How Do I Choose a Divorce Lawyer?
Getting a divorce is rarely an easy process. Even an amicable divorce will almost always represent a very stressful time in the lives of all involved. For the best results, you will still need the assistance of a divorce attorney.
Meanwhile, a more bitter divorce may represent facing protracted legal battles, willful personal attacks, and more. A good divorce lawyer becomes all but essential. The question then that needs to be answered is how one finds and chooses one.
You’ll Need to Do Some Research
One mistake many people make when finding a lawyer is simply Googling “best attorney near me” and choosing one of the first results. It can be an alright place to start your research, but your process needs to be more involved.
While this initial search may net you a good lawyer, it’s not skill alone that gets a lawyer to the top of search rankings. Advertising, search engine optimization (SEO), and popularity all play a role too.
With a little less than half of the marriages ending in divorce, divorce law is a big industry. The good news is that this means you have a good pool of choices. The bad news is that it also means it’s easier for an incompetent lawyer to stay in business.
The divorce process is complex and many of the outcomes of that process can have far-reaching consequences. If you want a lawyer who can help net you the best outcomes, you’re going to want to do some research into anyone you’re considering.
Determine What You Need
To guide your research into available lawyers, first, determine what you need. For example, if your split is amicable, meaning you and your partner can roughly agree on a fair outcome of the divorce, your needs will tend to be pretty simple.
However, many divorces aren’t that simple. Some of the most common final incidents cited that lead to divorce includes infidelity, domestic violence, and substance use. Many divorcing couples are genuinely angry with each other and aren’t seeking to make the process easy.
Try to determine both what you need out of your divorce and what you think your ex-spouse is going to try and accomplish. The more vindictive one or both parties are likely to be, the more accomplished a lawyer you’re going to want.
It’s also worth noting there are genuine reasons to go on the offensive in a divorce. If your spouse was abusive or you’re worried will mistreat your children, it makes sense to fight hard for a good outcome.
Divorce can be hard on children. Many people, understandably, make them a top priority when getting a divorce. A good lawyer can make sure your kids are both kept safe and don’t have to sit through a protracted legal battle.
What Makes a Good Attorney?
The question of what makes a good attorney is a big one, but an important one. Divorce cases are time-consuming and exhausting. You want a lawyer who is up to the task.
Some of the traits to look for in a lawyer include:
- Passion for law
- A high degree of knowledge in the relevant law (in this case, divorce law)
- Compassion for their clients
- Strong communication skills
- The ability to operate under pressure
On top of this, a high level of experience also tends to be a sign a lawyer is skilled. After all, the longer you practice the law, the more one should pick up.
At the same time, young lawyers can still be talented and are often cheaper. If you’re worried a lawyer lacks experience, watch for other strengths before dismissing them. For instance, if their record is strong, it may matter less they’ve only been practicing a few years.
Questions to Consider
Once you have a basic goal in mind, there are then a few questions you need to consider when choosing a lawyer. Ideally, you’ll want a lawyer who has proven themself in the areas you require (even if most trained divorce lawyers should still be somewhat competent in those areas).
How Strong is Your Position?
It can feel a bit petty for some people to think of divorces as competition, but in many ways, that’s what they are. While there isn’t exactly a score, you can certainly have positive or negative outcomes as a result of a divorce.
There are a huge variety of factors that can determine the odds you see a net positive outcome to your divorce. Important is keeping in mind divorce law is just that, law. Neither party’s moral fiber usually impacts the outcome.
As a rule, marital assets and liabilities will be split 50/50. This is far better news for some people than others. However, this isn’t always the case; for instance, some real estate can be established as separate, not marital, property and then kept. In addition, the Court can consider statutory factors to determine if an unequal distribution is warranted.
A divorce will also be more challenging if there are specific assets you’d like to keep, be it for financial or sentimental reasons. It will get even more complicated if your ex feels the same (or wants the asset knowing you do).
How Cooperative Will Your Ex-Partner Be?
There is a big gulf between completely amicable and an entrenched, toxic divorce. Most divorces fall somewhere in the middle; you and your ex may agree on some issues and then disagree on others.
We touched on this earlier, but it’s time to get more specific. What issues is your ex likely to fight over? What issues do they agree with you on?
This can help you determine whether you want a lawyer who specializes in court or in mediation (although, again, many lawyers can perform in both roles).
While not all mediation involves lawyers, they can definitely help if you’re worried your spouse or the mediator will take advantage of you.
