Tips to choose the right divorce lawyer for you

It’s difficult to know where to turn when you’re faced with divorce. Few of us have any prior experience with the legal ins and outs associated with this difficult process. Finding the right divorce lawyer is key to what could be a faster, less-expensive divorce, compared to a long, drawn-out emotional and financial nightmare.

Follow these steps to find the divorce attorney that’s the right fit for you:

  • Be realistic.

First, you need to realize that divorce is a legal process with the sole purpose of dissolving your assets and resolving custody issues. Your divorce attorney’s job is to represent you to the best of his or her ability in this process. While you might want them to listen to your anger, frustration, pain and sadness, that is not their job. They are not trained to be your therapist or coach, and they don’t want to be. Since your attorney has higher rates and the clock is always running, it’s a gross misuse of your money if this is how you’re using them. And divorce attorneys have seen it all. What seems immensely important to you might barely register for them within the scope of the legal process. So be realistic about the role of your divorce attorney, and what you can expect from them.

  • Stay focused on the goal.

Your ultimate goal in this process is to get divorced, and hopefully you can do so without any major depreciation of your lifestyle. Don’t let your emotions jump in and run rampant when it comes to negotiating over material things that don’t mean much to you in the big picture. If you do, your divorce will be longer, more litigious, and definitely more expensive than otherwise.

  • Know what you want.

Before you rush out to hire a divorce attorney, consider other alternatives to traditional litigation. If you aren’t completely entangled with children and finances, you could hire a mediator to help you negotiate the terms of your divorce. Mediation is the fastest, cheapest way to get divorced, and you might not need to hire an attorney at all! If your negotiation is more complicated, you’ll have to hire a divorce lawyer to negotiate a settlement with your spouse’s attorney. Or you could consider a collaborative divorce. A collaborative divorce is focused on negotiation with the goal of preserving a co-parenting relationship. Your last resort is a litigated trial. Typically, these are the cases when neither side will compromise. So you need to determine what type of divorce attorney you need based on your unique circumstances. Realize that any divorce attorney you talk to will try to steer you in the direction of their own specific expertise. It’s up to you to know what you want first, so you can make the right choice.

  • Identify at least three potential attorneys.

Don’t jump to hire the first lawyer you meet. They are not all the same. Find at least three divorce attorneys that you can interview before making your decision. Clearly, you need to hire a lawyer that specializes in family law and one that’s experienced in the specific type of divorce you think is best for you. The ideal attorney has the legal knowledge and experience you need, helps you understand the process, communicates and negotiates well, solves problems creatively and is experienced in your specific court system. So you need one that’s local to you. Regardless of whether or not your divorce is headed to trial, your attorney needs to be experienced with the family law judges in your jurisdiction so that he or she can advise you appropriately on legal strategy. How do you find potential attorneys? Ask you friends for personal recommendations. Ask your trust or estate lawyer for divorce attorney recommendations. Go online to the numerous websites that provide client reviews of attorneys local to you.

  • Interview and research potential attorneys.

Start with an initial phone call. Ask them about their experience and specialization within family law. Ask them about what type of client they typically represent. Ask them about their rates. Most divorce lawyers charge an hourly fee and require a retainer — a fee charged in advance. Some lawyers will also negotiate fees based on anticipated settlements. Don’t waste your time (or theirs) on a meeting if they’re out of your cost range. Most divorce attorneys provide a free consult to discuss your specific situation and what their legal approach would be. Take advantage of it to gather as much legal advice as possible.

  • Look for red flags.

Unfortunately, many attorneys will tell you what you want to hear just to close the deal. While this is your life, it’s a business for them. There are no guarantees in this process, so if an attorney is making promises, don’t believe it. If an attorney talks about high-profile clients or divulges confidential information based on other cases, it’s highly likely they’ll do the same to you. If they aren’t respectful of other divorce attorneys you’re interviewing, it’s a sign that they won’t be to you either. And if during your consult, they’re constantly distracted by phone calls and emails and can’t focus their sole attention on you, they likely won’t during your divorce case. Make sure the lawyer you choose acts according to the professional ethics of the industry and treats you with the respect and attention you deserve. This might be their business, but it’s your life.

  • Make your choice.

The divorce attorney you choose to represent you is local, professional, knowledgeable, responsive and communicates well. This attorney is someone you trust and feel comfortable with. This attorney supports your basic philosophy toward divorce and has a style that works for you. This attorney recognizes the importance of your children and puts them first in the legal process by not making unreasonable child support demands or custody arrangements. This attorney is affordable. If you follow these steps, you’ll find the right one — the one who listens to what you want, advises you well and has your best interest at heart.

Original article written on The Huffington Post by Laura Miolla.

Written by

The law office of Joseph Cerino handles all matters of litigation, concentrating in family law including divorce, custody, child support, paternity, alimony, property division and domestic violence, as well as, criminal defense and appeals in Southwest Florida.

24 Comments

  1. Alise Harper says:

    My husband and I just separated. I like how you mentioned when choosing a divorce lawyer to not hire the first lawyer I meet. I think this is great advice. This process is all new to me so I will definitely do some research and find the lawyer that is right for me and my divorce. Thanks for the information.

  2. I think what my sister is doing is using the bar association to find attorneys then she’s using the internet to look up reviews. It seems like she’s following your advice pretty well. Once she finds one she’s curious as what questions to ask. One question that you listed would be helpful for her. She’s really curious about rates and payment plans.

  3. I completely agree that you should find 3 potential attorneys. My friend had to go through a divorce, and he made sure that he was choosing the right person beforehand. I will have to ask how many people he talked to before hiring the one.

