How To Choose A Divorce Attorney

A divorce is one of the most traumatic events in a person’s life, ranking right up there with death of a loved one. A divorce is also one of the few times – and maybe the only time – a person has to deal with the court system.

Ending a disintegrating marriage is made more difficult by the complexity of the divorce process and the emotional stress of dealing with the issues of child custody, support and division of assets.

Understanding the legal process is as baffling as trying to understand complex medical procedures, and just as you need to trust your physician, you need to feel confident with your attorney.

Your divorce attorney must be a combination of therapist, confidant, clergy person and “legal eagle”. So, how do you find this person to whom you can entrust your future?

Get referrals from friends
If you have friends who have gone through divorce, ask what they liked and disliked about their attorneys.

Was your friend’s case was as complex or less complex than your own? Was the attorney equally competent in handling emotional issues such as custody and “business” issues such as division of assets?

Also ask about the attorney who represented your friend’s spouse.

Meet with several attorneys
Schedule appointments with several attorneys for consultations, and let the attorney know you are in the interviewing process. Most attorneys won’t see you free of charge, since they have only their time and advice to sell, but some offer discounts for the initial consultation.

Ask the right questions
When you meet with an attorney, bring a list of questions regarding your concerns in choosing an attorney as well as your personal concerns in the divorce case.

Ask how the law firm bills its clients and ascertain the billing rates for each person who will be working on your case.

Most attorneys charge for all time spent in working on your matter. This includes time for phone calls, drafting court documents, court preparation and travel to the courthouse.

Be sure your attorney or someone in the office will return phone calls within a reasonable time and that you will receive copies of all pleadings and correspondence received and generated.

It will be difficult for any attorney to give you an accurate estimate of total costs for the divorce because there are so many variables.

Does your spouse want to reach a speedy resolution of the issues or is your spouse going to litigate every issue? No attorney will know all the issues at the initial consultation.

Beware of any attorney who guarantees certain results. An attorney can only promise to use his or her best efforts in representing you.

Develop lines of communication
Above all, you and your attorney should be able to communicate effectively. Your attorney can only give your choice of options and advise you as to probable outcome of each option.

But remember, nothing is a “slam dunk.” As in the rest of life, the legal process does not issue any guarantees.

Note: This information is not to be considered legal advice to create an attorney-client relationship. Laws and practices vary from state to state. Taking legal information out of context generally has negative consequences. If you have questions relating to your particular matter, you should contact an attorney in your state for advice.

Comments

  1. There are a number of attorney rating websites out there that can help you find your initial list of attorneys to choose from. AVVO is a client and peer review system that is pretty comprehensive, and Super Lawyers lists the top 5% of attorneys in each state.

  2. Nice post about choosing the right divorce lawyer, I find it is extremely important for someone to understand a divorce lawyer’s tactics before choosing whether or not they will represent you. Normally choosing a lawyer happens when people are clouded by emotional stress and often don’t critique their own divorce lawyers enough. The more you understand a lawyers methods the easier it is to trust them to handle all the nuances of your case.

  3. The best advice is do not use an attorney at all.
    The Wall Street Journal reports that the average custody battle is actually $78,000 and I know people who have been taken for $750,000.

    The first thing you need to know before getting involved in a divorce is that the entire industry is literally a scam. They do not provide any real value, and in fact cause destruction. Divorce lawyers, often intentionally, pour gasoline on the fire to generate legal fees. They are targeting your entire estate. This is why they get your financial statements ASAP. They are trained in an adversarial system, not meant for a civil divorce. Mediation is a far superior process and lawyers do not know how to do that. They profit from conflict.

    The judicial system in all 50 states also gets kickbacks for child support in the BILLIONS annually. We have known for about 20 years from the scientific research that sole custody is a form of child abuse and drives up social pathological in children about 14,600%. Each of 20 problems goes up between 660% and 2,400%. See: http://www.parentalrights.org/ and http://www.BestInterestOfChildren.org. for the facts and sources of this data.

