Questions to Ask Your Divorce Lawyer
Several factors will affect the outcome of your divorce. Legal advice is among the most critical. Think of your divorce attorney as your advocate, your trusted advisor, your negotiator and your guide through the divorce process. You are hiring an attorney to lead you through a life-changing event, and it is important that you feel comfortable with your choice.
Before hiring a lawyer, take some time to talk in person or over the phone. This is your opportunity to assess the quality of the divorce attorney’s legal advice, as well as the attorney’s experience, approach and cost.
Background & Experience
Questions to ask about an attorney’s experience and education include:
- How much experience do you have handling divorces?
- Where did you go to college and law school?
- When did you graduate?
- Have you previously handled cases similar to mine?
- Do you handle child custody cases (if applicable)?
- Do you have experience using mediation or arbitration in divorce cases?
- Do you have any other specialized experience that’s relevant to my case?
Do You Specialize in Divorce?
You need a lawyer that specializes in divorce law or family law. Other lawyers, although they may be competent in certain areas of the law, may not have the expertise to handle your case effectively.
How Long Have You Been Practicing Divorce Law?
In matters of family law, nothing matters more than experience. Lawyers with years of courtroom experience are better equipped to handle your case and provide creative solutions.
How Will Your Team Work Together on My Case?
Most law firms have a team of lawyers and law clerks that handle various cases at once. It’s important that you ask whether several lawyers will collaborate on your case, or if only one lawyer will—the more skillsets working on your case, the better.
How Will You Achieve My Goals?
A competent lawyer should have a detailed plan after your first meeting regarding how they will meet your goals. Otherwise, you can’t be sure whether their services will be effective.
How Long Do You Expect This Process to Take?
Once the lawyer has been informed about the details of your case, they should have an informed opinion regarding how long it might take to seek a resolution. Otherwise, the case might drag on forever and cost you a lot of money.
Do you have testimonials from clients whose divorces you’ve handled, and can I have access to those testimonials?
While client privacy and confidentiality must be respected, an experienced, successful divorce attorney will have written testimonials, or in some cases, you may be able to speak to previous clients.
Do you prefer to resolve divorce settlements outside court or to litigate in family court? This is an important question because it will usually cost less to settle finances and custody of children in negotiations outside of court. Some attorneys will pursue court for settlement because they’ll be able to charge more. It’s important that your prospective divorce attorney does what’s best for you, not what will inflate their fee.
Questions to Ask About Costs
- What are the hourly rates for you and the other people working on my case? Do you require a retainer?
- Are there any additional charges I should expect? (Additional charges could include private investigators, forensic accountants, physicians, psychologists, and even office expenses such as copies and postage).
- Assuming things run smoothly, what will the total divorce cost me?
- Most attorneys will not want to answer this question, because it is very difficult to estimate a total price. However, a reputable attorney will give you a range of what a typical divorce, like yours, could cost. The answer is typically a price range. Keep in mind that a surprisingly low number might be too good to be true.
- What can I do to keep costs down? Are there tasks I can complete on my own? Can I speak directly with my spouse?
What are the strategies you would recommend for my case? What’s the backup plan?
In a similar fashion, you should note that, in some cases, a divorce won’t go as planned. Whether that’s if your spouse decides to contest your property settlement agreement or if a judge decides against you on a particular matter, it’s always a good idea to draft not only a strong Plan A, but a Plan B and a Plan C as well.
Many attorneys will have a “recommended” strategy in their heads when they hear the details of your case, but they’ll also have a secondary plan for if things go wrong.
For example, mediation may be the preferred resolution in your case, but what happens if you can’t come to an agreement with your spouse? Instead, you should take the time to go over any supplemental plans with your attorney in addition to their recommended strategy for resolving your matter.