Once the decision is made to get divorce, the next crucial decision is the hiring of a divorce lawyer. Often a husband or wife is tempted to use a friend of a friend or maybe even a relative. At this difficult time what you need is a well-versed, experienced divorce attorney who knows family law and who will get you through this time of turmoil with both compassion and a professional demeanor.
Divorce can be like a death. It is the end of the fantasy of the perfect marriage and for some it can spell the end of financial security. When you are involved in the turmoil of a divorce you have to pick the person who will best champion your cause - you have to find someone to fit the specific needs. If custody is the main issue, make sure the person has experience in a variety of custody cases. If finances will be the main point of contention, you need someone who understands those matters.
Is this going to be a divorce where the two of you can work things out? Are you being naive and believing that the other person only has your best interest at heart. Chances are he or she does not. No matter how much the other side says “trust me,” you really need an independent attorney who can look at the situation and give you the appropriate advice. When you’ve trusted your spouse for years, it’s hard to believe he or she is not your friend. You need your attorney who is your advocate to assess the situation without emotion.
First, your lawyer must know the divorce, custody and support laws for your state. That probably means someone who specializes in family law or at least does more than 70 percent of his or her practice in that field. A general practitioner probably does not have all the requisite knowledge that you will need. Laws are always changing and vary from state to state.
You need someone skilled in negotiations. Many cases resolve through strong negotiating. It’s always less expensive to resolve issues than to litigate them. But, you also need someone who can litigate if you do end up going to court.
You want someone who understands the issues and someone you can talk to about the most intimate details of your family life. If you don’t like the person and don’t feel like you will have a comfortable relationship and rapport, don’t hire them even if he or she has the credentials. Find someone else.
The person at the beauty shop telling you about her divorce experience may not be the most reliable source. Don’t take recommendations from every friend and relative. Instead, find an attorney who teaches other lawyers at the local bar association and seek out members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Don’t be afraid to investigate and get references.
When you meet with an attorney to see if he or she is the right person, don’t feel like there are subjects off limits. Don’t avoid the subject of rates - ask right up front what this divorce might cost. Don’t feel like you can’t ask for examples (without names) of divorces that may be similar to your situation. You have a right to know the attorneys depth of knowledge and experience.
Sometimes when a potential client interviews an attorney, the person feels obligated to use that attorney. It’s completely acceptable to go to speak to several attorneys before hiring one. You would get a second opinion before having a doctor do your surgery. Make sure you have the right attorney to handle your divorce.
Divorce can be devastating, especially when children are involved. Picking an attorney you like and trust and who has experience and knowledge will make a difficult time of life better for all parties. No one plans to get divorced, but when it happens it can be less traumatic with the right advocate on your side.
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