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How To Hire A Good Divorce Lawyer
Choosing your divorce lawyer

Choosing your divorce lawyer can be one of the most important things you do in your divorce. If you want to change to a different lawyer after you have hired one, you may not be able to. Often the judge has to give you permission to change or substitute attorneys. If it is close to trial or another important hearing, the judge may not allow you to change lawyers. It can also be expensive to switch lawyers.

Lawyer, n. One skilled in circumvention of the law. -- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Usually a lawyer will require you to pay a retainer before they will begin working on your case. Sometimes these retainers are refundable if you change lawyers, after deducting the fair amount to pay the lawyer for the work he has already done for you. But sometimes retainers are not refundable. It usually depends on the fee agreement or other agreement you may have signed with your lawyer. Make sure you have a written agreement with your lawyer, and that it contains the items covered in the Agreement With Attorney Checklist. DO NOT rely on an understanding, or on a verbal agreement.

A verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. (Samuel Goldwyn)

Qualities you should look for

If you switch lawyers in the middle of your divorce, you might lose the entire amount paid to the first lawyer, and have to come up with another retainer for the second lawyer. It can be expensive and sometimes impossible to switch lawyers mid- stream, so choose wisely! If you are going to have a baby, and you are looking for a good doctor to handle the prenatal care and delivery, you should look for a doctor who:

  • SPECIALIZES in obstetrics
  • has EXPERIENCE in obstetrics
  • is BOARD-CERTIFIED in obstetrics
  • with whom you can GET ALONG.

The very same factors are important when choosing your divorce lawyer. Choose one who:

  • SPECIALIZES in divorce law
  • has EXPERIENCE in divorce law
  • has taken CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION COURSES in divorce law
  • has CERTIFICATION in divorce law, if that is available in your state
  • with whom you can GET ALONG.

Finding out about lawyers

How do you find out these things about a lawyer? There are many ways.

Call your local courthouse and find out which judges hear divorces. Call the clerks of those judges and find out when they will be having hearings. Go sit in the courtroom and watch the lawyers in action. When you find ones who impress you, find out who they are. The clerk or bailiff should be able to help you find out their names.

Call your local bar association and find out who the local divorce specialists are. There are several levels of bar associations. There is the American Bar Association, which is national. Not all lawyers are members of the ABA. There are state bar associations, and local bar associations, for your city and/or county. The state bar association often has the most power over lawyers, because it is the group that decides who will be allowed to practice law in the state. It is also the group that disciplines and sometimes disbars lawyers. The local bar associations are usually more social and educational in nature.

Call your state bar association. When you call your state bar association, ask whether your state has specialist certification for divorce lawyers. Depending on your state, this may be called Family Law, Domestic Law, Matrimonial Law, or Divorce Law. Ask for a list of the specialists. Also ask if there is a special section of the state bar for Family Law, Domestic Law, etc. Request a list of the lawyers in your area who are members of this special bar section.

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In any divorce case involving minor children, the Missouri court decides child custody and in doing so considers the wishes of the parents, the preference of the child if the child is old enough, the child's relationship with siblings and the family, the mental and physical health of the child, and the educational needs of the child.
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