What Is Going to Be the Hot Button Issues?
Related to the point above, you’ll then want to determine which issues you expect both you and your ex are going to be fighting over. For now, focus on the “hot button issues” like custody over your children and any pets.
One of the hardest elements of divorce comes into play if your ex is filing for sole custody over your children. This can take a huge emotional toll, as they essentially work to prove to a judge you are an incompetent or dangerous parent.
At this same time, sometimes the opposite is true. You may genuinely feel you cannot support your children or aren’t the best home for them. In cases like that, your lawyer will need to support that argument.
For some couples, you may even end up debating about the paternity of your children. That adds a whole other layer of complexity to a divorce, especially if you still want to protect the child’s mental health during this hard process.
For these sorts of cases, both because of the stakes and their unique challenges, you’ll definitely want a lawyer with a good track record specifically regarding similar cases.
What Do You Stand to Lose?
This next question is pretty straightforward. What is at stake regarding your divorce? The more you stand to lose, the more money you’ll want to consider spending on a lawyer.
For most people, the two big considerations are children and wealth. If you stand to lose custody over your children and/or could lose a large fortune (or income source) in your divorce, the results of your case will have consequences for years or even decades to come.
Especially regarding wealth, it makes logical sense to spend more on a lawyer the more you might lose. At that point, it’s a game of proportions. A moderately more expensive lawyer might make back that extra cost a hundred times over in bigger cases.
What’s Your Financial Limit?
Finally, consider what your hard financial limit is on legal expenses. A protracted divorce case can be expensive, both in terms of direct cost (such as legal expenses) and lost time.
For the average middle-income family, a divorce is a big expense. It can cost tens of thousands of dollars, with even an amicable divorce often costing thousands. If your resources are limited, you need to know what that limit is.
The somewhat good news is that any reputable divorce attorney will be honest about the cost if you discuss it with them. This information will help you gauge the best approach to take.
We’ll talk more about what to discuss with any attorneys you think fit your needs in the sections below.
Comparing Divorce Attorneys
Once you’ve answered the questions above and found a few attorneys that seem to fit your criteria, we recommend you talk with them. Most law firms offer a free consultation, where they can discuss your needs and you can determine if they’re a good fit for you.
If this sounds like odd advice from a law firm, it’s because we earnestly want you to find the best lawyer for your needs. We just also believe in our firm’s ability to stand up to the competition, whether you need a family lawyer or help with criminal defense.
You can almost think of these initial discussions with attorneys as an interview. Can they serve your needs and at a fair cost?
Bring a list of questions prepared ahead of time to help you in this process. A few general questions that tend to be good starting points include:
- How much do you expect a case like mine to cost?
- What’s the experience level of the lawyers at your firm?
- What’s your record with cases similar to mine?
- What seems like the likely outcome of this divorce? Why?
Remember, you will be paying your lawyer a fair amount of money for their services. A competent lawyer is going to earn that pay but you want to first make sure you’re making the best choice available to you.
This advice comes with a caveat, however. Clearly, a law firm is going to be biased in favor of themselves. Watch out for big promises that seem too good to be true; the bigger the claim, the more doubt you should have.
Making Your Choice
Once you’ve done the research and asked at least a few firms your questions, then you can decide on a lawyer. While we’ve covered a lot here, the reality is the process of finding a good lawyer really can be done in a week or two, as long as you’re thorough and committed.
When you’ve found a divorce lawyer who fits your needs, you may as well get started. The sooner you lawyer up, the stronger your position. This is true regardless of how amicable or otherwise the divorce ends up being.
Once you’re their client, a lawyer is there to help you get the best result for your case possible. They can give you advice that is often invaluable to keeping more of your assets, protecting your custody of your children, and more.
On the other hand, there is little reason to delay hiring a lawyer once you’ve chosen one. The legal battle ahead is going to happen regardless, and you’re unlikely to save much, if anything, delay.
In fact, delaying getting an attorney during a divorce could cost you far more than you save if you say (or, worse, sign) the wrong thing. As with most legal issues, it is almost always best to lawyer up as soon as possible.
For Divorce Lawyers and More
At the end of the day, a good divorce attorney is one who makes a genuine effort to fight for your needs and is talented in divorce law. An excellent one is someone who can do all that at a competitive rate.
At Olivero Law, we have talented attorneys specializing in family law who can offer just that. If you have questions about whether we may be able to help you, contact us for more information.