10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Divorce Attorney
Your have determined your marriage is over and you want to file for divorce. One of your first thoughts is probably “I need to hire a divorce lawyer.” While many divorce cases are settled without lawyers, there are plenty of instances where an attorney is either necessary or advantageous. Here are some questions that you should ask a potential attorney to determine whether he/she is the right one for you. Read on to learn more.
1. What is your experience with divorce cases?
You want an attorney with significant experience handling divorce cases and devotes at least 50% of their time to divorce matters. It is also helpful to ask the attorney about their experience with cases similar to yours. For example, if you know you are going to have complex issues with property division, ask about their experience handling similar issues.
2. How many cases do you currently have pending?
This is a tricky question. You do not want an attorney with a huge caseload because your case will not get the attention it needs. However, an attorney only handling one or two pending cases is also a red flag. If the attorney gets upset or with this question, you should probably look for another attorney. A good attorney will not take on a new case if they already have a significant caseload.
3. What do you charge?
Find out if the attorney charges an hourly rate (most do) or a flat fee. You also want to know how much their hourly rate is. Most attorneys will require a retainer before they will take the case. A retainer is a fee that is for future legal work, and they must return any unused of the unused retainer. Do not hire an attorney if you cannot afford them.
4. How much do you estimate the case will cost?
The actual cost of a divorce case can be hard to estimate. Generally, the more contested a case gets, the more expensive it will be. Cases can become more or less combative as it drags on. An attorney should be able to give you a ballpark estimate based on similar cases, but keep in mind that their estimate may be far off from the actual cost. You should also ask you attorney about any additional expenses that your case might entail. This can include court filing fees, hiring an expert like a forensic accountant.
5. What is your strategy?
Are you looking for an attorney who is a good negotiator because and your ex are on good terms and want to settle quickly or do you think this will be a contentious divorce that will go to trial, so you want someone with a lot of trial experience? An attorney that seems unwilling to compromise and wants to go the “scorched earth” route is a huge red flag.
6. Will you be handling the bulk of my case work?
You may find an attorney you really like, only to discover that most of the work is being handled by a paralegal or junior attorney. While many things, such basic paperwork, can be done by a paralegal, you want the attorney you hired to be the one performing most of the work. Also, when hiring an attorney, make sure you like the support staff, since many times you will be dealing with them directly.
7. How do you typically communicate with your clients?
Ask the attorney their preferred method of communication- phone, text, or email? Ask them how responsive they are to answering emails. Also ask them how they keep you informed about updates with your case.
8. Are there any special tax considerations I need to worry about?
Certain forms of property division can have adverse tax implications. You want an attorney understands the tax consequences of your settlement.
9. How familiar are you with local family court judges?
A good divorce attorney will be familiar with the local family court judges. This familiarity can be helpful with advising you on the best course of action.
10. What do you think the outcome of my case will be?
When you ask an attorney this question, you want an attorney that will give an honest answer about what you can realistically expect when it comes to property division, spousal support, and any child custody issues. An attorney who makes bold sweeping claims about getting everything you want from your ex is probably lying to you.
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