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Divorce Truths - Itís Time To Hire An Attorney

Most people avoid being sued or suing anyone their entire life, but now you need an attorney. You don't need just any attorney. You need an experienced divorce attorney. A divorce can affect your future for many years. An attorney with experience can help you anticipate and minimize problems. You should hire an attorney whose experience matches the complexity of your case. Where do you start?

Initial Consultation

Hopefully, someone can refer you to a divorce attorney. The best choice would be to hire an attorney who has been referred to you. If you do not know anyone who can give you a positive referral, you may have no other option but to look through the pages of your local phone book. Just start calling. After the first call, it will be easier. I personally believe your attorney should come from the locale where the divorce is going to be filed. You can obtain a lot of information about the attorney before you meet with them.

Questions to Ask
  • What percent of their law practice is devoted to domestic/family law matters? The answer you are looking for is 100%.
  • How long have they have been practicing law? The longer, the better.
  • Do they handle contested divorces? Many attorneys do not, especially if you will be fighting over children.
  • Do they practice in the county/municipality where the divorce will be filed? I believe this is important because they are familiar with the local judges. They can tell you how the judge has ruled in similar situations, although individual facts will control the outcome.
  • What is their charge for an initial limited time consultation? Some attorneys may waive their initial consultation fee if you retain them. Otherwise, it will be a stated hourly amount.
  • What is their usual retainer and hourly rate? Most attorneys charge a specified amount of money to begin a case the time is charged against an hourly amount. The larger the firm and the more lavish the office, usually the larger the retainer. Look for experience. You should, however, expect a larger retainer if you have a lot of assets or a complex case.
  • Do they charge a flat fee for an uncontested divorce? Uncontested divorces are easier to predict as to the time required to complete. If your divorce goes smoothly, you can save time and money.
  • Do they charge for your phone calls? Some attorneys don't charge for short phone calls. If you are the kind of person who expects to spend a lot of time talking with your attorney each day, you can expect to pay for it. I, personally, don't charge for short phone calls because I don't want to discourage clients from giving me important information.

The attorney or receptionist you speak with may ask if your divorce is going to be uncontested or contested. There are still a few attorneys you can actually speak with. I screen my own calls to obtain the necessary information and determine whether this is a client I can help. That way, I don't waste your time or mine. It is often the reality that once a divorce petition is filed, the dimension changes.

Meed the Prospective Attorney in Person

Meet with as many attorneys as you need to until you find someone you believe is right for you, and whose retainer you feel is reasonable for the work ahead. This is your chance to gain insight into more than just the answers to your questions. Just because you don't know the law doesn't mean you can't evaluate the effectiveness of a lawyer. If they lack basic people skills, all the legal expertise in the world will be lost if they are not able to communicate.

Communication Skills

A lawyer's effectiveness depends on their communication skills and their ability to influence others. They must be skilled negotiators. They will be interacting with your spouse's attorney, your witnesses, your friends, your family, court personnel and the judge. Your attorney is crucial in getting you what you want, not just in property or assets but pushing your case through a crowded system. Everything you need to happen in your divorce has to come by and through someone else. Your attorney is your representative in dealing with these individuals.

What did the attorney say in their interview? Was the attorney confident in their answers or evasive? Did you believe them? Confidence affects credibility. You are about to enter into an arena where credibility is everything. Remember -swear to tell the truth and nothing but? If you didn't believe what the attorney was saying, do you think anyone else will?

The attorney may not know all the answers because the judge is the one who decides the ultimate outcome.

Did You Understand the Attorney?

Did the prospective attorney answer your questions in a manner you understood? Don't hire an attorney who cannot explain things to you because they probably cannot explain things to anyone else. His primary job aside from knowing the law is his ability to persuade. You need someone who can give straightforward answers and assessments even though individual facts and circumstances will affect the result. You need to hear probability of what to expect. Your attorney should give you an evaluation of what they believe will happen, what factors will influence the outcome, and how they think you can influence a favorable result. At this point, however, it's important to remember they have a very limited amount of information of your facts.

Did the Attorney Really Listen to You?

You want someone who will listen to you. Logic tells you if they didn't listen to you during a thirty-minute interview, they will not listen over the next several months that it may take to conclude your divorce. An attorney can never know as much about your case and the facts as you do. The main way they will learn them is from listening to you and your witnesses.

Divorce Can Be a Lengthy Proceeding

As a practical matter, do you want to interact with this attorney in what may be a lengthy divorce? You don't want to feel you can't talk to your attorney, or that they don't have the time for you. When you call them on the phone, are you going to dread the communication, or do you think they will be open, receptive and willing to help. They need to do whatever they can to assist in resolving small problems before they become major problems. You still have a life to live during your divorce. You still have to interact with your spouse, and you still have to pay bills. Things will continuously arise that you did not anticipate that requires their legal attention. They don't need to become your best friend, but you don't need the additional stress of yet another awkward relationship.

Scorched Earth Attack

Some clients seek an attorney whose approach is to "take no prisoners." Every minor issue is treated as a major battle that is never finalized. You will spend more than time and money. You will spend all your emotional energy. You should ask yourself if you have the energy necessary to sustain this. It will be impossible not to become engulfed by it, and it will become increasingly more and more difficult to control. Every major attack you launch will be followed by an equally harsh counter-attack. Every demand letter sent by your attorney will receive a return demand letter upping the ante. A competent attorney can accomplish the same goals with less damage and less cost. The only person that your attorney needs to persuade once your case is presented before the court is the judge.

Whether your attorney yells at your spouse or opposing counsel is not indicative of their ultimate effectiveness before the court. It does not matter if your attorney is "cordial" to the opposing attorney. Judges do not like for attorneys to battle among themselves. One of the worst things a judge can hear is one attorney complaining about the other attorney. A judge usually encourages the attorneys to cooperate in an effort to resolve your issues. Do not interpret this to mean your attorney is betraying you, or supporting your spouse. Just as in everything else, in listening you learn more than in talking.

Most attorneys will select the appropriate time to expose the theory of your case to the opposing attorney. In short, they will elect the timing of the battles. Some aspects will be reserved until they are before the judge. They will not want to give your spouse the knowledge and the time to dilute an important aspect of your case. Neither you nor your attorney should educate your spouse or their attorney in advance of court, especially when it may be to your detriment. They will selectively control the release of information. You would be amazed at how little some opposing attorneys know about their case and how much they will learn from you. Your attorney will develop a strategy in disclosing facts to have the most impact. If you want to leave destruction in your path, make sure the attorney you select is willing to wage this type of assault. It should go without saying that you should expect substantial legal fees for this privilege. I am not a proponent of the scorched earth attack.


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