Divorces, even the most amicable ones, can be complicated and nuanced. From alimony to property division, there are many decisions to consider and a plethora of paperwork to fill out. If you and your spouse have decided to divorce, you’ll want to hire a lawyer to help with the legal process that will follow. A lawyer will not only help you navigate the mountains of legal paperwork but will also provide educated advice and fair bargaining power during negotiations with your spouse and their lawyer.
Not sure where to start? Here are some tips for finding the attorney that’s right for you.
#1- Specialty Is Important
Not all lawyers are created equal. Lawyers specialize in different fields of law. You will need to look for a lawyer experienced in practicing family law who can better navigate the complexities of divorce on your behalf. You may be tempted to hire a family friend who you know well but whose experience is in traffic violations. While this person likely has your best interest at heart, their lack of knowledge and expertise in family law may lead to costly or time-consuming mistakes.
Divorces often involve complicated decisions regarding alimony, child support and custody, and property division to include animals, art, and bank accounts. A family lawyer will have knowledge and experience navigating these common divorce issues.
Just like you wouldn’t hire the first person you interviewed for a job or accept the first estimate for home repairs, you shouldn’t necessarily hire the one and only attorney you consult. It’s typical (and advisable) to interview at least three, and this initial consultation is oftentimes free. You can start your search by asking other lawyers that you know who they would recommend or consulting friends and family who have been through a divorce. Search for reviews online or ask the lawyer for a list of client references to learn more about their skills and style.
Here’s what you can hope to learn about attorney candidates during your interviews:
Hopefully, during your interview process, you will learn more about the attorney’s communication style and attentiveness. Pick the attorney who is responsive to your communication and responds promptly to questions. A good attorney will return your calls and emails within a reasonable amount of time.
You definitely want to pick an attorney whose abilities instill confidence in you. You and your prospective lawyer should be able to communicate and collaborate well together, or the already difficult divorce could become all the more challenging.
You should also keep your own personality and that of your spouse in mind when choosing a lawyer. Are you and your spouse in a hotly contested, highly volatile divorce? Do you need a lawyer who won’t back down on what you want? Or, are you and your spouse willing and able to keep things peaceful? In this case, you may prefer an experienced divorce mediation lawyer. Whether your situation is at one extreme or the other or anywhere in between, talking to several lawyers before choosing one will help you find that experienced attorney that suits your needs.
The attorneys you interview should be able to give you a rough idea of their course of action and an estimated time frame of how long they expect your divorce to take. Keep in mind, however, that the strategy and timing are both just rough guesses at the beginning and are subject to change depending on a variety of factors. Until your attorney has fully explored the facts of the case, their time frame is an estimate based on experience.
During your interviews, ask the attorneys what they charge and how they bill clients? Do they charge a flat fee or an hourly rate, and what is that fee or rate? Will you be expected to handle certain duties on your own to keep costs down? Unfortunately, divorces aren’t cheap, but a good lawyer is worthy of their fees.
Typically, the family laws of the state where the divorce was first filed are the ones that will apply to your divorce proceedings. You should consider a Utah divorce attorney whose location is convenient for you. Driving across town or doing business long distance can be challenging.You’ll also want to pick one who knows the local courts and judges in the area where the divorce is filed. Having this familiarity can aid them in strategizing your approach to the divorce.
Can’t I just use my spouse’s attorney?
Legally and ethically speaking, a lawyer can only represent one party in a divorce. To try to represent two parties with conflicting interests would be almost impossible to do fairly, so each of you will need to hire your own counselor. Do not sign paperwork drafted by your spouse’s attorney until your own lawyer can look through it and advise you.
Once you’ve chosen the best lawyer for your divorce needs, you’ll want to keep in mind that a divorce involves trade-offs. You might not get everything you want in the divorce settlement. Still, your lawyer will listen to your needs and wants and draft a proposal around your top priorities while offering your spouse acceptable compromises.
Keep your expectations reasonable. Divorce proceedings can be a long and costly process, but choosing the right lawyer can help you achieve your goals during what can be a difficult time.
Going through a divorce is a challenging and stressful moment in your life. Aside from its emotional toll, you have tons of things you need to settle with your spouse, from alimony and child support to property division. A mountain of paperwork is waiting, and you badly need help with the legal process. It is time to look for the right attorney to help you with the divorce proceedings. Discover some tips in this infographic.