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How Do I Choose the Right Divorce Attorney? Here Are 7 Things to Consider.
Whether you’re considering divorce, have decided you want to divorce or your spouse has told you they want a divorce, you’ll need to hire an experienced family law attorney. That means you’re on a mission to find the right lawyer who’ll work well with you on a personal level and with your unique situation. This may be one of the most difficult periods of your life, so you’ll need the right ally on your side.
Most likely, you’re experiencing a lot of emotions, and you can’t just Google “divorce attorneys” and go with the first name that pops up. The family law attorney you hire should help you transform your life—including establishing your financial future and child custody arrangement—so they need to have your best interests in mind.
Here are 7 important items you should consider before choosing a divorce attorney.
1. You need an experienced family law attorney.
As you get recommendations from friends and begin searching online, be sure you short list experienced family law attorneys, preferably an attorney whose sole focus is on family law.
You’re looking for an attorney with experience in negotiations, inside and outside the courtroom—and with handling difficult and messy cases. Many people mistakenly believe they don’t need this kind of attorney as they have “an amicable, mutual uncoupling.” But a legal expert who knows precisely what’s at stake will advise you what’s important as well as work to mitigate tensions as much as possible, in case a challenging situation arises.
Your attorney should take the time to delve into your unique circumstances and ask you what type of outcome you’d like to see for your family post-divorce. Then, they should be honest with you about what’s realistic in your matter. In addition, your attorney should be open to negotiating, settling or litigating, depending on what your comfort level is and what your matter requires.
2. Look for an attorney in your local jurisdiction.
Of course, you’ll need an attorney well versed and experienced in the family laws in your state. This additionally serves you, as an experienced lawyer in your area who’ll know the judges and court officials, as well as the best resources you’ll need such as therapists, custody experts, forensic accountants, and business valuators. Plus, the more connections your attorney has in your area, the more likely it is that they’ll know your spouse’s lawyer and their team, potentially making negotiations easier and faster.
3. Compatibility is key.
It’s important you 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.
4. Consider multiple attorneys.
For a lot of people, they’ve never hired an attorney before, and it’s a process that can feel scary and uncertain. Let’s dispel a few myths:
- Sometimes men and women think they must have a male attorney represent them in court. Or a woman thinks she must choose a woman to represent her. Try to take gender out of your search equation. As you shortlist attorneys, it’s in your best interest to include those who have the best experience for your situation. You’re spending your hard-earned money to keep your assets and protect yourself legally. Don’t let gender be an upfront deciding factor in whether you consider a certain attorney.
- Your friend may recommend an attorney they used, but that doesn’t automatically mean that lawyer is right for you, and your situation. Of course, look at any attorney recommendations, but ultimately choose the attorney and firm that seems to be the best match for your unique situation.
- Remember that your attorney isn’t your therapist. Of course, they should be understanding and listen to pertinent information about the status of your relationship and the goal you want to reach with your ex at the end of the divorce. However, if you need help managing your emotions during this difficult time, look for additional support from a therapist or a trusted clergyperson.
- 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. Firm size matters, depending on your needs.
As you interview attorneys, ask about the size of their law firm and how that may help your case. It’s important to find a legal office that’s personal enough to know who you are and remember your case, but also has enough resources to support your specific matter. In any case, you don’t want to just be a number to the attorney you hire.
6. Be prepared.
Most first-time consultations with an attorney cost on average between $150 and $300. Be prepared to succinctly summarize your situation, including with dates of separation, current custody arrangements, any restraining orders or arrests, and other relevant information helpful to your case. That way, your attorney can provide his or her best ideas for whether your desired outcomes are realistic, and the best ways to achieve those outcomes.
7. Ask lots of questions.
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 how they’ll 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.
As we’ve said, you don’t just want to be a number with your attorney. That person should want to help you transform your future, just as much as you do, so your family can enjoy brighter days ahead.
Contact the Experienced Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Runnemede, 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.