Knowing how to find a good divorce lawyer – what qualities to look for – is the first of several steps to hiring a divorce lawyer. As you are probably well aware, finding a good divorce lawyer is essential to ensure you get the settlement you want, not a settlement that ruins your life.
A life ruined by a poor choice of divorce lawyer is a real possibility. Many people who did not seek advice on how to find a good divorce lawyer but trusted advertisements and word of mouth, have found this out to their cost.
So, how do you find a good divorce lawyer? First of all, be clear about the dangers of trusting advertisements or personal recommendations. Advertisements – even by lawyers – can be misleading (more on this in a moment) and a good divorce lawyer for another person’s divorce is not necessarily a good choice for yours. Every case is unique.
Instead, use the following advice on how to find a good divorce lawyer – a reliable set of standards for finding a divorce lawyer you can hire with confidence.
Find a lawyer who specializes in divorce, ideally within a law firm specializing in family law and divorce. A lawyer who specializes in divorce (and has done so for some time) will have a greater depth of experience and expertise than a lawyer who does not. This may seem obvious but there is a hidden danger.
Unlike the medical profession, there are no rules and regulations governing when a lawyer may or may not call themselves as a “specialist.” They are not required in any way to substantiate that they are a specialist.
To protect yourself from hiring a “divorce specialist” who is in fact a jack of all trades (lawyers can practice in any/several areas of the law they like) find a divorce lawyer who can substantiate that they are a divorce specialist. A genuine divorce specialist will understand your concerns and be ready to do this. Alternatively, limit your search to lawyers who work in law firms specializing in divorce.
Look for a divorce lawyer with extensive experience. Find a divorce lawyer who has been practicing for some years and has practiced for many or most of these as a family law and divorce specialist. Importantly, check that a divorce lawyer has sufficient experience in your state.
Like everyone else, divorce lawyers move for work and personal reasons. A new arrival in a law firm may be an excellent divorce lawyer but not yet up to speed regarding family law in your state.
Whatever you anticipate, be prepared – find a good divorce lawyer with extensive courtroom experience. Do not assume all lawyers have it – they do not. If you do need to go to court, your lawyer’s familiarity with the system, the complexities of the process and what works best with particular judges will pay dividends in terms of a successful outcome.
Alternatively, a divorce lawyer with courtroom experience will know when it is in your best interests not to go to court because you are likely to fail, saving you unnecessary cost and conflict.
Find a divorce lawyer who succeeds in and out of court. Even the most aggressive divorce attorney should be prepared to suggest an alternative to court when another option is more likely to succeed. Similarly, a divorce lawyer with a reputation for success through mediation should be prepared to “get tough” when necessary.
In other words, a good divorce lawyer is a flexible lawyer with the skills to succeed either way. A lawyer like this is more likely to win the settlement you want. So, look for a divorce lawyer with a track record of success both in and out of court.
Find a good divorce lawyer for your particular case. Think about any areas of your divorce that may require additional experience and expertise. For instance, if you have complicated or sizeable investments and retirement funds, look for a divorce lawyer with above-average financial expertise, or easy and established access to such, perhaps within the same law firm.
If you have children, it will be important to find a divorce lawyer with extensive experience of divorce cases involving child custody and support issues. Again, make no assumptions on this front. As many divorce cases do not involve children, many lawyers may have little experience on this front.
Find a divorce lawyer with an appropriate right philosophy, or “management style” for your divorce case. Your divorce will be more difficult than it already is if you and your lawyer are continually at odds about how it should be managed. Indeed, many people enquire how to switch lawyers mid-divorce. To avoid frustration and conflict it is important to find a lawyer who is “on the same page” as you in terms of what you consider the most appropriate approach for your case.
To know how to find a divorce lawyer with this in mind, consider various aspects of your divorce. For instance, do you anticipate an amicable or contentious divorce? If contentious, is there any hope that your spouse will be open to compromise and cooperation? Are you willing and/or able to fund a divorce case lengthened by conflict? And importantly, if you have children are you prepared to prolong a divorce which inevitably affects them too?
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Personal qualities count too – choose a lawyer you like. Often overlooked in advice about how to find a good divorce lawyer is the importance of personal qualities. You and your divorce lawyer will need to meet, communicate and reach agreement on many points throughout your divorce. If you and your lawyer don’t get along, the process will be more difficult than it already is.
It is important, then, to choose a divorce lawyer who is someone you like and believe you can communicate well with. A lawyer with good interpersonal skills is also likely to get along with other people involved in your divorce, from secretaries to court judges.
Now that you know how to find a good divorce lawyer the next step is to prepare a list of questions to ask potential lawyers that will measure how well they meet these standards.
Copyright 2007 Caroline Mackenzie