Divorce is a difficult and highly emotional process. And throughout the proceeding, you will need to rely heavily on your attorney to provide skilled legal guidance and moral support. Your attorney will advise you, speak for you, and negotiate on your behalf. You will also need to be able to confide in your attorney and share with them details about your life that perhaps no one else knows.
Because they play such a major part in the outcome of your divorce, a good divorce lawyer can mean the difference between feeling like you are all alone and feeling like you have a strong advocate who is looking out for you. Your lawyer will take on many different roles as your case progresses, and they not only need to be well-versed in the law, but they also need to be personable, approachable, and able to explain things to you clearly and without condescension.
Unfortunately, finding a divorce lawyer you can trust is not as simple as picking one of the top three results from a Google search. Just because a lawyer comes up at the top of a Google search, this does not mean they are the right lawyer for you. There are numerous factors that determine who shows up at the top of Google, and quality representation is not always the most important determinant.
This is not to say you should totally discount search results. Look through them, and read through the reviews, but understand that search results can be manipulated, and reviews are not always legitimate either. To find a trustworthy attorney, you will need to go much deeper than that.
Tips for Finding the Right Divorce Lawyer
Here are some of the most important steps you should take to help find a divorce attorney you can trust:
Know What You Want
Common sense dictates that if you want to accomplish a desired result, you have to first know what that result is. There are a lot of different ways to approach a divorce, and the way yours will play out will depend heavily on your specific circumstances. For example, how is your current relationship with your spouse? There is no doubt that it is strained at least to some degree, otherwise, you probably would not be getting divorced. But that aside, how are you getting along with them since you decided to part ways?
These types of questions are important, because if you are on fairly amicable terms with your spouse, there is a good chance that the major terms and conditions of your divorce can be settled without a costly and protracted court battle. If, on the other hand, you are not getting along at all or you are dealing with a situation like abuse, you might need to prepare for a messy divorce. In either case, you should decide ahead of time what you want out of your lawyer.
Are you looking for someone who will be emotionally supportive? Or is it more important to have an attorney who is less personable and more focused on taking care of business? Is there a criminal issue that needs to be dealt with? If so, do you prefer a lawyer who also has experience with criminal law? These and similar questions should be answered before you start searching for a divorce attorney.
Ask for Referrals from Those you Trust
With a divorce rate that has been hovering around 50% for the past several decades, there is a good chance that someone you know has been through this process fairly recently. Ask them how they handled their divorce. Find out what mistakes they made and what they would do differently. In addition, ask them who they used for their attorney. You will want to drill a little deeper and find out more about their attorney as well. Ask about strengths and weaknesses, what they liked about them, disliked, etc. This will give you a good idea of whether or not their divorce attorney might be a good fit for you.
Meet with More than One Perspective Attorney
Although it is more time-consuming this way, it is worthwhile to meet with more than one divorce lawyer before deciding who to go with. These lawyers might be referrals from family and friends, those you found through internet searches, or names of lawyers you obtained from the local family court. Meeting with multiple lawyers will give you a better frame of reference and help you see how each one will approach your case. You will most likely encounter a wide variety of personalities and responses to your questions; and if nothing else, you will come out of these meetings with a good education about how the process works and what you can expect.
Ask the Right Questions
Use your time wisely by asking questions that bring you closer to your outcome of finding the right divorce lawyer for your case. Before you meet with an attorney, you should already have determined that they have adequate experience, a strong knowledge of divorce and family law, and a good track record. Therefore, the questions should be focused more on your unique circumstances, and how they will be able to help you achieve your desired result.
It is also important to note that win/loss questions are not all that meaningful in a divorce case. You are not necessarily looking to “win” the case per se. More accurately, you are looking to ensure that your legal rights and interests are fully protected, and that your lawyer is able to secure an outcome that is reasonable and in keeping with your best interests. And hopefully, it can be a win/win result for everyone involved.
Beware of Unrealistic Promises
Picking up on the last point, be very wary of lawyers who make lofty promises, such as that they will make sure you “get everything” or that your spouse “will not get a penny”. A combative approach like this is likely to only make things worse in the long run. An aggressive approach could create an expensive court battle that may not have been necessary, and it could also be very damaging to important family relationships, such as the relationships between each parent and the children (if there are kids involved). The bottom line is that the divorce process should be used to resolve the current disagreements between you and your spouse, and it should not be used to open up new battle fronts.
Trust your Instincts
At the end of the day, you are the one who will need to decide whether or not the attorney you are considering is right for you. This usually comes down to intangibles such as how confident you feel about how they will approach your case, and how comfortable you feel about working with them. After you have done your due diligence, pray about it (if you are a praying person), trust your gut, and decide accordingly.