The first step in selecting your divorce attorney is to seek referrals, preferably from people whose judgment you trust. You could ask for referrals from friends who have gone through a divorce, from attorneys who practice in fields other than family law, as well as from other professionals such as marriage counselors, accountants, financial planners, business managers, and clergy.
The next step is to schedule initial interviews with one or more of the attorneys. In your initial call to an attorney’s office, you can determine the attorney’s customary “hourly” rate and whether there is a charge for the initial interview. Fees will vary according to the level of experience of the attorney as well as the level of complexity of the case. Determine whether the attorney holds a certificate of special competence in family law from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
At the first conference, the attorney will need to learn about the basic history of your marriage and nature of the problems bringing you to the office. It is often helpful for you to prepare in advance a summary of the history of the marriage, your reasons for the divorce, critical information about minor children, and as detailed a list of debts and assets as possible. If this basic information can be provided relatively quickly to the attorney, it will allow for you and the attorney to get to know each other and to evaluate your case.
Before you start to interview attorneys, take the time to make a list of what is most important to you: how you wish to handle yourself during the case, how you wish your case to be handled, and what your goals and objectives are.
At the interview, you may wish to ask the attorney the following questions:
- What types of family-law cases have you handled, and generally speaking, what were the results?
- What kind of experience do you have with the kinds of issues that are likely to be important in my case (i.e., how to value or divide a family business, how to value or divide pensions or other employment benefits)?
- What is your philosophy about the various methods of dispute resolution — such as litigation, mediation, or collaborative proceedings?
- During this interview, have you identified any other issues that are likely to be important in my case?
Questions you may wish to ask yourself during and after the interview are:
- Do I feel comfortable with this person?
- Will I be willing to share very private information, both good and bad, with this person?
- Is this a person I feel I can trust to give me good advice and to help me through this?
When you can answer “yes” to the last three questions, you may very well have located the right attorney for you.
Houston attorney Brenda D. Keen has practiced family law since 1975. She also practices mediation and collaborative law and is currently listed in The Best Lawyers in America.