Finding a Competent Divorce Lawyer
Divorce happens to a lot of people. Oftentimes, it’s tragic, highly acrimonious, and it may be emotionally and financially taxing. As with any difficult event in a person’s life, one needs a guide to navigate you through the process. That is when a good and competent divorce lawyer enters the picture. Aside from initial first impressions and perhaps, a referral from a friend or a colleague, you should review the following points:
Look for a divorce lawyer that concentrates in the area of family law. You wouldn’t hire a pediatrician to perform your root canal, would you? An attorney who concentrates in family law will more than likely, be familiar with certain judges, opposing attorneys, and have experience in addressing somewhat uncommon issues that may arise in your divorce case. A competent family law attorney will also have a firm grasp on the applicable legal authority.
At your initial meeting, inquire about the attorney’s fees. Inquire how the attorney bills. What is the initial retainer, his/her hourly rate, the time increments your attorney bills in. Does he charge for postage or for ministerial tasks such as mailing a letter or making a phone call. How much does he charge for travel to court, if any? It’s a good idea to also ask about the frequency of the invoice being issued. Your lawyer should be very upfront with his fees so as to eliminate any surprises in billing.
The divorce process is time consuming, labor intensive, and above all, it is heavy on paper work. As a divorce attorney, I spend a lot of time organizing bank records, real estate documents, spread sheets, pleadings, and orders. Most settlement conferences and court hearings involve producing countless pages of documents to evidence income, value of marital estate, monthly expenses, and the like. Hiring a disorganized divorce attorney can be detrimental to your case, but a well organized attorney will save you time, money, and heart ache.
4. Attention to detail
After years of litigation or perhaps mere weeks of negotiation, you have finally reached an agreement on all financial issues and custody matters, and now the agreement needs to be reduced to writing by your lawyer. The financial Marital Settlement Agreement is the end product. Therefore, it should accurately reflect the agreement of you and your spouse, and be rid of mistakes. I cannot begin to tell you how often I review settlement agreements that are either poorly drafted or contain major grammatical mistakes, creating ambiguity and consequently, more litigation.
5. Personal rapport
This is not a requirement, however, you should have a generally friendly rapport with your lawyer. This does not mean that you and your selected attorney must be friends, but a general good relationship helps. A divorce lawyer wears many hats, and sometimes, that of a trusted confidant.