  4. Sarah Smith says:

    My brother needs to get a divorce lawyer. Thanks for the advice about identifying at least three different attorneys to pick from. Another thing to consider is interviewing attorneys to find one that you get along with.

  5. Divorce is a scary and difficult thing to go through. So, I like that you talked about how a good lawyer can help make it less stressful. I like that you pointed out that you should know what you want. If you have kids it might be smart to get a lawyer who is good at getting custody of children.

  6. My cousin and his wife are filing for divorce and trying to decide if they need attorneys or not. You mentioned that divorce is a legal process with the sole purpose of dissolving your assets and resolving custody issues, and your attorney’s job is to represent you to the best of their ability. Do couple hire separate attorneys or can they use the same one? It seems that having a consultation with an attorney could be very helpful.

  7. My friend and his wife have decided that they want a divorce but don’t really know where they should start. You mentioned that first, you need to realize that divorce is a legal process with the sole purpose of dissolving your assets and resolving custody issues and your attorney’s job is to represent you to the best of his or her ability. Do most couples get separate lawyers or do they use the same one? It appears that finding a good attorney could be very helpful in this process.

  8. I like your idea of identifying at least three potential attorneys when looking for a family lawyer. I would imagine that comparing various attorneys would be helpful for finding the best one to represent you. My sister is currently in a custody dispute with her ex so she should remember to compare various lawyers before she hires one.

  9. I like what this article recommends about not just jumping at the first lawyer you meet. It makes sense that it could be good to do some research on different lawyers and their prices, as getting divorced can be very financially straining. It’s something to remember as I think that finding a lawyer that’s dealt with similar situations could be a good way to make sure they really would be able to help how you need them to.

  10. My sister is considering divorce and has no idea where to start so I decided I’d do a bit of research for her. You wrote in your article that you recommend meeting with at least three attorneys. My sister might want to just hire the first person she can and like you said in the article, probably wise to find the best fit. Thanks for the read.

  11. I agree that you should identify at least three divorce attorneys before you hire anyone. I would imagine that finding someone who is the best of a few different lawyers would be best. My sister is going through a split right now so she’ll have to find a few divorce attorneys before she chooses one.

  12. These are some good ideas for hiring the perfect divorce lawyer. I have heard a lot about how sticky divorces can be, so that’s why a good lawyer is vital. I like how you said to look at at least three different lawyer, so you can compare them.

  13. Luke Smith says:

    I like your advice to know what you want and whether you will be pursuing a mediation, collaborative divorce, or litigated trial before selecting an attorney. It definitely makes sense that you would want an attorney who would be experienced in whichever option you were pursuing. I would imagine a good way to get an idea of what the lawyers in question have done the past would be would to ask for references of clients they have helped, or examples of cases they have won.

  14. Sarah Smith says:

    My sister is looking to get a divorce attorney. I agree that you should identify at least three attorneys and interview them before you make a decision. I would also suggest that you find a lawyer that you are comfortable with.

  15. Looking for red flags also seem like a smart thing to know about. I wouldn’t want to find out half way through my case that my lawyer wasn’t good. I like that you talked about how you should make sure that the lawyer was affordable.

  16. Baxter Abel says:

    I appreciate your tip to keep your end goal in mind and focusing on that when you hire a divorce lawyer. It’s so easy to get caught up in drama when negotiating about insignificant material things throughout the divorce. Thanks for the tips, I’ll be sure to pass them along to my friends looking for a divorce lawyer.

  17. I agree that you should stay focused on the goal when looking for a divorce lawyer. I would imagine that finding an attorney who has this focus as well would be really helpful. Furthermore, it would mean that they would be helpful in allowing you to win your case.

  18. Jen Pack says:

    My friend is considering divorcing her husband soon, but she wants to make sure she’ll have good legal representation before she does anything. I like the tip you give of looking at many options and then narrowing it down to around three people. Then, she can go visit them all and see which one she feels most comfortable with. I think this information will really help her, so I’ll be sure to pass it on.

  19. john Mahoney says:

    Thanks for these tips, they saved me a lot of time.I hadn’t thought about narrowing the potential attorney to about three. I can see that this is a great way to find the best option for you and will make sure to take this into account as I search for the person to handle my case.

  20. You stated that first, you need to realize that divorce is a legal process with the sole purpose of dissolving your assets and resolving custody issues. My cousin stayed at my house last night because his wife has decided that she wants a divorce after 10 years of marriage. Do most couples have separate representation during a case like this?

  21. I can see why divorce attorneys would be important. I really like the part in this article that mentions that divorce is the legal process of dissolving assets and dealing with custody. I don’t know about you but that sounds really complicated to me. If this ever happens to me (hopefully never) then I will definitely hire a lawyer.

  22. Thanks for the very helpful tips. A good friend of mine is going through a separation and I thought it might be best that the start speaking with a divorce lawyer. You advised not hiring the first lawyer you meet, and to meet with at least three and picking the one you feel the most comfortable with. If you click with your lawyer, it could help the case go smoother and be more productive.

  23. Finding a good divorce lawyer is so important. My brother is going through a divorce right now, and I keep telling him that he needs help. Next time I see him, I will sit down with him and find at least three potential lawyers he can call.

  24. My dear sister has been looking for a good divorce attorney, as she is currently separated from her husband and divorce might happen. I found it interesting when you said that you should call up a couple different attorneys, and get interviews with the ones that sound the most promising. We’ll have to find one that could start giving her good tips on how what to do in the early stages, as that is where she is right now. Thank you for the tips on finding an attorney.