What You Should Look for When Hiring a Divorce Lawyer

By Kristen May , last updated November 4, 2011

Look to hire a divorce lawyer who has a few major characteristics that will increase the likelihood that your divorce goes as smoothly as possible. Although divorce is not a pleasant process, having a lawyer who you are confident in will help the situation to feel safer and give you the best chance of getting a positive outcome. Contact one or more lawyers and ask them about several major areas to help decide which lawyer to hire.

Experience

Look for a lawyer who is experienced not only in law, but also in divorce law. An attorney who specializes in divorce will likely be more knowledgeable and able to complete the work efficiently and effectively. In addition, because state laws regarding divorce vary, your lawyer should have several years of experience with divorce in your state. This ensures that the lawyer will be familiar with the intricacies involved in your case. If you have children and will be fighting for custody of them, a lawyer with a good track record in divorce cases involving custody would be helpful as well.

References

It can be hard to tell from the first meeting or two how good a divorce lawyer actually is. This is why it is important to get references and testimonials from past clients. Ask the lawyer for the names and phone numbers of at least two clients who you can contact to ask questions about the lawyer. When you call, find out what the client was especially satisfied with and if there was anything that the lawyer could have done better or that left the client unhappy. In addition, when you are first looking for a lawyer, ask your friends and acquaintances if they know of any especially good or bad lawyers in the area who they or people they know have worked with. Lawyers will often only provide names and numbers for satisfied clients, so asking around is a good way to find unsatisfied clients. Lastly, search your lawyer's name online to see whether unsatisfied clients have posted anything online that can help inform your decision.

Fees

Although no lawyer should be able to predict up front exactly how much the case will cost you, all lawyers should be able to explain how they bill for their services. Find out how much you have to pay up front, what the hourly rate is for work and what other fees the lawyer charges. Ask whether anybody else will be helping with the case and if the fees are different if someone less qualified does the work. In addition, ask when the final payment is due and whether any of the fees are based on how the case goes. Ask to see a few samples of what your billing statement might look like and make sure you understand all the fees and how the statement is laid out.

Approach and Philosophy

Find out about a lawyer's approach to divorce cases. If you are interested in a more cooperative divorce in which you are willing to bend on a lot of factors to help it end smoothly, then look for a divorce lawyer who is willing to support you in this philosophy. On the other hand, if you are looking to get it all, your attorney should also have this approach and be willing to take a stand for you and fight on your behalf. Discuss how you would like to handle your case and find out if the lawyer agrees with that approach or what he would be inclined to do differently.

Personal Characteristics

Although it is often overlooked because it is a more subjective characteristic, you want a divorce lawyer who is personable and who you get along with. You will be spending many hours working with the lawyer, so you want to get one who you trust and are comfortable with sharing details about your life. In addition, you want a lawyer who communicates well and can explain parts of divorce law that you are not familiar with.

Test how easy it is to get in touch with a potential lawyer by calling the office with questions at least twice before hiring the lawyer. Note whether you talk to a person or machine, and if you don't reach the lawyer when you first call, how long it takes the lawyer to get back to you. The best lawyers will respond promptly to inquiries and are overall easy to get into contact with.

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