Hiring A Divorce Lawyer: 10 Questions to Ask
Choosing a divorce lawyer is not simply a question of taking on the first person who accepts you as a client. This is a very personal decision that can cost you thousands or even millions of dollars if you do not get it right. The summary of the divorce law sets out the basic process, but you still need a lawyer to support you throughout.
You need someone who is competent and experienced in their field but is also imaginative enough to think outside the box when it comes with tackling the tricky issues that can arise during divorce proceedings.
In order to ensure that you are getting the right person for the job, you need to ask the following questions to determine whether or not you want to work with this particular attorney.
Divorce Lawyer Interview Questions
What is your experience practicing marriage and divorce law in this state?
It is not sufficient for the lawyer to just have the right qualifications. Those qualifications must also be relevant to your jurisdiction. Divorce law can vary significantly from state to state. A lawyer that is a star in one state may not be successful in another state. Demand honesty from your lawyer about their abilities and limitations because you might end up paying the price if they get things wrong. Our San Diego Family Lawyers have significant experience in California.
How would you settle a difficult divorce case where both sides are not
This question will open up the broad strategies that your lawyer is going to use during the divorce. Strategy is really about positioning yourself to get the best advantage of a given situation. However, you may personally want to compromise with your spouse to resolve matters amicably. Find a lawyer that suits your personality, tastes, preferences, and needs. Lawyers have a number of options for difficult cases, including further negotiation, settling on the offer and going for mediation. All these are options that require your prior approval in your role as the client. A San Diego Divorce Lawyer should consult you on how to proceed and deal with the most challenging aspects of the case.
Which person in the firm is directly responsible for handling my issues?
There are many large firms out there that have their own way of doing things. For example, some firms have a rotation of attorneys to deal with different cases. Typically, the lawyer who has been successful in dealing with difficult divorces will be in high demand. This is because they are attractive to potential clients and the firm may use them as a marketing tool. If you do not clarify who is handling your case, you could be saddled with the less reliable lawyers that nobody wants to use. It is better to get this out of the way in the beginning so that you know where you stand. This is part of your agreement with our firm at Mach Law.
What is your retainer process and how much do you expect me to pay in
Many lawyers require some sort of retainer from the client to show that they are truly committed to going ahead with the case. However, that retainer must not be so excessive that it puts off potential clients. Knowing what is expected in advance can also help with your budgeting. Many people are effectively bankrupted by lawyer fees during the divorce process so you really need a good lawyer that is considerate of your situation and does not charge exploitative fees.
Do you offer any refund and how do I claim it?
This is a very important question since many lawyers are now competing for clients. That means that some of them offer to pay back the retainer in the event they are unable to proceed with the work. It is best to have an understanding of if and how the firm deals with refunds. Indeed, you may even make a special request for such a condition to be included in the contract. In practice, many lawyers ensure that they do not have to refund the retainer because they wish to make an impression on their clients by doing an excellent job.
How and for what do you bill when dealing with my case?
Quite often, the biggest cause of conflict between a divorce lawyer and their client is over fees and charges. Some lawyers seek a round figure that includes administrative tasks and professional services. Others bill each item separately, including letters and notices. Knowing what the bill is for will ensure that you can budget for your expenses during the divorce proceedings. After all, most people do not want to win a huge settlement only to have to pay it all to their own lawyers.
What is your professional estimate of the duration of the proceedings?
Experienced divorce lawyers normally have a good understanding of how the court system works. They can look at the facts of the case and give you an estimated guess of how long the proceedings are meant to last. Most clients are unable to sustain long divorce proceedings because of the financial and emotional toll that they take on them. Typically, custody and business issues tend to make the proceedings longer. However, if both parties are in agreement and cooperating; the proceedings should take less time to complete.
What are your service standards and penalties?
The divorce lawyer is actually working for you during the case. Therefore, you should expect minimum professional standards for them including time keeping and precise notifications which are on time. Some clients have lost a lot in the divorce proceedings because they did not get sufficient notice to attend hearings or file documents. Another service expectation is that your calls should be answered by someone from the firm within a day to ensure that communication between client and lawyer runs smoothly.
What arrangements do you have for sharing information with me?
Lawyers are obligated to share information with clients in a timely and orderly manner to give them the space to contribute to the decision-making process. An attorney that does not share documents is engaging in negligence or even malpractice. Make sure that right from the beginning there are specific arrangements of how and when you get copies of important divorce documents. Your Downtown San Diego Divorce Lawyer should always remain in touch with you.
Are you ready and able to represent me to the best of your ability?
Some cases are so complex that they become battlegrounds right from the beginning. You need a lawyer that is focused and confident so that they can give you a good showing in court. Lawyers who are timid and unsure of court procedures are going to let you down so you should steer away from them. That applies even if you are within the no fault divorce states.
Making the Right Decision
Divorce is stressful. Picking the wrong attorney can be one of the biggest and most financially devastating mistakes that you can make. Make sure to do your due diligence by asking the right questions when deciding which lawyer you will choose to handle your divorce.