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Ask Your Prospective Attorney These 9 Important Questions
Thinking about divorce? Check out these must-ask questions to choose the ideal family law attorney for you — because having the right ally can make all the difference in the outcome of your unique family law matter.
Whether you find yourself at the crossroads of a significant life change through divorce, or you’re navigating a divorce your spouse initiated — the importance of securing an experienced family law attorney can’t be overstated. Your mission now is to identify the right lawyer, someone who not only possesses the necessary legal expertise but also resonates with you on a personal level, understanding the uniqueness of your situation.
Chances are, you’re experiencing a whirlwind of emotions, and a simple Google search for “divorce attorneys” just won’t cut it. Your choice of a family law attorney goes beyond a mere professional engagement, since they play a pivotal role in helping you shape your future, addressing financial matters, and establishing child custody or alimony arrangements. During what may be one of the most stressful periods in your life, finding the right legal ally is very important.
That’s why it’s key to ask your prospective attorney specific questions to determine if they’re the best choice to represent you during this difficult time.
Dig Deeper: 9 Must-Ask Questions for Your Prospective Lawyer
It’s a smart idea to schedule phone calls or consults with two or three attorneys or their offices to determine which family lawyer will be the best advocate for your specific case.
We recommend asking questions like these when you’re gathering information about the best qualified attorney to retain in your situation:
1. Has the lawyer handled cases similar to yours?
Since your family law case is uniquely yours, your attorney shouldn’t take a cookie-cutter approach to handling it. That being said, you’ll want to know if they’ve handled divorce, child custody or adoption cases like yours, with specific details and nuances.
2. Does the attorney have the resources to support you?
During your discussions with prospective attorneys, inquire about the scale of their law firm and consider its potential impact on your case. It’s crucial to identify a legal office that strikes the right balance — one that’s personal enough to recognize you and recall the details of your case, yet possesses ample resources to effectively support your specific legal needs. Above all, you don’t want to be “just another case number” to the lawyer you ultimately choose to hire.
3. Does the attorney really listen to your questions — and then respond in language you understand?
After you’ve informed your potential attorney about the facts of your matter, ask questions to get a feel for how they’ll handle your case and communicate with you. You want to be certain that if you have a question or a new development arises in your case, that you have a way to report it and to hear back from an office staff member in a timely manner.
At Smedley Law Group, we make it a practice not to shower our clients with legalese or jargon you won’t understand, especially when you’re stressed. You should choose an attorney who’s a great listener and answers all of your questions in laypeople’s terms so you’re comfortable moving forward. Of course, if an attorney doesn’t ask if you have questions or take the time to answer questions you ask, that could be a strong indicator this isn’t the right match for you.
4. Does the attorney explain the fees involved for your specific type of case?
Prior to meeting with an attorney, it’s important to be aware that, beyond the attorney’s fees covering initial and subsequent client meetings, document preparation, and court appearances, there could be substantial court-related expenses associated with the legal process. While an attorney can never tell you exactly how much you’ll spend on your case, he or she can give you a range based on what they’ve charged for similar cases.
This is a good point to mention that many attorneys charge an initial consulting fee of at least a couple hundred dollars. It’s a good idea to do research upfront so you can narrow down the list of attorneys you think will be your best fit before you set up a couple consults. Review their websites and read online reviews. You can also call the firm to talk to an intake specialist to get more of a feel for their culture and general information about the attorney and the firm. Remember, when you do finally retain an attorney, the money you paid for your consult fee is often then returned to you in your retainer fee.
5. Do you feel “compatible” with this attorney?
It’s important to find an attorney who really listens and understands what you want your future for your family to look like. Be wary of attorneys who’ll tell you whatever you want to hear. A good attorney will let you know if your expected outcomes are realistic, and what the best course of action, whether it’s negotiating, settling or litigating, will be to help you get there.
Even if you feel that you and your ex will be able to achieve an amicable settlement, it still makes sense for you to hire an experienced family law attorney who can help you legally protect yourself and your assets, while creating fair custody and parenting agreements.
Pro tip: Keep in mind that your attorney isn’t a substitute for a therapist. While they should certainly provide understanding and attentiveness to relevant details about the state of your relationship and your desired outcome in the divorce, seeking additional support from a therapist or a trusted clergyperson is advisable if you require assistance in managing your emotions during this challenging period.
6. Does the attorney explain the options for resolving your case?
Going to court can be stressful, time-consuming and expensive. While litigation sometimes is your only option in a contentious case, not every legal matter requires that approach. At Smedley Law Group, we provide Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) solutions, aiming for amicable conclusions that minimize both financial and emotional costs. ADR is most effective when both parties share the goal of resolving matters without resorting to traditional litigation, offering a proactive way to sidestep the challenges associated with conventional divorce proceedings.
Your attorney should be willing to guide you through ADR options. Whether through collaborative law, divorce mediation, or family law arbitration, these methods provide benefits like reduced costs, greater flexibility, control over the process, faster resolutions, simplified procedures, privacy, and reduced trauma for children.
7. Is your attorney willing to go to court on your behalf?
A proficient divorce attorney should have experience attending hearings and formulating effective trial strategies on a client’s behalf. Every time an attorney enters a courtroom, they should be well-prepared to advocate for you to achieve the best possible outcome in your matter.
8. Is your attorney honest with you about the outcome you might achieve in your specific situation?
When you meet with one of our attorneys at Smedley Law Group, the first thing we provide is clarity regarding the situation you’re facing — we’ll go below the surface, multiple levels. We drill down into its bare bones to get really clear on how it’s affecting your life. Then, we review the solutions available to you, and help you choose the right course of action for you and your family.
One other important thing? We don’t sugarcoat what lies ahead of you or simply tell you what you want to hear about your outcome. Your chosen attorney should do the same: give you possible outcomes to your case that set realistic expectations for your future. That way, you can choose the best next course of action wisely.
9. Does your attorney give you a general timeline and idea of how your legal process will work?
Again, while your attorney can’t give you an exact play-by-play of how your particular case will go, he or she should explain the typical timeline—along with other factors that typically can influence and change how long it takes to settle your matter.
Get the Right Family Law Attorney On Your Side Today
Regardless of the family law matter you’re faced with, getting legal help is key to protecting your rights. We want to help you see the entire picture — so our number one priority is advocating to accomplish your goals. Because we have decades of experience, we know the right questions to ask to move your matter toward an effective resolution.
Our attorneys at Smedley Law Group are here to help. Contact us today to see how we can protect your family.
Contact the Experienced Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Woodbury, NJ Today
If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including West Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.