A divorce is an emotional and trying life change, but finding the right attorney is an important first step in the process. A divorce attorney who has experience and expertise fitting your unique situation may expedite the divorce process, and make the transition from marriage to single life more manageable.
Asking the right questions during your first phone conversation or meeting with a prospective lawyer is key in determining whether you will be able to establish a successful attorney-client relationship.
Experience is Critical
Don’t assume that every attorney you contact has the experience that is necessary to handle your case. How long an attorney has been in practice, and more importantly, how many cases they have handled is perhaps the most obvious first question. Each new case presents a unique set of obstacles and situations, requires additional research and adds to an attorney’s knowledge of divorce law. You will want to find an attorney who has been in practice for some time, and who has handled an extensive number of cases.
Building on this, you may wish to expand your questioning to include ones that will determine if the attorney has specialized experience specific to the circumstances of your divorce. Has the attorney handled divorces where a small family business is a factor? Does he understand the specifics of a divorce where there are substantial assets? Again, previous experience handling cases similar to your own will prove beneficial when choosing an attorney to represent you in your divorce.
In addition to knowledge of the law, the overall number of cases at attorney has handled will also coincide with his experience with the key players involved in the family law process. Does he have knowledge of and good rapport with local family court judges and positive professional relationships with other attorneys?
What are Your Goals?
It is important for you to consider your own goals prior to speaking to a prospective attorney. While divorce as the end result is the same in each case, every person has a different idea of what is important during the process. Individuals may be seeking to end the marriage quickly and easily and to move on with their separate lives. Others may need to concern themselves with proper division of assets, or child support and custody in cases where children are involved. Be sure to have questions prepared that will provide you with answers as to how the attorney will address your goals. The attorney may also have insight into whether or not your goals are attainable, and should offer candid and realistic feedback. Be wary of over-optimism or promises that you will come away with everything you want at the end of your divorce.
You may find that you are unsure of what you need or what you are entitled to in your divorce. In this case, meeting with an attorney to discuss and formulate goals is perfectly acceptable. As the case gets underway and your attorney advises you, these goals may even change.
Don’t Forget the Small Details
Not all questions have to pertain to the divorce process. Make a list of questions that will help you understand if the way a prospective attorney does business will meet your expectations. For example, you may want to ask what time of day is best to reach him in his office. Does he prefer email or phone? How does billing work? You will be working closely with your chosen attorney, and it is important that you are comfortable with these aspects of his business practice as well.
The attorney-client relationship is instrumental in making the divorce experience as successful, painless and manageable as possible. The first and sometimes most difficult step is picking up the phone and making the initial call. Your up-front questions to an attorney who you are considering to represent you will be your best tool for making a confident and informed choice.