  4. So here are recommendations from an experienced divorce coach who has been watching this system since 2004:
    1. Seek to resolve as much as possible with your spouse directly in a business-like fashion with several scheduled meetings scheduled over 2 months or so. Keep communications open as much as possible. Do not abuse restraining orders to get leverage or your problems will snowball. Some lawyers will encourage this to guarantee a long and expensive custody battle.
    2. Take what issues are left after step #1 to a mediator to resolve.
    3. Let the guiding principle be as near equal time and custody for the children as possible given jobs. Split assets earned during the marriage 50-50 and assets brought to the marriage should generally go 100% to the party that brought them unless the marriage is over 15 to 20 years. Then some split of premarital assets may be justifiable.
    4. Never pay any divorce attorney a dime but bring to the court a “stipulation” agreement so your fate is not up to incompetent and corrupt judges who want sole custody for the $100,000 per child they can get in federal kickbacks under SSA Title IVD. Never trust what a lawyer says. Judges and lawyers are the most prolific child abusers on the planet now due to this system. This is a fact, not an opinion, as each judge damages thousands of children each year thorough ignorance, incompetence and profit motives. Lawyers have fewer cases but HUGE financial incentives in each case to do this also.
    5. Move on with your life as an independent person, supporting yourself with each parent paying an equal amount into a child bank account for all direct expenses (not to include each parents choice of home and lifestyle for luxuries, but basic minimums like food and clothing). Each parent can provide luxuries to the level they can afford and choose. This maintains the quid pro quo of parent-child and parent-parent relationships and may even save 40% of your estate that would go to lawyers.
    6. Co-parent and support each other as parents, as you likely did in the marriage, so that children cannot split you for their benefit. Read up on this some and set some boundaries by agreement to respect each parent’s rules in their own household. These rules may vary but within limits.
    Unless your spouse is a drug or alcohol addict, or physically abuses the children, 50-50 time with each parent is almost always best for children. The trouble from exchanges and having two of many things is dwarfed by the influence of both parents on their lives forever. No parent should want to seek total custody and control except in theses exceptional cases, as they are abusing their own children if they deny them access to the other parent. Do not be jealous, each parent provides unique things to each child. Use the free time to build your new life and friends. Wait at least a year to date as the impact on you is huge and hard to see yourself. Depression and other things are very common.
    The #1 indicator, which dwarfs all others, as to how well a woman will do in a marriage, is the strength of the relationship with her father. Do not cause you child’s divorce 25 years later because you picked the wrong person, grew apart or denied them their other parent. Stay friends with your ex, or at least civil for the children. You don’t have to party together but hide any animosity as best you can from the children and focus on your new life, not the past. They will prosper from this and so will you.
    Print this list now and put it somewhere you can read every week until your divorce is done. This should take only 2-4 months if you follow these steps, versus many years and many tens of thousands of dollars in the legal system that could bankrupt you. Buy a car or pay for the kid’s college with that money. Don’t give it to unethical lawyers which encourages them to destroy the institution of marriage and our children.

    • Rie Yamazaki-Bach says:

      Dear Bob,

      Thank you very much for your article as an experienced divorce coach. It was very helpful to me in order to grasp a big picture of what I’m facing right now.

      Merely one week after my husband & i first discussed about filing our divorce and finding a mediator who works for both of us, instead of hiring a costly divorce attorney, he walked into a law firm nearby his work and has already hired an attorney to represent him in an action for dissolution of our marriage. According to the letter that I received from his attorney, now I must sign the original Notice and Acknowledgement form within 20 days of the date of mailing, April 19., otherwise this attorney says she is entitled to recover the cost of hiring a process server to serve me personally. I’ve been provided many documents to read over & comprehend but I’m afraid that I might misinterpret these legal documents if I do all by mysel since English is not my first language.

      He insists that we can have both attorney & mediator. He says he was told to go with a mediator first, then work with an attorney if things do not work out with a mediator. But this sounds a little strange to me because I think we should work with only either or. At least should go with a mediator first in our circumstances in my opinion. So I didn’t quite understand this his action why he approached to the attorney first instead if all he wanted was ONLY to find out where to start, get an advice, and get helps to facilitate the paper works as he said. Can’t mediators do those too?

      I need a good divorce coach like yourself or mediator to work on my behalf and help me out. If you know anyone in SF County where I live & could give me a referral, I would really appreciate it.

      We’ve been married for 22 years and 8 months. My husband indicated April 1, 2013 as the Date of separation on the FL-105/GC-120 at 2. STATISTICAL FACTS, but we are still living together and probably we will for a while. The bottom line is that we do not have enough funding to hire divorce attorneys on each side as we’ve been in our financial crisis for quite some time now.

      Sincerely,

      Rie

      • When you go through mediation, it is often helpful to have an attorney that you can consult with about what’s come up in mediation. You also need an attorney to review your final agreement to make sure that what you agreed to is fair. Ask your friends and family and other professionals for referrals to attorneys and mediators in your community.

  5. i agree with asking a lot of questions. For many people, going through a divorce is such a stressful thing that they just want to get someone quickly to handle the process. As a result, they get more problems if the attorney fails to do his job well..

  6. I was referred to my attorney by a friend. The attorney has been helpful because I was quite scared to proceed to divorce and she has answered all of my questions. Between her and wife.org and consulting of others I feel I am on the right track with filing and proceeding forward etc. However, now the person who referred me to this attorney is telling me that she found the attorney to be incompetent in her own divorce proceedings and that I should now get another attorney. Retaining another attorney is near impossible due to cost but I feel overwhelmed and am wondering what to do. Also, if I ask for and receive spousal support is it true that even after I am divorced my ex-spouse could ask me for spousal support if need be down the line? We were only married 6 years at the date of separation.

    • The laws of each state is different, but in most states spouses have a legal obligation to support each other that may extend to post-divorce. In many states, that duty to support after divorce is limited in a short-term marriage.

Speak Your Mind

*