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26 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Divorce Lawyer

 

Divorce is a major life change, and how you manage it can have long-term consequences. It’s a good idea to get qualified legal counsel regardless of which side you’re on. If you’ve never been divorced before, the process may be frightening and unpleasant, so do your homework before selecting a divorce attorney to guarantee you’re receiving the finest representation for your needs. If you or your soon-to-be-ex are in the military, for example, avoid hiring a divorce lawyer who has no expertise in military divorce. In other words, you’ll need a divorce lawyer who focuses on the aspects of your life that are unique to you.

To ensure that an attorney can manage your specific divorce case, ask the questions you need to ask. Consider this list of 26 questions your go-to guide if the process of finding a divorce attorney is overwhelming and a little intimidating at this point.

1. How many divorce cases have you handled?

Hiring a divorce attorney is similar to hiring a surgeon: you don’t want to choose someone who has never done surgery before. Divorce is stressful enough, and the last thing you’ll want to do on top of dealing with the emotional and logistical ramifications is to double-check your lawyer’s work to make sure they’re doing everything correctly. You are, after all, the customer.

2. How many of those cases were you able to settle out of court?

To prevent more drama and a lengthy agreement, you should try to keep your divorce out of the courts. Settlement out of court is essentially a compromise, so looking for a skilled divorce lawyer that has a lot of experience settling out of court is a good indicator to look for.

3. Do you practice collaborative divorce?

A collaborative divorce, like settling out of court, removes the “let’s fight!” mindset so you and your spouse may reach a reasonable arrangement in a non-aggressive manner. It’s a sort of problem-solving that can keep a divorce peaceful. A collaborative divorce may result in you and your ex being on good enough terms to be friends.

4. Do you know my spouse?

Regardless of how your lawyer thinks about your spouse, if your lawyer is affiliated with him or her, this might be a major issue. Our own personal sentiments or knowledge of another person tends to get in the way of our capacity to act objectively, so avoid hiring anyone who has worked with your spouse previously.

5. Do you know my spouse’s attorney?

It may be less important to you if your lawyer knows your spouse’s lawyer than if your lawyer knows your spouse, but it’s still something to consider. Feel okay to proceed with your lawyer if they were in one class together during their first year of law school, but if they were roommates in law school, you might want to consider hiring someone else.

6. Are you familiar with local family court judges?

You probably asked a few other students what the professor is like, how they grade, and what their tardiness policy is before enrolling in a college class. Hiring a lawyer is similar in that you want to make sure they are familiar with the reputations and ruling styles of your local courts before you hire them. If you’re seeking sole custody and the judge assigned to your case is lenient with custody, you’ll want your lawyer to be aware of this so she can build a strong strategy.

7. Do you believe it is better to mediate and negotiate than go to trial?

When it comes to picking a divorce lawyer, the most critical factor is that you and your attorney are on the same page. If you wish to mediate and negotiate but your lawyer is dead bent on going to trial, your case’s success may be jeopardized.

8. Do you have experience negotiating financial support or settlements?

For example, in any divorce case involving children or businesses, child or spousal support, huge financial settlements, or business value are all likely to come up, so be sure your lawyer understands what they’re doing.

9. Will you or another attorney from the firm be handling my case?

You hired a certain attorney because you like their approach to things, thus the last thing you want is for your case to be passed around the firm to other lawyers.

10. Can I meet anyone else who will be involved in handling my case?

If your case is extensive and requires numerous individuals to handle it, make sure you meet everyone who will be involved for the same reason you met with your primary attorney. In some ways, your future is in their hands, so getting to know the people who will be working on your case is critical.

11. Are you available via phone or email?

Divorces aren’t one-and-done situations, so if anything important arises and you can’t wait until your next planned session to tell your attorney about it, you’ll want to be able to reach out to him or her by phone or email. Another thing to consider is if you’ll be charged for this conversation.

12. Do you have a heavy case load?

If your lawyer is handling many cases, he or she may not have the time to give as much attention to yours as they should. Before signing anything, be sure your lawyer has the time to give your divorce the attention it deserves.
 

13. Will I receive copies of documents filed with the court?

We’ve all heard the phrase “on the record,” which is important in any legal struggle since you might need to refer to a document or a discussion for your case. If you believe it will be necessary, make sure that any correspondence with your spouse’s attorney, as well as any other papers relating to your case, will be delivered to you.

14. Will I be kept informed of all developments in my case?

You have complete control over how involved you want to be in your divorce proceedings. Some people prefer to be kept in the loop on only the major events, while others prefer to be kept in the loop on only the minor ones. If you fall into the first group, be certain that your lawyer is available and ready to share information with you.

15. Will you ask my opinion before planning a strategy?

You may choose whether or not you want to be briefed on your lawyer’s approach, just as you can choose whether or not you want to be updated on any changes in your case. Before you fork up the retainer, be sure you and your attorney are on the same page.

16. What are your personal feelings about joint custody versus sole custody?

Some individuals aren’t sure how they feel about big, life-changing decisions like joint vs sole custody of their children, so getting a professional opinion might help them decide. After all, the attorneys have more experience with custody agreements than you have, so they may be able to provide some helpful information about what goes into them and which sort of arrangement is best for you and your children.

17. What is your retainer fee?

Your lawyer will most likely provide this information without your asking since they want to make sure you can afford their services before devoting too much time to your case. But, just in case, let’s get this question out of the way now.

18. What is your hourly billing rate?

Most attorneys charge by the hour, much like tutors and therapists, so be sure you know what you’re getting into financially before signing anything. You might be able to afford the retainer charge but not the hourly rate, so make sure you have a complete cost breakdown.

19. Do any fees I pay include the services of any other associates?

You may be paying for the time of other colleagues if your lead lawyer isn’t the only one working on your case. While this is a typical occurrence, knowing what you’re paying for might help to put your mind at ease.

20. If my case goes to divorce court, will there be extra fees?

When it comes to going to court, each company has its own set of rules. If your case goes to court, it’s fairly unusual for additional expenses to be added.

21. Will I sign a contract outlining the fee arrangement?

Although everyone has their own opinions about signing a fee arrangement contract, we believe it is a good idea. If you employ a qualified lawyer, he or she is unlikely to try to squeeze you for every penny you have, but just in case, double-checking every dollar you spend is always a good idea. A fee arrangement basically implies that if you pay a retainer and sign a contract with your lawyer, you won’t be charged for extra services.

22. Will I be sent itemized bills?

Itemized invoices, like restaurant checks, detail exactly what you’re paying for. It’s entirely up to you whether or not you want one of them.

23. Will I be updated on how the retainer fee is used and when it is used up?

This is something you should consider with your lawyer before engaging them since, although some attorneys see a retainer as a deposit, others will charge you a second fee if you use up your first before the case is completed. Some individuals are unconcerned about this, but if you are, make sure to bring it up as soon as possible.

24. Will you petition the court for my spouse to pay my attorney fees?

If you’re financially reliant on your soon-to-be ex, you might want to hire a lawyer who will petition the court to have your spouse pay for your legal costs. This simply implies that you will have a fair trial or will be part of a collaborative divorce.

25. How much do you charge for letters and phone calls to my spouse’s attorney or me?

Because you’re paying for their time, and some days may be busier than others, attorneys frequently charge by the hour. It’s important to understand if you’ll be responsible for everything your lawyer does.

26. Will there be other costs?

The worst hidden charges are the ones you don’t know about, so make sure you ask your lawyer about any fees you could incur, such as court filing fees and process server fees. Some lawyers include these charges in their basic rates, while others need you to pay them extra.

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