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Get the Best Divorce Attorney For Your Case By Asking These Questions At The Interview
Hiring the biggest law firm you can afford is not always in your best interest. When interviewing divorce attorneys, ask the questions below about the person’s qualifications and how the firm handles cases to ensure that you and your case receive the attention and effort you deserve. to get the best results. I suggest you interview two to three lawyers. Especially if you are uncomfortable with the people you are talking to. Some good lawyers don’t. It is probably worth paying a small amount for an initial consultation to choose the right lawyer for you. Of course you need a good lawyer. The real issue is whether your lawyer will put your interests first or line his pockets unnecessarily at the expense of you and your spouse. You need a lawyer who will work hard to get the best possible results. Using the checklist below will help you determine if the person is a lawyer you can trust.
- Does the county have a self-contained family law division of judges familiar with dissolution law, or is there an opportunity for a motion or trial to be heard by a judge with unknown experience in family law?
- Are there one or two appraisers or auction houses in the geographic area that do most of the furniture appraisals in dissolution cases?
- In this county do all judges refer custody disputes to mental health professionals to prepare a recommendation to the court?
- Is the mediation of custody disputes confidential or will the mediator reveal my statements to the judge.
- If the mediator fails the mediator is the person who makes the custody recommendation to the court?
- Is the lawyer a certified family law specialist? This does not mean that the lawyer is good. But it is something to consider. This means that the attorney has passed an exam in family law and is required to take a certain number of continuing education classes in family law each year.
- Does Martindale-Hubbell rate the lawyer? The AV rating is the highest possible and only 5 percent of US attorneys have the rating. This is an indication of the highest legal skills and ethical behavior.
- More important is how many divorce cases the lawyer handles. Is he a “dabbler”? Is he offering to take the case as a favor to you or a friend? Bad signs.
- Does the company handle thousands of cases? This is a divorce mill. Not a good sign. Your case will rarely get the attention you want if the firm is too large or handles too many cases. Most of the work is done by paralegals or junior lawyers.
- Does the company manage celebrities and multi-millionaires? At first blush you may think that hiring a divorce firm that works for “stars” or high net worth people will ensure you good representation. That’s true whether you’re a star or a squillionaire, too. Otherwise, you’ll be a number. Remember with divorce lawyers to the stars, your importance to the company is greatly reduced if you are not a star or rich.
- Have the attorney send you copies of all letters sent and received from opposing counsel, and copies of all pleadings filed with the court. (My office sends these documents as.pdf files via email to make it easy for the client to keep them.) You will want this to keep you up-to-date on your case status.
- Will the attorney personally return calls about important questions? If you are calling to confirm a hearing date or a location you do not need to speak to your lawyer, but if you have a question about the matter it is best to speak to the lawyer or lawyers working on the case.
- What lawyers besides the one you interviewed will act on your case? If your spouse files an emergency motion for example (known as an ex parte motion) and your attorney has a conflicting appointment who will accompany you to court?
- Will you be billed for secretarial time? (Not in our office. I think this practice is very unfair to a client. Also beware of charging for the paralegal’s time. A paralegal is not a lawyer. He is usually an experienced secretary. Paying for in the paralegal’s time is something you probably don’t want to do.)
- Is the attorney willing to propose a settlement conference to opposing counsel as soon as possible? Usually after you and your spouse have made their financial data available. Is the attorney willing to commit to a face-to-face settlement conference if your spouse’s attorney agrees? (Obviously, the more you agree the less fighting and the less traumatic, expensive and time consuming your divorce will be)
- If your spouse already has a lawyer, ask if the lawyer is familiar with the lawyer. Has the lawyer worked for another lawyer before? Does the spouse’s attorney generally make reasonable efforts to settle the case?
You want someone who knows how the judges operate in your area. If the lawyer does not seem to know the answers to the first five questions above, he does not know the local procedures in your area which means you are at a disadvantage. You want someone who cares about your stuff. The truth is that if you have no assets your divorce will be straight forward. The people who face the most difficulty in divorce cases are middle-class couples. People who have possessions, but are not rich. In other words most people. You need to know if the person you are talking to is a figurehead, or will do the job. What good will it do you if you see a divorce attorney with 20 years of experience, but your case is handled by underlings–junior attorneys or paralegals? Divorce is one of the most important things that can happen in your life. Take the time to make sure the lawyer you hire is good.
Often your lawyer should invite an open exchange of information with the opposing side followed by difficult negotiations aimed at a fair outcome. But if the opposing attorney or spouse tries to gain an unfair advantage in a contested divorce, child custody, child support or spousal support case you need to be confident that your attorney will settle the contested matters to ensure that your interests are served.
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