How To Choose A Divorce Lawyer
If you have come to the difficult decision to separate from your spouse, you will need to understand how to choose a divorce lawyer. This is an important choice because it will affect every aspect of your life.
People approach this major life transition from widely differing directions. You and your spouse are likely coming at it from two very different perspectives. Neither of you will be able to control everything about this process. Your choice of a divorce lawyer is one of the most important decisions you will make.
Your choice of divorce lawyer will influence greatly the tone of your divorce process (as will your spouse’s choice). By “tone” I mean whether it is adversarial, respectful, efficient and mature. Most divorces are somewhere in the middle. The tone can affect the settlement and your post-divorce life.
The most important aspect of your decision is the level of experience of the divorce lawyer. Use a specialist; it just makes sense. Divorce cases are some of the most complicated cases in the legal system, and logic dictates that lawyers who practice exclusively domestic relations law will be able to handle your case more effectively and efficiently than a general practice lawyer. Ask your therapist, friends, neighbors, your minister, co-workers, or do a web search. If you know any attorneys, ask them too, because they will often know other lawyers by “reputation”.
Once you have made a list of several divorce lawyers, check them out. Go to the South Carolina Bar Association http://www.scbar.org/ and enter the attorney’s name under “Quick Member Search”. This will tell you if they have ever been disciplined by the state bar. While prior disciplinary action is not necessarily a reason to disregard a lawyer, it is a matter of serious concern for you, and you need to find out more about the problem.
Visit http://www.martindale.com and enter a name under “Find Lawyers and Firms”. This will show if the attorneys on your list have been reviewed, or “rated” by their piers. Martindale Hubbell is most established and reliable attorney rating service in the U.S., so high ratings are telling.
Call and schedule and initial consultation. Some divorce lawyers charge for an initial consultation. Most consultation fees will be in the range of $200 to $500 range. Anything higher than that is excessive in my opinion and will be a waste of your money.
During the initial consultation with a divorce lawyer, you want to find out how much experience the attorney has handling cases like yours. Divorce lawyers should understand the nuanced complexities of marital assets, such as dividing retirement accounts, real estate, business valuations, support issues (alimony) and parenting issues.
Finally, what is your impression of the attorney during the initial consultation. Does the attorney listen carefully to you and reflect back your priorities? Or, on the other hand, does he/she talk badly about other attorneys or the mediation or collaborative law process? Does he/she boast about themselves and their “achievements”? You want the attorney to very clearly lay out a rational path to get you from where you are and where you want to be in an efficient and rational manner. You need to know all of your options: how long it may take, and how much it may cost and what legal processes are available to you (i.e. litigation, mediation and collaborative law etc.).