People who are going to go through a divorce don’t have to hire the first lawyer that they meet, particularly if it’s their first marriage, and children are involved. The entire process might be one big question mark for them. First and foremost, they’ll want an experienced attorney who concentrates their practice on family law.
How much is this going to cost?
Nobody can predict the future with any degree of certainty, but an attorney should be able to give a reasonable estimate on an uncontested divorce along with a usual and customary high and low range on a contested divorce. The cost of contested divorces often depends on how emotional and contentious the parties are. Another option is a flat fee divorce lawyer. This is when a client pays per service as opposed to per hour. This can be a cost-effective option as well as less stressful as you know exactly what you’re paying up front.
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What is your specialization?
Many states don’t permit lawyers to call themselves specialists. If that word doesn’t appear next to the lawyer’s name, it doesn’t mean that they don’t know what they’re doing. Ask what family law professional organizations they belong to. A family law lawyer won’t necessarily be able to tell you how many cases he or she has handled, so don’t expect an answer if you ask that question. Instead, ask how often the lawyer in family court. If they say they’re in family court multiple times a week, that’s a good answer!
What’s the procedure involved in a divorce?
An experienced family law attorney should be able to outline a roadmap detailing the usual and customary steps involved in a divorce case and their level of participation each step of the way. Uncontested cases where the parties are in agreement don’t take as long. If the divorce is expected to be contested, the attorney should still be able to give you a general timeline without making any promises they can’t keep.
How do you communicate with clients?
Every lawyer has an ethical obligation to keep their clients reasonably updated on the progress of their case. That might occur through meetings, phone calls, emails or letters. Inquire how the attorney maintains contact with clients. Clients can be emotional at times, and what’s an emergency to the client might not be an emergency to the lawyer, particularly if the client sat on that emergency for awhile before contacting the lawyer about it. Inquire into what an emergency is in the context of a family law practice and how they might be reached should one arise.
Can I get a written retainer agreement?
Most states require a written retainer agreement between attorney and client. Although they do protect the attorney somewhat, they’re primarily for the benefit and protection of the client. The rights and obligations of the parties should be detailed along with the retainer amount and how the client is billed. Pay particular attention as to how increments of hours will be billed. To some lawyers, a two minute phone call is a quarter of an hour pursuant to their retainer agreement. Short phone calls can add up.
Most couples people contemplate divorced for awhile before deciding to move forward. They should also contemplate their questions for their initial conference with an attorney for awhile as it is for both partners own peace of mind.