When you finally decide that divorce is your only next logical and emotional step, the first thing you should do is look for a family law attorney that can stay by your side through the entire process. However, finding the right lawyer is never easy. Some less ethically inclined ones will overcharge you, some may want to settle fast and be on their way, and others may direct you to an aggressive approach, so you see the inside of a courtroom in the name of “justice.” Courts do not care about your vengeance agenda. Divorce trials are lengthy, expensive, and costly in terms of personal tolls. Therefore, first things first, let us learn today how to find an attorney for your divorce. From my personal experience (and kudos to Heather for allowing me to share it with you all), your divorce attorney can make your life better or far, far worse than it already is during divorce turmoil.
1. Don’t Wait Until You Reach the Point of No Return
Did you wake up one morning and suddenly decided you wanted to end your marriage with a divorce? Probably not. For me and most couples across the world, the divorce is the answer to months, if not years, of questions, doubts, trials, errors, and things to consider and reconsider before even formulating the word in your head.
However, once it became clear that divorce is the only way out of an unhappy or even lousy marriage, you should look for a family law attorney in your state.
For me, as a Georgian, it was easy to understand the differences between marital property and separate property because my state’s courts usually require equitable distribution of property between the spouses, and we did not have much to fight over in the first place. Nevertheless, Georgia has particular requirements when filing a divorce or separation, so you have to ensure that your legal rights are protected, no matter what. My lawyer helped me understand the entire legal maze of property division and cooperated with my ex’s attorney to find the best solutions for both of us.
It is not the case in other states, however. Couples have many things to do, calculate, and agree upon months before they file for divorce. In some places (like Florida), they even force you to take divorce orientation classes and present a divorce education certificate if you consider a divorce while having minor children as a family.
What I am trying to say is that when the word “divorce” formulates in your mind for the first time, start looking for a reputable and successful divorce attorney.
2. Rely Solely on Recommendations
The best marketing for lawyers is still word of mouth, but it shouldn’t be the only criterion for their choosing. What worked for your friends might not work for you as well. In my experience, the best way to choose an attorney that will meet your needs is to research legal directories, each law firm in your area, and the Internet. Then, cross-reference your notes with your friends’ recommendations and make a shortlist.
Continue with vetting the law firms on that list until you find a law firm that will tend to your needs. Your divorce attorney doesn’t have to turn you into a media victim, drag you in the court to have your day, nor over-bill you for unnecessary expenses.
The best attorney for your divorce practices collaborative law that also engages coaches, mediators, financial advisors, even therapists if necessary. You don’t want to make a circus of your divorce; you want to sail this excruciating stage of your life smoothly.
3. Being Unprepared and Not Knowing What You Want
When you look for the right attorney, look for one that offers a free initial consultation. It gives you and your lawyer some buffer time and space to know each other better and decide on your next course of action. Seizing the opportunity of a free consultation doesn’t mean you hired that lawyer, but evaluating a potential legal representative without any financial obligations.
For this meeting and the next to come, go prepared. When getting ready for a divorce, you might be already scared, emotional, angry, and in a state of confusion. Your lawyer will not be able to help if you do not come armed with a set of questions and a list of things that you want from this divorce.
The way your lawyer answers these questions will give you a measure of his/her skills, professional and ethical approach to divorce, custody, division of property, etc. Those answers will also help you decide if you want a smooth process with mediation, counseling, settlement negotiations, or a more costly and aggressive approach in the court of law.
For some, divorce is a release. For others, a life-changing, heart-breaking trauma. Whether you have an amicable relationship with your spouse or not, a competent divorce lawyer is the first thing you need to acquire. Do it way before you make peace with the divorce decision. Find one even before you start counting the money in your joint bank account or decide who keeps the house, the car, the pets, or, worse, the children.