Life loves to throw a curveball. Whether you drift apart gradually over the span of months, or you suddenly realize your marriage isn’t happily ever after, the dreaded divorce filing happens more often than you think. You may have heard, there is no ‘right’ way to get divorced. It can get ugly. Family and friends can react unexpectedly. You might need a financial advisor. You may second guess yourself. Fortunately, hiring a solid divorce attorney should be one of the least complicated parts of the whole process. Here are some ways to go about finding a good one:
You should start by looking online. Compare at least three different divorce attorneys in your city, or neighboring cities. Often, a simple online search can reveal some of the most prominent law firms in your area who specialize in legal separations, family law, mediation, and divorce. Check out law firm databases and search results to compare firms nearby; then contact a few directly to compare retainers and hourly fees. Typically, you will want to choose a lawyer who practices solely in the areas of divorce and family law, and in the state in which you are getting divorced. You can also talk to your divorced close friends and see if they have any recommendations or nightmare lawyers to avoid. Every divorce is a little bit different. You’ll want an attorney who not only understands your situation, but also is familiar with the type of divorce you need. Remember, at the end of the day, even though the act of marriage and divorce is the most personal thing in the world, hiring an attorney is NOT personal, it’s business.
Ask yourself the important questions, then make a list of questions for prospective lawyers. Think beforehand about what assets are at stake. Start to build your case in your mind before going in. Who made the most money in the marriage? Are you seeking spousal support, alimony, or child support? How do you want to divide up property? For example, if there’s a house, who wants the house? If there are children involved, who should get primary custody? Is there a prenuptial agreement in place? Do you live in a “no fault” state? What can you still work out with your spouse if you’re past the point of talking? The clearer and more quickly you can communicate your legal end goals and a timeline to your lawyer, the better and potentially cheaper.
Go in knowing exactly what you want and need when this process is all said and done. Make a list of very specific legal goals before going in. Even though it might be painful, try and leave emotions out of it. Lawyers generally charge a retainer and then by the hour, and it can get really expensive depending on how simple or complex your case is. Save the drama for your therapist and close friends with open shoulders to cry on. Most divorce attorneys have seen and heard it all.
Often, divorce wreaks havoc on the finances of any couple that decides to call it quits. It’s a big monetary adjustment for all involved. You should by no means choose an attorney just because they are the cheapest, but avoid anyone who make promises or guarantees. This is a red flag, as there are no real guarantees in a divorce proceeding until all is settled. Consider what you will be left with financially in a worst-case scenario. If you can still afford your attorney, you are on the right track.
Ultimately, you should choose someone whom you feel you can trust. They should both listen to your needs and communicate effectively on your behalf. When you make the choice to move on with your life, hire an attorney in your price range who is just as committed to that goal as you are.