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10 Things to Know Before You Hire a Divorce Attorney

Written by Adrian Davis, J.D.

1. Understand which divorce process best meets your needs. In my next article titled “10 Things to Consider Before Selecting Your Divorce Process” I will discuss in detail the processes available. Please review the Family Law Services page to learn about a few of the divorce process options that are available to you.

2. Consider speaking with multiple attorneys to find the right fit for you. Often issues can be similar from case to case, however remember your situation is unique. It makes sense that not every attorney will be the proper fit for your case. Even if you do not have the resources to consult with multiple attorneys, consider calling the firm and asking if the attorney you are considering would be willing to speak briefly with you over the phone before scheduling a consultation.

3. Choose an attorney who fits your situation. The person you are selecting will be working with you throughout this process. As noted above, educating yourself about the process that makes the most sense for your particular situation should be paramount. After you decide how to handle the situation, make sure the attorney you want to work with is experienced with the process you selected. While reading attorneys’ websites, you will see they prefer particular aspects of their practice more. Some focus on mediation and collaborative divorce; others focus on litigation.

4. Find an attorney who forecasts a positive outcome for you. There is a saying that “the best chance of a successful outcome, is a positive attitude.” The level of confidence you have about your capability to succeed will predetermine your success. Therefore, you should look for an attorney who not only feels capable of handling your case, but who also feels good about your chances of a successful outcome. Finding an attorney with a positive attitude about your case will help you feel confident as well.

5. Discuss the costs. One of the most difficult conversations to have with your attorney will be about attorney’s fees. While it can be awkward, it is important to broach this subject. You must understand the retainer fee as well as gain an understanding of the entire cost of this process before moving forward.

6. Dispel the preconceptions you have about attorneys. If there are rumors you have heard or beliefs that you hold about attorneys, you should share these with any attorney you want to retain. One of my clients said, “I’ve been divorced more than once, so my impressions have changed over time. I have learned that most of what people think is true about divorce is not accurate.” Another client said, “I thought it was going to be very time consuming, sad, and expensive.” Know that there are good attorneys who want to hear what you have to say and want to address your specific situation. Also, remember that not every situation is time consuming or sad.

7. Remember the intangibles. I have often noticed that clients were unhappy about the outcome of their situation because they did not understand what was important to them. While it is common for clients to articulate a specific request for a co-parenting arrangement or a specific amount of money they wish to obtain, they sometimes overlook their desire to be treated fairly or to obtain resolution with privacy. Often when the intangibles are considered and addressed, other important matters are easier to resolve. Collaborative divorce provides privacy to its participants while litigation, as a public matter, does not. Try to focus not only on the specific numbers but also on the intangible aspects as well.

8. Reach out to your support network. If you know someone who is divorced, you can gain first hand knowledge of which attorney they used and what process worked for them. They may also offer insight about what to expect. Gather information, act on the advice that makes sense to you, and file the rest away for now.

9. Stand up for yourself. The right attorney can help you do this. At the end of the day, you have to be the one who decides whether the option on the table is acceptable. Remember that you are empowered to make the decision that is right for you. There is a reason another word for attorney is “counselor at law.” It is our job to give you all of the information you need and to help facilitate your resolution. However, at the end of the day, we cannot make the final choice for you. The more you are supported, the more you will be able to move forward after the process is over. One of my client’s said, “Make sure you take care of yourself… I regret not being more forceful and standing up for myself more.”

10. Envision your future. One of the items I request from all of my clients is a write up describing what they want in this situation. Many provide this in a 1-year, 5-year, or 10-year life plan and a list of questions, fears, and concerns about the process. In doing this exercise, you will start to understand your own needs and wants. One of my former clients advised, “Picture yourself 10 years from today.”