Finding a Divorce Lawyer
One of the best things you can do for yourself during a divorce is hire a good lawyer. But finding a lawyer to represent you is easier said than done. Here are a few steps you can take to make the process a little easier.
While there are many areas of the law, such as real estate law and criminal law, you want a lawyer that specializes in divorce law. Begin your search right here at Divorce.com. Enter your zip code into the search box and you’ll be presented with a list of lawyers in your area.
Once you have a list of lawyers, you should set up appointments to meet with a few of them. Most lawyers have a free, initial consultation so your first visit will not cost you any money. You may be nervous when meeting with the lawyer, but this is normal. One thing to keep in mind is that you are hiring her and that she works for you. In this meeting you will both ask and answer questions. Be completely honest with a lawyer so she will have a clear idea of your marital situation. But don’t worry about what you say in this meeting. Even if you don’t hire a lawyer, anything you discuss will be held in strict confidence.
Before the meeting you should write down any questions you may have so that you don’t forget them. A few important questions to ask are:
- How many divorce cases have you handled?
- What are your rates and when will I be billed?
- Do I have to pay upfront or can the bill be paid in installments?
- What is the approximate total cost?
- What are the possible outcomes of my divorce?
- Who else will be working on my case?
- How often will I hear from you?
- Who can I contact in case of an emergency?
During and after the meeting you should ask yourself a few questions. Do you like the lawyer? Do you feel comfortable with him? Do you have confidence in his abilities? Does the lawyer really listen to you? Trust your instincts. You are going to be working with this person for a few months or up to a year so it is important to find a lawyer you get along with. If a paralegal or legal secretary will also be working on your case, try to meet with her briefly. These are people who will also be in your life during the course of the divorce proceedings
If the lawyer offers a list of references – former clients who have agreed to talk with prospective clients – then take the lawyer up on her offer. Call a few of the clients to find out how satisfied they were with the results of their divorces.
Take your time when choosing a lawyer. Don’t let anyone rush you because this is a very important decision that will affect your future. After you decide on an attorney, you will be given a contract or a legal services agreement to sign. This document may also be called a retainer agreement. Be certain to read the entire contract and ask any questions you may have. The lawyer should be willing to explain anything you don’t understand. After the agreement is signed you may be asked to give a deposit or retainer.
Divorces are expensive these days with some sources estimating that it can cost up to $20,000. If you don’t have the money, don’t worry. You do have options. If your spouse has more money than you do, your lawyer can arrange for your legal fees and costs to be paid by your spouse as part of the divorce settlement. If your spouse does not agree to this, the courts may order your spouse to pay all or part of your legal fees.
If funds are limited, you have the option to hire an attorney just to handle certain aspects of the case. If there are areas that you and your spouse can’t agree on such as how to divide property or how much child support is needed, you can hire a lawyer just to help you resolve this one issue for a flat rate. Another option is to try to negotiate for a lower hourly rate or a lower retainer. While some lawyers may not be willing to work with you to make the divorce more affordable, other lawyers are more flexible. They realize that not everyone has the money for a divorce. Since they want your business they may be willing to find solutions to the money problem.
In some cases you can even get divorced without an attorney. . There are many online divorce kits that cost under $300. But this method is only for uncontested or no-fault divorces. California is one state that has court-trained document preparers. These professions help you to understand and fill-out all the necessary divorce documents. Contact your local county courthouse to see if similar services are offered in your area.
There are also books on getting a divorce without an attorney. Amazon.com is a great place to find books that get good reviews. While doing your own divorce has a steep learning curve, if you and your spouse are committed to saving money and cooperating with each other, do-it-yourself divorces can work out well. But this method only works if you and your spouse can work out all the details of your own divorce. If you and your spouse can’t agree, a mediator is another option. Mediators are trained professionals that can help resolve many disputes. One session may be all that is needed, or several sessions may be better. With a combination of strategies, you can get your divorce at a price you can afford. Many services available to you may not be well advertised, but if money is tight, it is in your best interest to locate as many alternatives as possible. It is time-consuming work, but lack of funds should not determine how your divorce works out.