In 2021, 689,308 marriages ended in divorce. First marriages are particularly fragile, as about half of them suffer this fate.
If you’re going through a divorce process for the first time, it’s normal to feel stressed out. Divorces can be chaotic and daunting. Suddenly, your future will seem far more uncertain than it was during your honeymoon phase.
One thing that can help you during this emotional time is to get the best divorce lawyer you can find. On top of navigating the complexities of your case, a lawyer can provide guidance and support.
Not sure how to choose the right divorce lawyer for your needs? This guide will get you started on the right foot.
Consider the Process
Divorce proceedings come in many forms. A contentious process may end in litigation, but plenty of couples opt to end things amicably.
The type of process you’ll go through will play a key role in hiring a lawyer. If you expect conflict over divorce terms, the process could go to court. In this case, it’s best to hire a lawyer with lots of courtroom experience.
If both spouses have common goals, other dispute-resolution methods may be in play. These include uncontested divorce, collaborative divorce, and mediation. All three approaches offer greater control over the process.
Do Your Research
A big part of choosing a divorce lawyer comes down to doing your research. That way, worthwhile local options are much easier to narrow down.
Start by contacting divorced friends and family members. Chances are, they’ll have strong opinions about how things turned out. If they drew the short end of the stick, they may recommend their ex-spouse’s lawyer over their own.
Of course, you can also turn to the internet. Your local bar association will have plenty of names you can check out. Many of them will provide a consultation for a low fee, and you may find one who meets your criteria.
Even if you find a lawyer who seems like a perfect match, get some alternatives as well. Firms that look great on paper may not impress in interviews, so it’s important to keep your options open.
Check Their Experience
Once you have a few matches, you’ll want to separate the wheat from the chaff. A good way to do that is to look at their work experience.
In general, you’ll want to hire someone who has many divorce cases under their belt. This experience makes them more likely to anticipate potential challenges and come up with the right solutions.
Keep in mind that all types of lawyers have unique styles that may make them more suitable for your case. For instance, a family law attorney who’s had many of his cases go to trial may not be a great negotiator.
Interview the Candidates
By now, you should have a list of two or three candidates you can see yourself hiring. The next step is to bring them in for an interview.
First, ask them how they plan to handle your case. Will you have input in decisions and how long will the process take? What’s their approach to dividing financial assets or reaching a resolution on child custody?
You should also ask them a few questions about their day-to-day operations. Ensure the lawyer you’re seeing will negotiate your case, not their assistant. If they have an assistant, ask about their credentials as well.
Look for Warning Signs
Another reason to do interviews is to get a feel for how a candidate will act as your lawyer. Oftentimes, their legal advice will contain some red flags.
For example, you don’t want your lawyer making promises. Very few things are certain in divorce cases, so any blanket statement is a warning sign. In general, talking more than listening doesn’t bode well either.
You also don’t want your lawyer telling you they have expertise in several areas of law. Even if this is true, family law is a specialized field that requires a lot of focus. As the adage goes, a jack of all trades is a master of none.
Focus on Communication
When it comes to lawyer qualities to look for, communication is key. On top of giving you legal advice, your lawyer should educate you along the way.
Why is this important? Well, if you’ve never been through a divorce, you need to know what to expect. Your lawyer shouldn’t have to go through every part of the process with you, but they need to be responsive and empathetic.
Again, an interview is a great time to judge a lawyer’s communication style. A compassionate lawyer will understand the challenges you’re facing. They’ll listen to your concerns and validate the emotions you’re feeling.
Don’t overlook personal comfort when hiring a lawyer. Though expertise is essential, so is having an attorney you can confide in. Trust is the cornerstone of every good client-attorney relationship.
Ensure the Fees Are Clear
A reputable lawyer will be transparent about their fee structure. They’ll provide a breakdown of their hourly rates, retainer amounts, and so on.
If there are extra costs, your lawyer should tell you about them. Keep in mind there’s a difference between fees and costs. The latter involves things like court filing fees and other costs that may be due in advance.
If the lawyer will work on the case with an associate, find out about their billing rate. Some firms may also charge you their combined rates. That said, they usually only do it if it’s needed, such as at a trial.
Find the Best Divorce Lawyer for You
As you can see, hiring the best divorce lawyer for your needs is no easy feat. It’s a big decision that requires careful consideration. The above guide will help you figure out what to expect from the hiring process.
Looking for a family lawyer in the York, PA area? Our attorneys at Blake & Schanbacher Law have years of experience in settling these matters. Let us know what we can do for you at this link right here.