When you need an attorney you should know who you are hiring
The lawyer’s role is to give you information, alternatives and advice. The attorney should not be making decisions for you, but rather providing to you what you need to know so that you can make informed decisions. The final decision should be yours to make. A good attorney will give you recommendations and ask you to make a decision.
Before you interview an attorney, make a list of questions. Ask about his or her’s legal education, experience, philosophy of practice and all methods the attorney uses to manage the marital dissolution.
Search for the right divorce attorney
- Ask family, friends or associates. Disregard third-hand opinion (if they hired someone, you want to know; you do not want to know so-and-so had a good lawyer. Be aware that other people’s experiences with attorneys have to be different from yours would be. Ask WHY someone said an attorney was good or bad
- Lawyer Directories and lists – Most commonly found online. Martindale-Hubbell legal directory, Nolo lawyer directory, Justia.com are the best known. Lawyers are often rated by their peers and the judges they interact with on their competence and professional ethics
- Referral services – You will find many of these with local (city and county) bar associations. Unlike a directory, referral services attempt to match you to a single or group of attorneys. These referrals tend to offer the services of attorneys that are newer to the practice of law, but not necessarily less skilled than a more seasoned attorney. If you like this approach, we suggest you use the lawyer database by AVVO, where you can review detailed information on lawyers in your area.
- Bring a financial statement – a list of financial assets and liabilities
- Include legal correspondence from your spouse or your spouse’s attorney
- Produce recent tax returns. 3 years if possible.
- Create a bulleted list of chronological events in your marriage. Include previous marriages for both, details of children of the marriage, step-kids/foster-kids, etc. Produce any pre-nups, career achievements and milestones, health conditions (including any recent changes), acts of abuse or violence, changes in behavior including suspected or confirmed affairs, and any relevant comments made during the marriage or separation.
You are not re-writing War and Peace, so brevity is appreciated. Do not overlook the need to update your will before the ink dries on the divorce decree.
Questions to Ask Before You Hire An Attorney
- On what grounds can you file?
- Has anyone at your firm ever represented my partner or anyone associated with my partner?
- What are the proof requirements for the fault-based grounds for which you qualify?
- Does your state take marital fault into account for the purposes of property division and alimony?
- Do you handle other types of Family Law cases?
- Does your state take extramarital affairs into account when awarding custody? If yes, to what extent?
- How many of these cases have you handled?
- Is there any advantage to filing for divorce on one ground versus another?
- How many of them were contested?
- How many of them went to trial?
- Did any of the cases involve expert witnesses?
- How many were before the judge(s) who will hear my case?
- What kind of decisions does this judge usually make?
- Who else will work on my case? How are they paid?
- If you want to use email, ask about protocol. Response time? Cost? Who responds?
- Does the lawyer require paid in full before s/he goes to court or finishes with your case?
- Will they work out a payment plan for you?
- Will they put these answers in writing?
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