Divorce is a major life event that can be very stressful. Therefore, it is not surprising that selecting a divorce attorney can often be a daunting process. Given the personal nature of this extremely important decision, it is critical that you choose someone with whom you feel comfortable because good communication with your attorney is essential to successfully navigating your divorce.
Before choosing an attorney, you should research the prospective matrimonial attorneys based on referrals, reputation, location or any other considerations that are important to you. Once you have selected one or more lawyers to interview, you should obtain copies of your recent tax returns if you have access to them, and you should also compile a list of assets and liabilities to the extent you have this information. This will allow the attorney to give you a preliminary opinion about the possible outcome or outcomes of your case in your initial consultation, in addition to giving you a general overview of the divorce process.
Below are general questions to help you in your selection of an attorney to best accomplish the goals for your case. They fall into three major categories: experience, practice style and cost.
Divorce Attorney Experience Questions:
- What is the background of the attorney?
- Does the attorney specialize in family law?
- Does the attorney concentrate in any specific areas within family law (e.g., alimony, child support, custody, high net worth/complex financial cases, business valuation, hidden assets)?
- What is the breakdown of the attorney’s practice between litigation and alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation?
- What are the attorney’s strengths that distinguish him or her from other attorneys?
- Is the attorney’s practice concentrated in a geographical area of the state to provide familiarity with the judges in the county in which your case will proceed?
- How does the attorney think his or her experience will benefit your case?
Divorce Attorney Practice Style Questions:
- Will the attorney be the only lawyer in the law firm working on the case? If not, what would be that attorney’s involvement or role in the case?
- If other attorneys in the law firm are going to work on the case, what experience do they have and what will their role be?
- What is the typical response time to telephone calls and emails from clients?
- How does the attorney work with a client to develop a strategy for the case?
- How does the attorney keep clients informed about the status of their case?
- Will the case require the use of experts, such as a forensic accountant or a custody expert?
- What is the attorney’s opinion on settlement versus litigation?
- Is it possible to give an estimated timeline for the case?
Divorce Cost Questions:
- What is the attorney’s retainer fee and how is the allocation of counsel and any expert fees likely to be handled in your case?
- What is the attorney’s hourly billing rate and what is the minimum billing increment?
- How does the law firm handle billing when more than one attorney is working on a case?
- How does the law firm handle billing of other staff or services?
- How does the law firm handle billing after the retainer is depleted?
You should also prepare a list of questions specific to your case, as the way in which any divorce will proceed depends on both the lawyers for the parties and the positions taken by both sides based on your unique situation. Having a good set of general and specific questions will help you retain a qualified divorce attorney for your matter.