Finding the right lawyer is like finding the right doctor. With the right doctor you need to feel comfortable taking your clothes off, and baring your secrets and concerns. Finding the right divorce lawyer is similar in that you will be asked to bare your financial secrets, and not keep anything back. It is imperative that upon meeting with a matrimonial attorney for the first time, you have chemistry and a comfort level.
Some people feel they need an attorney who is sympathetic or empathetic; they prefer a man or a woman, or they need someone strong. It is important you find a lawyer who meets your needs, because the process can often take a considerable amount of time and you must feel comfortable throughout the entire process.
When you go to meet with your lawyer for the first time, they should ask you questions such as: What brings you here? What is the basis for your decision to see a matrimonial attorney? They should explain to you, not in great detail, but at least somewhat, how the laws in the State of New Jersey work. They should explain to you what issues will be relevant in your case. Will alimony be an issue? Child Support? They should explain to you what equitable distribution is, and how it may be applied in your matter. The attorney should ask you whether you or your spouse had any pre-marital separate assets, or have received any inheritances during the marriage.
When you meet with your attorney for the first time, they should provide you with a Retainer Agreement and a copy of the Dispute Resolution Alternatives to Conventional Litigation Form. The attorney you meet with for your initial consultation should discuss with you their hourly fee, and those of any other people working in the firm that may be working on your matter at any given time; along with any set fees they may have.
You should never feel obligated to retain the attorney that you meet with, the day that you meet with them; although there is nothing wrong with doing so if you believe that the lawyer will protect your best interests and those of your children. You should never feel pressured by an attorney to retain immediately, although you may be pressured by time if you have been served with papers, or have a motion pending.
It is important that you trust your attorney, feel comfortable in speaking with them, and not feel intimidated. If you receive a referral from a friend or family member, that is typically a good place to start, however, the most important thing is your trust in that person and your comfort level, not someone else’s. Trust and comfort are the most important bench marks for a good relationship and representation.
Bari Zell-Weinberger is a Certified New Jersey divorce lawyer and partner with the firm of Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group, LLC. in Parsippany, New Jersey, where she exclusively practices family and matrimonial law.