Checklist for Hiring a Divorce Lawyer

Your divorce lawyer can answer your questions, provide you with legal guidance, and assist you in obtaining the best outcome possible in your divorce. The lawyer that you hire has huge potential to impact how your case turns out. The decisions you make in your case may have repercussions for your whole family now and into the future, so carefully choosing the right divorce lawyer for you is essential. Consider this checklist for hiring a divorce lawyer to help you cover all of your bases throughout this process.

Make a list of divorce lawyers.

Seek referrals from friends, family, and anyone else you trust to give you a decent lead. Don't just go with the first divorce lawyer that someone refers to you, and don't be afraid to do some research of your own.  Do your own research online about divorce lawyers in your state.  Some lawyers practice various types of law, while others focus specifically on family law or even something more specific such as collaborative practice

Once you have a handful of names of divorce lawyers in your area, reduce your list to the ones you are most interested learning more about. Try and cut your list down to at least two or three options.

Contact the divorce lawyers for a consultation.

Some divorce lawyers offer a free phone or in-office consultation; others offer a consultation at a low rate. Check each lawyer's website for more information about first consultations. If there is a fee involved, decide how interested you are in this lawyer. A small fee could be considered an indication that they will take your consultation more seriously and give you an honest opinion about your case. Schedule your consultations close enough together so that you can evaluate and compare each experience adequately. 

Before your consultations, prepare a list of questions.

At each consultation, you may be asked to give a short description of what it is you need help with from your divorce lawyer. Be prepared to provide a clear explanation of the help you are looking for. Next, it's your turn to ask questions. You may have some questions already in mind, but here are a few topics that you should not pass up on the chance to ask a divorce lawyer during your consultation:

  • Which kinds of divorce cases do you typically take on? Is litigation your speciality, or are you also trained in alternatives like collaborative divorce? 
  • From what you know about my case, how successful do you foresee my outcome to be as of this moment?
  • What is your fee structure? Can I pay a retainer and have my fees deducted from there, or do you charge hourly wages? What will it cost me to have a phone call or email correspondence with you? Do you charge for the time I spend in communication with your office personnel?
  • Are you able to work with me on the fees? Do you offer a sliding scale? If the lawyer's fees are too high for you and they cannot work with you at a reduced rate, see if they might have a recommendation for you about another lawyer.
  • Will anyone else work on my case along with you? If so, to what degree?
  • Will I pay for my court filing fees, or will that be deducted from the fees I pay you?
  • If we move forward in settling this case using an alternative method to litigation such as collaborative divorce, how will we go about it? How will appointments be made with the opposing party and their counsel? Do I have to find a mediator, or will you recommend one?
  • How much time will you be able to devote to working my case? Are you actively working on many other divorce cases right now? 
  • How long will it take you to get back in touch with me if I call or write to you? How flexible are you with scheduling appointments?
  • Do you have some references I can contact?

Evaluate.

Take time to thoroughly consider your experience with each divorce lawyer, but don't take too much time to evaluate. Each divorce lawyer you spoke to may have other potential clients coming to them any moment, so don't take too long to make a decision. Consider how you felt in each office or during each phone consultation. How comfortable did each divorce lawyer make you feel? How did you feel about the answers you received to the questions you asked? Did each lawyer ask you enough questions to give you an adequate opinion about your case? Can you afford each of their fees, or is one more expensive than you expected? When you asked about which direction to take your case, how comfortable were you with each lawyer's response? In the end, the way you handle your case is your decision, but when you work with a divorce lawyer to makes you feel confident and at ease, you can trust them to drive your case in the right direction for you. 

Hiring a divorce lawyer is an important process that you should handle with both attention and care. Having a strategy in place for how to find one before your start looking can help. Even more, knowing the right questions to ask during a consultation can help you to determine who exactly you should hire. There are many other checklists and suggestions online that will give you tips for hiring the best divorce lawyer for you, and reading over a few of these can help you to make sure you're not missing an important piece of advice for how to handle this process. In the end, the choice of who to hire is yours, so dedicate yourself towards making the best decision possible.