Navigating a divorce is difficult, even when things are amicable. There are a lot of emotions involved and a substantial amount of stressful administrative processes.
Dividing assets, determining custody arrangements, and negotiating support is a heavy process, and having the best legal representation is paramount.
Hiring the Best Family Lawyer
Here are some practical tips for hiring the best family lawyer, from red flags to advantages and disadvantages to consider.
Evaluate Their Experience
The first thing to look at when searching for a family lawyer is their experience in family law in your jurisdiction. Having a lawyer who knows the nuances of your local laws is a must for successfully navigating a divorce.
Here are some other key things to assess when considering their experience:
First, look at their overall experience in family law. Determine how long the attorney you’re considering has been practicing and how long their practice has been established. There’s nothing wrong with hiring a relatively new or young lawyer. However, there’s something to be said for years of experience when handling a divorce.
In addition to looking at their overall experience, take some time to research reviews and accolades. Run a few online searches to look for news articles or notable publications, and poll your social media networks for feedback and advice. It’s also worth having a private conversation with someone who worked with a divorce lawyer to get a recommendation.
Divorce falls under the family law umbrella. Family law also includes child custody, domestic violence, spousal support, protective services, and child support. Some lawyers take a general approach to family law, while others specialize in divorce.
Determine whether the lawyer you’re evaluating focuses solely on the divorce process or also covers issues that could arise after, like maintenance enforcement, renegotiating support, etc. It’s also worth evaluating whether your lawyer is more skilled in representing parents and spouses seeking support or those providing it— depending on which side of the equation you fall on.
Not all lawyers are trial lawyers. If you anticipate a messy divorce and custody battle, working with a lawyer with ample trial experience is essential. They’ll know how to prepare for trial, from running a background check to collecting and presenting evidence. They’ll also have the knowledge and a rapport with judges in your jurisdiction, which can help them adjust their messaging and anticipate how things will proceed.
Practice and Team Size
When evaluating a potential legal team, consider the size of the practice and who works there. It’s important to clarify who will be working on your case. There’s no right or wrong answer when determining whether you want to work with a small or large practice, but each has pros and cons.
Pros and Cons of Small Teams
One of the main benefits of working with a small legal firm is that you’ll feel like a name rather than a number. You’ll likely have more one-on-one time with your attorney rather than communicating through other staff members. Small firms tend to be more affordable and specialized.
The downside to a small legal firm is that they have limited resources, which can impact communication. If your firm is overbooked, you might not receive the attention and communication you require. You may also pay more for administrative and research tasks if they don’t have a team to delegate to.
Pros and Cons of Large Teams
The benefit of working with a large firm is that they have more resources available. Communication is often quick and frequent. Large teams also offer collective experience and often attract highly-skilled attorneys to their teams.
However, large teams can be costly and also poorly run. More resources often mean a more extensive caseload, which could make you feel lost in the shuffle.
Communicativeness and Comfort Level
It’s important to understand that your attorney isn’t a therapist. While you’ll likely share vulnerable information and rely on them during this time, their role is to navigate your divorce from a legal standpoint. Even so, having a good working relationship and feeling heard throughout the process is crucial.
Here are some things to consider related to communication and your comfort.
Active Listening Skills
It’s essential to work with a lawyer who excels at active listening. They should listen to your thoughts and concerns, ask expanding questions, and take the time to understand before responding.
You can typically get a read on someone’s active listening skills during a consultation appointment. If you feel like they’re talking over you, continuously selling what they can do for you, or dominating the conversation, that’s a red flag. It’s important to feel heard throughout the process.
Waiting for your lawyer to get back to you is a frustrating experience but a part of the process. However, you’ll want a lawyer who provides frequent updates, calls back when they say they will, and is accessible either directly or through their team.
This feature is difficult to assess when vetting attorneys. Ask around, read reviews online, and ask directly. Remember that when your attorney is working with you, you’ll want their undivided attention. Sometimes they can’t answer your calls because they’re offering the same courtesy to other clients.
Fees and Budget
Divorce is expensive, even when both parties are in total agreement. Legal fees are one of the bigger expenses when navigating this process and could determine which family lawyer you can hire.
First, clarify the retainer amount and payment structure, and ask for an estimate of total costs. It’s also important to ask about the finer details of how things are billed, such as:
- Is there a flat rate option?
- How will billing work?
- What’s the hourly amount, and how are things broken down?
- Will I receive an itemized list?
- Is there a minimum hour threshold?
Some family lawyers work with the government to offer subsidized solutions. While this isn’t ideal, it’s sometimes the only way to get fair representation if there are limited financial resources.
Consider looking for an attorney who offers free initial consultations. This session can help you ask important questions about your divorce and determine whether the legal team you’re considering is right for you.
Transparency and Realism
Finally, it’s important to find a family lawyer who’s transparent and realistic. Divorce isn’t predictable. Many variables and situations could influence the outcome. If a lawyer guarantees that you’ll get everything you want or offers solid numbers and timelines, that’s a red flag.
Look for a lawyer who doesn’t over-promise or sugarcoat things. They should be able to provide the best estimate with a grain of salt. You’ll likely encounter bad news or frustrating situations during the divorce process. You want someone who will tell you the facts, talk you through it, and won’t try to spin things as a positive.
Finding the right family lawyer to navigate your divorce can be challenging. Starting this process early is important, as law firms can’t represent you and your ex simultaneously. In other words, if your ex reaches out to the best family lawyer in your area first, you won’t have access to them.
Keep these key considerations in mind so you can hire the best family lawyer to get you through this difficult time.
Ashley Lipman is an award-winning writer who discovered her passion for providing knowledge to readers worldwide on topics closest to her heart – all things digital. Since her first high school award in Creative Writing, she continues to deliver awesome content through various niches touching the digital sphere. www.altitudebranding.com