When you’ve decided that your marriage is no longer working, it can be tough to navigate the legal nuances of divorce. You will want to find an attorney who will act on your behalf in a competent and professional manner. Depending on your situation and how amicable your divorce is, there are several options for getting the legal assistance you need.
If you have an amicable relationship with your spouse and have few assets, your divorce can likely be handled by an experienced mediator. However, if you anticipate a messy divorce, get referrals for a trial attorney from your local bar association. When you are ready, consult with several attorneys before choosing the right one. During consultations, ask about fees and the attorney’s experience with family law, and choose an attorney you feel comfortable with. For more from our reviewer on negotiating attorney’s fees, keep reading.
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Decide whether you need an attorney. Before beginning your divorce attorney search you should first consider whether a divorce attorney is actually necessary. If you and your spouse can resolve the situation amicably, and have no marital property, it is possible to file for divorce pro se, ie. without the assistance of an attorney. In fact, most divorces don’t require court proceedings, especially if there are no children involved and the divorce will not be contested.
Consider using an experienced mediator if you and your spouse’s relationship is amicable and you foresee comfortable and friendly negotiations. A mediator can work with you and your spouse to come up with a division of assets agreement that is agreeable to both parties. After the assets have been divided, you and your spouse can file for divorce on your own
Give yourself and your spouse some time before officially filing for divorce. You and your spouse can reduce both the fear and perception of the need to “lawyer-up” by mutually agreeing not to take any steps that will materially affect either of your financial situations. Even if you later decide to retain a lawyer, the divorce process will be much easier if you try to cooperate with your spouse.
Evaluate you and your spouse’s financial situation. While many attorneys provide general divorce services, others specialize in divorces involving children, high-net worth individuals, and some lawyers even choose to represent only husbands or only wives in divorce proceedings.
Consider attorneys who are well-versed in finance and property laws if you and your spouse have shared bank and/or investment accounts, own property and/or have other joint assets.
Seek out an attorney experienced at handling marital contracts if you and your spouse entered into a prenuptial agreement before marriage.
Consider hiring a trial attorney if your decision to divorce is not amicable. Messy divorces, especially when children and substantial assets are involved may have to go to trial, especially if you and your spouse are not on the best of terms.
Ask others for a divorce attorney reference. Talk to friends and family members who have already been through a divorce about their experiences with their attorneys. Most people who have gone through a divorce won’t shy away from relating their stories, and some may even be willing to openly discuss the consultation fee they paid as well as their divorce attorney’s hourly rate.
Ask specific questions about your friends’ experiences communicating with the attorney. Helpful questions that you should ask include:
Does the referred attorney promptly answer emails and phone calls?
Is the attorney’s staff friendly, knowledgeable and easily accessible?
How was the attorney in court – did he or she seem comfortable communicating with the other attorneys and the judge?
Were all terms clearly spelled out and all questions answered prior to the attorney requiring a retainer?
Would your friend select this same attorney if they were in the same situation again?
Were your friends’ cases settled in the agreed-upon timeframe or did the attorney tended to drag things out?
Conduct a divorce attorney search online. In this digital age, most attorneys have at least a website or social media profile. Use a search engine like Google to locate both general and specialized divorce lawyers operating within your community.