How to Find, Retain and Manage a Divorce Lawyer

If you are getting a divorce and are confused about attorneys, start here. Learn how to select, retain and manage your divorce lawyer.

By Courtney Knowles from ThirdAge.com
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    Many people entering a divorce are under the false assumption that their divorce lawyer is the leader in dissolving their marriage. In reality, you must be the head manager of your divorce, while your lawyer is a key member of your support team. It is very important that you use knowledge, research, and a good dose of common sense in choosing and managing your legal representation. Here are some things to keep in mind.

    Yes, You Need to Speak to a Lawyer

    Sometimes a divorce doesn't ever require a trip to the courtroom. Mediation and arbitration are sometimes easier and less expensive ways to end your marriage. With no-fault divorce laws, there are also do-it-yourself divorce kits and online resources that can be alternatives if you and your partner agree on issues like custody and division of property. Even if you and your partner agree to settle your divorce outside of a courtroom, it is still important that you at least have a consultation with an attorney -- one who is not affiliated with your partner -- to discuss your intended method of divorce and the terms that you and your spouse have agreed upon. Too often, individuals assume that they are doing the "right thing" and that their best interests are being represented, and then find out differently. Spending a little time and money to consult with an attorney can help make sure you are being smart in ending your marriage.

    Know What You Need

    There are many factors to consider when choosing a lawyer to represent you in your divorce. Do you simply need someone to guide you through the process and support you during an uncontested divorce or mediation? Do you need someone to help you with complicated financial matters in the division of assets? Is custody a primary concern? You want to find an attorney who is seasoned in the areas most important to you. It will be easier to find the best lawyer for your case if you have a clear understanding of how they will be supporting you. Use online resources or books to understand the divorce process in your state and what your specific needs might be.

    The Selection Process

    Referrals from friends, family, or colleagues can be a good way to start generating a list of potential attorneys. You can also contact your local Bar Association of the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers (www.aaml.org) to research possibilities. Do not use an attorney with any connections to your spouse. Even if your divorce is amicable, it is best to have your own, unbiased representation. If options in your immediate area are limited, feel free to expand your search -- just make sure that the attorney in question has experience with divorce in your state, as laws can differ from state to state. Once you have a list of potential lawyers in place, it is time to start asking some important questions.

    The Interview

    It is critical to be prepared when you start interviewing lawyers. You want to be able to accurately and clearly state your needs and the details of your situation. Many lawyers offer a free initial consultation, but make sure you clarify this up front, as some attorneys do bill for this first meeting. Here are some of the questions you'll want to ask potential lawyers: - Ask about their experience, how long they have been practicing and if they specialize in divorce. - Ask who will be doing the bulk of the work. Will it be a specific attorney or will it be delegated to a team or group? - After sharing your situation with the attorney, ask his or her initial reaction as to how he/she would recommend proceeding -- negotiating a settlement, mediation, going to trial, etc. - If you think your divorce might end up in a courtroom, be sure to ask how much actual trial experience the attorney has accumulated. - Ask about the payment structure and retainer. If necessary, ask about possible payment plans. - Utilize this initial meeting to clarify any questions you have about the divorce process or your particular situation. To be a good manager of your divorce, it will be important that you understand what is going on every step of the way.

    Choose Based On Qualifications

    Remember, you want to choose a lawyer who is qualified, who will give you the attention you need, who fits into your budget, and with whom you feel a good level of understanding and trust. Even after you have selected your lawyer, don't forget that he is a member of your support team and that you have the right to manage him by expecting deadlines to be met, updates to be given, and your feedback to be incorporated into all decisions. If you don't feel like your representation is meeting his obligation, deal with this immediately and don't ever assume that it will all work out in the end. More from ThirdAge.com: 10 Steps to Recover from a Divorce or Breakup Happily Ever After... Divorce Dating after Divorce: What do Women Want?

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    Your Comments

    • free for all

      very nice article

    • Denis Leary

      Unfortunate matter is that divorce cases are increasing every year not only in USA almost every country in world. I think busy life is main cause of divorce. As a lawyer I have found many divorce cases due to this reason. I know finding a lawyer is not a great matter we can easily get a good lawyer if we follow some rules. I think we can take well experience lawyer. Another thing is track record I mean choose a lawyer who has great success record. Again I am saying I do not expect single divorce case but unfortunately more then 100000 divorce cases registered last year in USA.

    • free for all

      thanks for this informative info

    • http://www.facebook.com/kathryn.v.fields Kathryn V. Fields

      There are some good points, but concept that the client is the “manager” of one’s divorce is naive and a recipe for disaster. Step (1) get referrals from friends, if they had a good experience that’s an endorsement. Step (2) NEVER hire a lawyer for divorce that does not practice family law exclusively or at least substantially. (Dont ask your real estate lawyer to do your case!) Step (3) I tell friends ‘don’t hire any lawyer who hasn’t been practicing at least 10 years. (Experience is critical.) Step (4) pay attention in the first interview. You need someone you can trust. Listen to the advice given. Ask the hard questions then. Step (5) The client determines the goals and what settlements to take or reject. The lawyer manages the case. He knows the procedures required, what law or theories should be advanced, when things have to be scheduled or continued, and how judges respond to certain claims. You do your job and cooperate. If you feel he’s not managing the case well, get a second opinion or a new lawyer. Step (6) don’t hide secrets from your attorney. And never lie or minimize the facts. He has to know what you are up against in order to help you. Step (7) keep your agreements with your attorney. Arrive on time for meetings. Return homework when due. Be thorough–it will save you money. Pay your bill according to what was agreed upon. Your case is like a car. It may be awesome and capable of winning the race. But without fuel, it can’t be driven. Unless your attorney and you agreed he would carry your case, (and most lawyers cannot), you have to fund your litigation

    • Birchmore

      The best way to get through a divorce is QUICKLY. Remember that attorneys – for both sides -  make their money on an hourly basis. When the divorce is finalized, their income ends also. You might be lucky and find one who will represent your best interests, (as I did the second time) but beware those who encourage petty conflicts, child custody issues, trial continuations, and “anything to avoid the courtroom.” Remember that attorneys profit by delay, but it’s judges that want settlement.  Get the divorce finalized ASAP, and have the judge’s decision READ INTO THE RECORD, so that nobody will remember the spoken judgment in different ways that would provoke further billable hours. GET IT DONE! You can always come back later and argue a Change of Circumstances, like with your income, her secret employment, child care, or entitlement to Aunt Effie’s antique silver plate service.

    • Josephestep

      Lawyers are paracites and will stir up conflet in devorce.

    • Josephestep

      Lawyers are paracites and will stir up conflet in devorce.

      • Bob

        Yeah, especially when they have to deal with morons who can’t spell…