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Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Attorney

If you do hire an attorney, you need to make sure they’re the right fit for you. Each person will have their own specialty, way of handling cases and situations they’re best at (financial, collaborative, trial, mediation, high-conflict, etc. – know ahead of time what suits you/what path you want to take.)

How to find an attorney

  • Make sure they specialize in divorce, and also the type of divorce process you’re using (litigation, mediation, collaborative, etc.) 
  • Search online, look through the directory of organizations like the ABA (American Bar Association), ask for referrals (either from people you know who may’ve used one for their divorce, or other professionals you (other lawyers, therapists, etc.)).
  • Be sure to interview everyone you’re considering. Don’t just go with the first person you speak with – interview at least three different attorneys. 
  • Ask how much the initial consultation is (some are free while others will charge a fee).
  • Use your head and instinct to select. Pay attention to how you feel about them, not just how they may look on paper. Make sure you’re comfortable with them.

Some questions to ask potential lawyers:

  • Costs and fee structure? Is it billed by time/hourly (and what time is counted towards this – phone calls, emails answering questions, etc.) or fixed fee? 
  • What is the total cost estimate?
  • Approach, beliefs, philosophy, and types of cases normally handle? Do you specialize in divorce?
  • Who will primarily be handling the case – them or staff? 
  • What is your strategy and how long do you think it will take to resolve/rough timeline based on your situation?
  • Time able to devote to your case? How long do you typically take to respond to calls, emails, etc.?
  • Any insights into things like alimony, child custody, splitting assets/debts?
  • Based on your situation, what do they see as your optimal outcome?
  • References you can contact?

Other things to look for / keep in mind:

  • Must have mutual trust, they listen to you, answer all your questions, is open about the costs and expectations
  • Pay attention to how attentive they are and how they treat you from the beginning.
  • Most expensive not always the best (for you or your situation)
  • If you’re not sure if you can afford a lawyer, get in touch with the local legal aid office or legal bar association to see if you qualify for help
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if the person has any complaints

When to “divorce” your lawyer

  • If you’re uncomfortable with your lawyer or unhappy with how they’re handling your case, it may be time to cut your losses and hire someone else. 
  • Make sure the problem is actually with the lawyer and not something else outside of their control (the legal process/system, your emotions/expectations, etc.)
  • Discuss your concerns with your lawyer and see if you can work out the problems. If you’re unable to resolve, you may need to move on.
  • If you think you want to get another lawyer, weigh your options because it will probably be more expensive to change, and could prolong the time it takes to wrap up your divorce.
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