Your spouse has asked for a divorce. What now?
This was obviously not in the plans on your wedding day. The last thing you anticipated was that you would be looking for a divorce law firm.
But here you are.
And you’re not alone. Although divorce rates are down, the typical marriage still has about a 50% chance of ending in divorce.
You may feel vulnerable right now, but this is your future and you need to take care of yourself. Contacting a divorce law firm is one of the most important things you can do right now for your financial and emotional health. Pull yourself together and take advantage of those free attorney consultations.
The questions you ask today may make a big difference in the quality of legal representation you get — and may have a huge impact on your future. The divorce law firm that you hire may make or break your future, so make it count.
Here are some important questions to ask a divorce law firm at that first consultation
What Kind of Experience does He/She Have?
How many divorce cases has this divorce law firm handled? There’s a difference between a dedicated divorce lawyer and one that practices a broad range of legal matters and only deals with divorce on the side. Experience — dealing with divorces day in and day out — is where your lawyer will gain expertise and experience all the nitty gritty details of divorce law.
Does he/she have experience with your specific type of case? What about complex financial matters? Custody? Discuss what may come up specifically in your case and listen closely to the answers.
Being in the trenches on a daily basis offers real-world insight that no amount of law school offers. Seeing everyday cases day in and day out offers that kind of experience that you want from your lawyer. You owe it to yourself to hire someone with the most experience possible at a time when your emotional and financial future is at stake.
Research and do your homework. Ask around. The best way to get a feel for a divorce lawyer is to talk to someone you know who has used him/her.
Is That Experience Local Experience?
Not all experience is the same — the more local the experience, the more important it is. Your attorney should know the judges and how they typically rule. They should know the other attorneys on the playing field and what their strategies are, especially your spouse’s attorney.
Legal experience is as much a knowledge of the players as a knowledge of the law. Maybe even more so. Don’t ignore this fact when considering a divorce law firm.
Has the Lawyer Gone Through Divorce Personally?
This may be a personal question, but lawyers are people, too.
A personal divorce experience may shape the way this lawyer personally feels about things like child custody and spousal support. As much as we would like to believe that a lawyer is subjective about our case, it’s simply human nature that personal experience will color the way they feel about and represent a client.
For them, it’s their business. For you, it’s your future at stake. A divorce lawyer who has ingrained emotional responses because of a personal bad divorce experience is something you will need to consider. It may be a personal question, but it’s an important one.
What Does the Lawyer’s Caseload Look Like? And Who Else Will Be Working On Your Case?
Will this lawyer have the time to dedicate to you? Or will you be overlooked for more high-stakes cases? Who on staff will be working on your case and how will you be communicating?
You will want as much access to your lawyer as possible when you have questions. Although you know you need to be realistic — you will never be the only client — you want to know what you can expect. Can you meet the other staff members or lawyers who may be working on your case so you can get a personal feel for them as well?
How Does this Divorce Law Firm Charge?
What are the firm’s retainer fee and hourly rate? Will you be sent an itemized bill? How will you be charged if the case goes to court? Under what circumstances can your spouse be charged for your attorney’s fees?
The devil is in the details. Each phone call, each email, each copy, each letter can translate into billable hours. What are ways you can keep the costs down? Don’t be blindsided by legal fees at the end.
What Would Their Strategy Be for Your Case?
Before you hire a divorce law firm, make sure that you’re comfortable with the way they are planning to represent you. How does the lawyer feel about mediation? Or is he/she primarily a litigator?
Talk about what you want and be honest about how aggressive you want to be. Will you be allowed open communication with your spouse or will all communication need to be done through lawyers? You want to make sure he/she is not drumming up more resentment than is necessary.
You want to be assured that your lawyer is working with your best interest at heart and not billable hours. The more aggressive your representation is, the more expensive it will be. Get some answers and then trust your gut.
There is life after divorce and you will want to create an atmosphere for yourself and your children that allows you to move on with the least amount of resentment possible.
It may not seem that way now, but after all the emotion dies down, it will be up to you to determine the course of the relationship with your ex and how it will affect your children. Make sure this lawyer is on the same page. If you are living in Canada, you can find more about Canadian grounds for divorce here.
How Much Communication Can You Expect?
Will you be consulted and asked your opinion? Will you be kept informed and given copies of any communication with your spouse’s lawyer? If you want to be an active partner in your case, will this be allowed or does this lawyer expect a more hands-off approach?
Divorce Is Never Easy.
Find a divorce law firm that represents your rights — and your personal wishes. Hiring the right lawyer is a relationship based on trust and mutual goals.
Don’t leave that to chance.
For more expert advice on life, relationships, and family, check out GetThatRight.com.