“My case is somewhat complicated. Do I need to hire a lawyer who specializes in divorce? Will a specialist be more expensive than a ‘regular lawyer’ will?”
There is a certification which some divorce lawyers aspire to and of those who aspire, some attain. Certification in family law is the appellation which these attorneys acquire after having satisfactorily passed a very difficult content-oriented exam. Moreover, in order to sit for the certification exam, the attorney must have litigated a certain number of cases in family court in a certain number of years. Certainly, any family attorney who is certified should be able to handle a dissolution involving highly complex issues that are heading toward litigation. It is likely that the fees of the certified attorney will be somewhat higher than the other family attorneys. Also, the certified attorney is likely to requie a higher retainer from you, the client.
Do you want to hire a family-law attorney who is certified in family law? That is certainly your option. Keep in mind, however, that all family lawyers must have passed the Florida Bar, which is itself quite a selective examination. Also, all lawyers who practice family law should be capable of handling the most complicated legal issues in this field. Some family lawyers are philosophically opposed to taking the certification exam. Some of these lawyers whom I have interviewed prefer to focus on non-adverarial cases, and therefore, these attorneys do their best to settle their cases out of court. For these attorneys, who prefer the more friendly arenas of mediation and collaborative law, to take a test based on how many cases they have tried, is not of their choosing.
You need to interview many lawyers, some certified, some not. You need to evaluate what type of philosophy you have regarding your divorce and whether the attitude of a particular attorney meshes with what you want. You need to understand your own need: do you want an attorney who will hold your hand or do you want an attorney who will get the job done, but who will not spend time reassuring you. By the time you have evaluated all these option, you should be an educated consumer, and you will be able to decide who you want – certification or not — to represent you. Hopefully, when you make your decision, it will be the right one for you.
Sharon Smolar has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1992. A designee of the 2002 Women of Distinction Award, she practices at The Law Office of Sharon Wechsler Smolar in Boca Raton.