When it comes to making the best decision about which lawyer to hire for their divorce, many people rely on getting a referral from a friend of relative.
Although this is a common way to choose a lawyer, it can lead to a very frustrating mismatch in expectations between how you expect that your case will proceed and the way that the lawyer usually handles their divorce cases.
In order to be sure to find the lawyer that is the best fit for you, it is essential and a smart move to take some extra time in the very beginning and meet with several lawyers, allowing some time to carefully evaluate them, so that you can decide which one will be best for your and guide you well through your specific situation.
As a Divorce Strategist, I often hear clients expressing frustrations about their lawyers and often clients will get so aggravated that they decide to replace their legal counsel in the middle of their case, leading to their legal proceedings taking longer and costing them more as the new attorney requires a retainer upfront and needs additional time to examine the case history in order to get up to speed.
Here are 5 Smart Questions to Ask:
1. Is Family Law your Specialty Area? If not, what percentage of your cases are in Family Law?
If you expect that your case may become a battleground over custody or spousal support issues, it is wise to make sure that the lawyer you choose has extensive experience with the local courts in handling these types of emotionally charged contested issues.
Since many Family Law Attorneys spend so much of their time in court, they often have the advantage of having lengthy established relationships with other divorce attorneys and experts that you may contend with, as well as a great deal of familiarity with the judges, court rules and procedures that can impact the results you get in your case.
2. What have your experiences been like in dealing with the lawyer that my spouse has hired?
When asking this question, pay close attention to the lawyer’s body language and their first reaction when telling them the name of your spouse’s lawyer. Since 95% of divorce cases are settled before trial, how well they have negotiated and communicated with your spouse’s lawyer in previous cases is very valuable to know before you decide whether to hire them.
3. Does this attorney favor a Collaborative Divorce Team Approach or Traditional Litigation?
Collaborative Family Attorneys often provide a team of attorneys, financial experts and Divorce Coaches who work with the spouses to negotiate a Settlement, while having the spouses both agree not to pursue their case through the court system. If a settlement is not reached using this Collaborative approach, the parties must then start over with each hiring their own litigation attorneys.
Advantages to using a Collaborative Team included faster times of settlement due to not having to schedule court appearances, and a more creative focus on negotiating sticking points, rather than filing legal motions or waiting for the judge decide.
On the other hand, spouses who have a significant power imbalance between them or in situations when one spouse is convinced that the other won’t be cooperative and transparent about disclosing all requested documents, litigation may be needed so that the attorneys can subpoena all requested documents during the discovery process.
4. How accessible is this lawyer? How long is their usual response time to phone calls or emails?
Be sure to ask if they will respond themselves to emails or phone calls or whether their staff is in charge of responding to them and how long that usual response time is.
It’s also very important to ask any attorney you are evaluating if they will allow you access to their cell phone number for times when you have urgent questions or emergencies. Since divorce cases often take from one to two years to resolve and involve many stressful issues, accessibility to your lawyer in times of urgent need is critical!
5. Ask the lawyer to share an example of how they negotiated an issue in their other cases that is similar to one of your most significant issues.
Since the vast majority of divorce cases are resolved through negotiation, paying close attention to each lawyer’s negotiating style is very valuable when determining which lawyer to hire.
How does their personality affect their negotiating style? What approach did they use and how quickly did they resolve the issue in the example they chose to share with you?