Family Law

What to Look for in a Divorce Lawyer

By Kristina Otterstrom, Attorney

Whether you’re planning to file for divorce or your spouse has already served you with divorce papers, an experienced attorney can help. Hiring the right attorney can take away some of the stress associated with your divorce. But how do you find a good family law attorney, and what should you be looking for in a lawyer?

It’s important to do your research. Finding the right attorney for your case can take time. A skilled attorney will create a plan for your case, which in turn, will help put you at ease.

Find a Lawyer Who Practices Family Law

Foremost, you need an attorney who is competent to take your case and knowledgeable in the area of divorce. Many attorneys practice in one or two areas of the law, but they don't always overlap. It’s essential to hire a lawyer who’s had enough experience in family law to handle your divorce. For example, you wouldn’t want to hire a patent lawyer or criminal prosecutor for your divorce case. You can find out a lawyer’s legal focus through the lawyer’s website, the local bar association, or just by asking.

Interviewing Potential Attorneys

Once you’ve narrowed down your search for a divorce attorney, you’ll need to schedule an in-person meeting. Some attorneys offer free initial consultations, but others may charge a consultation fee. Make sure that you understand the attorney’s policy before scheduling a meeting.

At the first meeting, come prepared with questions for your potential attorney. You’ll want to find out more about the divorce process and the attorney’s “game plan” or strategy for handling your case. An experienced attorney will ask you questions and make you feel like you’re in good hands. You should be able to get along well with the attorney you hire.

Finding an Affordable Attorney

Now that you’ve found a competent, likeable attorney, you’ll also want to consider price in your hiring decision. Attorneys charge different hourly rates, largely based upon the attorney’s experience and location. If your budget doesn’t allow for the $600 per hour lawyer, then you need to find an attorney you can afford.

A lawyer’s hourly rate becomes especially important if you’re on a fixed income or you’re already living paycheck to paycheck, because attorney's fees add up quickly. Don’t give up hope though - many attorneys offer flat fee divorces and reduced rates. Additionally, every state has at least one legal aid office. If you meet certain criteria, you may qualify for free legal help. Contact your local legal aid office for more information.

What If I Don’t Like the Attorney I Hired?

Even when you’ve done your research, you may later discover that you and your attorney don’t see eye to eye on your case. If your attorney isn’t handling your divorce the way you would like or is failing to stay in touch with you, be sure to schedule a telephone call or in-person meeting immediately. Sometimes a little communication can go a long way to get your attorney back on track.

However, the attorney might not be the right fit for your case. You can fire and hire an attorney during a divorce, but be aware of deadlines. Your case won’t stop just because you fired your attorney. Also, it may take a little time to get a new attorney up to speed on your case.

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