Understanding the Divorce Process: Choosing a Lawyer

By: Marlene A. Pontrelli
Last Update: October 29, 2016

Divorce can be a scary process.  You may never have had to consult with a lawyer before let alone detail information about your private life.  If you decide to retain a lawyer take your time in choosing the lawyer that is right for your particular case.  Set up a consultation with the lawyer in advance to retaining him or her so you have an opportunity to ask questions and determine whether their style fits your needs.  This is a journey that you will be taking together with your attorney as they help you reach the end result.   Retaining someone who not only is competent in family law, but who you feel comfortable talking with is paramount. 

You will be sharing very personal details of your married life, your goals for the future, and expected outcomes.  You need to feel a connection with the person who you are entrusting to help you with decisions concerning your financial future, as well as, if you have children, decisions about parenting time  Make sure the person is someone you feel understands your situation and concerns.  

Interview at least two or three attorneys so you have an understanding of the different styles of each attorney. Although you may be paying for multiple consultations, finding the attorney that is the right fit will save you countless hours of frustration later.  You will know when the person you meet with is right for you.

The following is a list of questions you may wish to ask during the first consultation to help you obtain a better understanding about the lawyer’s expertise as well as whether the attorney’s work style and your style are similar enough to make for a good working relationship. 

1.       What is your particular experience in family law, and in handling this type of situation in particular?

2.        Do you work evenings and weekends?  If something occurs of importance over the weekend, what is your policy for addressing those issues?

3.        Will you personally be handling my case or will other lawyers or paralegals be assisting?

4.        What is the best way to communicate with you?  (Telephone?  E-mail?)  How do you charge for each?

5.         Do you have a policy on how long before you return a telephone call?

6.         How many times do you expect that we will need to meet in person?  Under what circumstances will we need to meet in person?

7.         What is the specific divorce process and how long do you expect it to take?

8.         What is likely cost? (This will be a difficult question for your lawyer to answer.  Be wary if you are given a specific cost since so many variables exist which are unknown at the initial consultation, but the lawyer may be able to give you an idea of what similar cases have cost, or the potential range of costs depending on whether the action is contested, settled, or litigated).  

9.         Will there be a need to hire other individuals to assist with the divorce such as financial planners, valuation experts, forensic accountants, vocational evaluators?  If so, what are the likely expenses for these individuals?

10.       If I do not have access to obtain all the financial information, how will the information be obtained? 

11.       Based upon the situation that I have explained, what do you see as the most challenging aspects of my case?  How do you believe these challenges should be handled? What is the likely outcome?

12.       Is this a potential case that may be good for mediation or some other dispute resolution process?  Why or why not?

13.       Are there any steps now that I should take to protect myself financially?

14.       What are the first steps you would take if I were to retain you?

                The lawyer you are considering may not have answers to every question, and rarely can they predict so early in the case what the likely outcome will be.   The point of asking the questions though is not necessarily to obtain precise answers, but to find out if the lawyer you are consulting with is someone you feel will be able to represent your best interests in a way that is satisfactory to you. 

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