Consulting with and Hiring a Divorce Lawyer
This is one of the earliest and most important decisions you will make in your divorce. The lawyer you choose can make or break your case, can determine how much time and money your divorce will take and, and can either contribute to or decrease the level of conflict you experience.
Taking the time to hire the best lawyer for you and your unique situation will give you more control over the divorce process from the outset. Be intentional and thoughtful about it.
Think of this as hiring an EMPLOYEE, someone who will work for you, who you will likely pay thousands of dollars. So take some time to prepare for each interview and have a way to compare each lawyer to the others. (Don’t worry, read to the end you’ll see that I have you covered!)
It's a good idea to consult with and interview at least 3 lawyers. Take advantage of each of these meetings to learn more about how your divorce might go. (Read on for the questions to ask to help you with that!)
In the end, pick the divorce lawyer who is not only skilled and knowledgeable, but that you feel the most comfortable with. That means the one you feel comfortable asking questions of, sharing your deepest secrets to, and one who helps you understand the true reality of your situation.
Yes, easier said than done, which is why you also need to know what questions to ask!
Here are 3 tips to keep in mind first:
Pick a lawyer who is familiar with how things work in your county and who knows the other lawyers and the judges. They’ll be able to predict a better strategy to achieve the best outcome.
Pick a lawyer who has worked with physicians (and especially physician women) as that person will understand some of the unique issues physician women face.
If there are issues of narcissism, abuse, addiction, or special needs children, get a lawyer who is familiar with those issues AND who has a track record of success in those situations.
Information to share during your consultation
There is some basic information you will want to share with the lawyer during the consultation so that you can get an idea of what you can expect and so you can hear the lawyer's unique perspective on your case. Be ready to tell the lawyer:
Length and location of the marriage
Number of children and ages
Special circumstances - are there issues of abuse, addiction, or special needs in terms of the children? Unique business or practice situations?
Income - yours and your spouse's. Even better if you can bring tax return information from the previous year or two.
Major assets and debts - you don't need to give full details, but if you have some information about things like mortgages, loans, or business assets/debts, the lawyer will be able to give you more accurate information about potential child and spousal support.
Consider bringing an objective friend or family member with you.
It is easy to get overwhelmed with all the information you'll hear, and just like the healthcare system has its own unique language, so does the legal system. Bringing another set of ears to listen to what the lawyer says can be very helpful.
And take notes, or print out my free guide, How to Consult with and Hire a Divorce Lawyer (more about that at the end of the post).
What are your general thoughts about what I should expect in the divorce process?
What can I expect in terms of spousal support? How is it determined? Who might pay whom and for how long?
What can I expect in terms of child support? How is it determined? How long does it last? Who might pay whom and for how long?
How are child custody and parenting plans handled in the court that will oversee my case? What can I expect in terms of custody and parenting in my situation?
What else should I know about what I should expect?
You may want to ask these questions at the same time as the consultation, or schedule another appointment. Ask as many as seem relevant to you, but make sure you ask enough to give a good idea of how this lawyer works and how you might work together.
How long have you been practicing family law? (If it is a collaborative lawyer - What is your training in collaborative law?)
In which counties do you typically work?
What are your thoughts about the court and the judges in the county where I will have my divorce?
Do you have an area of expertise within divorce? If so, what is it?
What percentage of your cases settle out of court?
What is your general approach for handling divorce cases?
What is your experience working with physician women in divorce?
What is your experience working with cases like mine (i.e. special needs children, abusive spouse, addiction, private practice physicians, high conflict, etc)?
Can you give an example of an experience with a case like mine?
What can I expect from you as my lawyer?
What do you think a client can do to make the case go more smoothly?
Nitty gritty questions about how the lawyer bills and works
What is your rate and billing structure?
What are your billing increments?
How are payments made?
What happens after my retainer is used?
What happens if money is left over?
Who else might work my case?
What is that person's rate?
What happens if I don't have the money to pay? Will my spouse be responsible for helping?
How do you communicate with clients?
After you’ve consulted with and interviewed the divorce lawyers, compare your notes to help you decide which one is right for you. Want a document to help with that? Download my free How to Consult with and Hire a Divorce Lawyer. It includes all the above questions, with space for you to write out the answers, as well as a Final Score Card to help you with that decision, so be sure to check it out!
Would you like more help in making this, or any other decision related to your divorce?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free consultation.