Separation and divorce is one of the most difficult things that your family will experience. You will have to make decisions that will impact your life and your children’s lives. Finding the right lawyer to help you navigate through your divorce is imperative. Before you decide to retain a lawyer, consider the following:
You are hiring an advocate to represent your interests. You need to be comfortable with the lawyer you will be retaining as you will be sharing personal information about your family and your finances. You want to feel confident that your lawyer has heard and understood your concerns and will effectively advocate on your behalf.
Come to the initial meeting with a potential lawyer prepared to discuss your concerns and your goals. Be ready to provide some initial information about your family structure, the roles of each spouse, your children and your finances. That will allow the lawyer to have a general understanding of your circumstances. Often, it is a good idea to come to a meeting with a written overview of what you want the lawyer to know and with your questions written out. That having been said, it is rarely if ever helpful to arrive at an initial meeting with boxes of documentation or your life history written out over dozens of pages.
If possible, meet with more than one lawyer before choosing which lawyer you want to represent you. Prepare a list of questions for the lawyers to answer which include:
A. How much will you be charged?
B. How does that lawyer bill? (Hourly rate? Flat rate?)
C. Who else in the office will be working on your file? (Assistant? Junior lawyer?)
D. What portion of your practice is dedicated to family law?
E. How much experience do you have in court? In mediation?
You want to be sure that the lawyer you are hiring has experience in dealing with family law matters, and in particular, has experience with the potential issues to be resolved on your file. For example, if your family has significant assets and business interests, be sure that the lawyer you hire has some understanding of how businesses are structured, is able to read a financial statement and understands how to structure a divorce settlement which will properly take the business assets into consideration. If you anticipate that the custody of your children will be at issue, be sure to hire a lawyer who has experience in dealing with high conflict custody disputes.
Discuss what options the lawyer may suggest for allowing you to meet your goals and to address your concerns. Is it possible to negotiate a settlement with your spouse without having to go to court? Are there any other alternatives that may work for your family such as mediation? An experienced family lawyer ought to be able to provide you with more than one option for trying to resolve potential issues.
Do not be afraid to ask your friends and family for their recommendations for a good family lawyer. Beware of relying only on reviews found on the internet. While such reviews may be helpful, there are many outstanding lawyers who have not been “reviewed” and there are many good lawyers who have received poor reviews from opposing parties who were not happy with being on the losing end of a file. Do your homework and trust your instincts when hiring a lawyer.
If finances are of significant concern, you may wish to hire a more junior lawyer to assist you with your file. If you plan on hiring a junior lawyer, ask the lawyer if he or she is able to consult with more senior counsel to discuss any more complicated issues that may arise on your file.
Our Best Advice….
If you have hired a lawyer and become concerned about the manner in which your file is being handled, address your concerns with your lawyer. It may be a matter of different styles in communicating and easily resolved. If you are not able to address your concerns with your lawyer or are not satisfied with the response you receive, it may be time to consider whether you should hire someone new.