Is this the right divorce attorney for you?
So, it’s time to hire a divorce attorney. How can you know if you’re getting a lawyer who’s a good fit for you and your needs? Recommendations from friends you trust are a good place to start. Then, interview several lawyers before determining who is right for you. If a lawyer tries to charge you for an exploratory interview, that’s a red flag—these interviews should be free. Here are basic questions to ask a potential lawyer:
- Do you solely practice matrimonial law? If not, what percentage of your cases are matrimonial?
- What is your experience with mediation? (Some attorneys provide both mediation and legal services.) Do you have experience in collaborative law?
- How many cases have you handled that are like mine?
- When do you think it’s necessary to go to court? What percentage of your cases go to court rather than settling?
- How is your relationship with the local family courts and judges?
- Do you have experience with real estate law? (This is important if you need to sell your house in the divorce.)
- How long have you been in practice? Why did you choose this type of law?
- What is your fee? Do you require a retainer (a contract you sign when hiring a lawyer)?
- How often will I be billed? Do you have payment plans? Do you take credit cards?
- How many people are in your firm? Who will be working on my particular case? What are the different billing rates for support staff, associates, and partners in your firm?
- Do you charge for phone calls? Will you bill if I have a quick question via phone or email?
- Are there ways I can help keep the cost down (sort through documents, take papers to courthouse)?
- How long does it typically take you to respond to a question? What forms of communication are acceptable: email, text, cell phone? Are you reachable after hours if there is a crisis?
If you decide to retain a lawyer, don't be shy about asking him or her to walk you through the retainer agreement or explain anything else that may be unclear to you. The retainer should include information such as the hourly rate of each person in the firm who will work on your case, details concerning possible future payments, and procedures for returning your retainer if it’s not exhausted.
Annette Powers is a Solo Mom who lives in Brooklyn, New York. A communications professional, she writes about divorce, coparenting, and culture in her spare time.
Ashley Volz-Reiss spent several years as a Solo Mom. She has gone on to earn her master’s degree in social work and is now a therapist helping children and families. She’s remarried and keeps busy raising her spirited six-year-old son.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.