Is family law your sole practice area? If not, how many years of experience do you have in family law?
When it comes to legal representation, experience matters. This isn’t to say that the lawyer who has practiced the longest is automatically the best candidate, but it’s critical to hire a divorce attorney with a comprehensive understanding of family law.
Many talented lawyers excel in multiple practice areas. Nonetheless, it’s wise to confirm that your attorney has experience in family law specifically, as this area of our legal system is complex and contains various subspecialties (such as divorce, guardianship, adoption, child custody, and domestic violence). Ensuring that your attorney has the skills and legal knowledge to assist you is critical to your success in the courtroom.
#2. How do you approach a divorce case? What is your preferred legal strategy for divorce proceedings?
It’s important to make sure that you and your divorce attorney are on the same page at all times. Part of this entails choosing a family lawyer who plans to execute a legal strategy that you’re comfortable with. Not only can this help establish a foundation of trust in your attorney-client relationship, but it will allow you to collaborate more effectively with your lawyer and thus maximize your odds of obtaining a favorable result.
For instance, some divorce attorneys prefer to go straight to trial rather rather than attempting mediation beforehand. Likewise, some lawyers would rather be aggressive right out of the gate while others prefer to take a quiet approach for the sake of keeping the peace. Regardless of your divorce lawyer’s go-to strategy, it’s important to verify that their plans align with your own before you hire them.
#3. What is your communication style?
In the same way that divorce attorneys may exercise varying legal strategies, they also tend to differ in demeanor, personality, and communication style. Knowing what to expect throughout your attorney-client relationship will give you peace of mind (or at least some semblance of it) until the divorce proceedings conclude.
Both lawyers and their clients have unique needs and preferences when it comes to functional professional relationships. One client might prefer constant updates in the form of texts or calls while others prefer minimal communication. Some desire a very formal partnership with their divorce attorney; contrarily, others might prefer a more casual attorney-client relationship.
Whatever the case, it’s imperative to 1) understand your personal needs, goals, and expectations; and 2) compare them to your attorney’s experience and expectations to confirm your compatibility—or lack thereof.
#4. What financial obligations are required to retain your services?
It’s no secret that divorces aren’t cheap. Legal expenses and court fees can set a high price to end a marriage. Still, rest assured that high-quality legal representation is worth paying for, as divorce proceedings can result in significant and life-altering consequences in your life.
However, like any other investment, it’s important to have an accurate understanding of how much an attorney’s services will cost you. The best way to weigh your options wisely is by requesting a comprehensive, straightforward financial estimate from the attorney you're considering. Make sure their quote includes the legal services in their entirety to avoid stumbling upon any surprise fees or additional expenses later on that you didn't see coming.
#5. Will I primarily work with you, or will I be working with others in your office? If so, what are their qualifications?
There are many cases where a client will work directly with the attorney with whom they had their initial consultation. This is especially prevalent in smaller family law firms.
However, there are also instances where a client will work with multiple people from the firm or end up being paired with a different divorce attorney entirely. As you can imagine, investing the time and effort to interview and select your preferred divorce lawyer can feel like a waste of time if you don’t work with that individual going forward.
While collaborating with other attorneys or paralegals at the firm isn’t a dealbreaker by any means, it can certainly impact a client’s decision when it comes to choosing a divorce attorney. Because you are the one investing in legal representation, you have the right to know who you’ll be working with during your case, primarily or otherwise.
Setting realistic expectations for an attorney-client relationship is ideal. It’s worth asking a potential divorce attorney which lawyer you’ll be paired with and whether or not you can expect to work with other professionals at the firm.
#6. Do you know my spouse or my spouse’s lawyer? If so, what is your relationship with them?
Because divorces are facilitated in local family courts, there is a realistic possibility that your divorce attorney knows your spouse’s lawyer. If this is the case, it’s worth considering three potential outcomes:
- Your attorney may know the other attorney by name, but nothing more;
- Your attorney has a good relationship with the other lawyer that may permit you to achieve a divorce settlement quicker; or
- Your attorney has a significant connection to involved parties and you’re concerned they may favor your ex’s best interests over your own, knowingly or otherwise.
While the first two results may benefit your case, the latter can jeopardize it, which is why it never hurts to get a better idea of your attorney’s professional or personal relationships with members of the opposing party.
#7. Are you familiar with local judges in family court?
Ideally, your divorce will be settled out of court. However, if you do find yourself in the courtroom, your attorney’s relationships with local judges can work to your advantage.
Assuming your lawyer has experience in family court, they will likely know which local judge they would prefer to be in front of. Additionally, they might possess the knowledge to anticipate how specific judges will rule on certain issues, such as child custody or property division.
A divorce attorney’s familiarity with local judges can give their clients an edge in court, as it can minimize unexpected curveballs and equip the lawyer to represent clients more effectively if they have an idea of what they are up against.
#8. Do you have experience in divorce cases that are similar to mine?
A dependable divorce lawyer will possess a comprehensive understanding of the foundational elements of divorce, including (but not limited to):
However, because every divorce is unique, each case can pose a distinct set of challenges for the lawyer to navigate. Certain circumstances can warrant the help of an attorney who has navigated similar cases in the past. Such conditions may include:
- Military divorces
- High-asset divorces
- Ending a marriage with a history of abuse or domestic violence
- Having a lot of children, adopted children, or a child with special needs
Some divorce elements, such as the ones listed above, can pose additional complications that warrant additional attention and more concentrated effort from a divorce attorney.
For example, if you are primarily concerned about child custody and anticipate a grueling battle in court, it may be beneficial to ask your lawyer if they have experience handling complex child custody disputes or how they intend to help you in that particular area during the divorce proceedings.
Helping Families Achieve Amicable Solutions to Divorce
Our dedicated team at Burch Shepard Family Law Group is sympathetic to the emotional toll that divorce can take on our clients. If you’ve decided to end your marriage, you deserve compassionate legal representation that you can rely on from start to finish. That’s why our skilled divorce attorneys are committed to serving our clients in Orange County.
Divorce can result in drastic changes to your life. Don’t jeopardize your future by failing to seek the legal counsel of a skilled family lawyer. With over 100 years of combined legal experience, our firm is proud to focus exclusively on family law matters. We have a proven track record of successfully representing families in need. If you hope to obtain a favorable result in court, it’s imperative to take action now.
If you’re filing for divorce, it's crucial to secure support from an experienced Orange County divorce attorney. Call (949) 565-4158 or contact us online today to schedule your initial consultation.