After practicing divorce law in New York City and now, in South Florida, I’ve “cleaned up” many cases after clients hire attorneys who are clearly the wrong choice for their divorce. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes, so here’s what you must look for when hiring a divorce attorney:
- MAKE SURE S/HE HAS SPECIFIC EXPERIENCE IN THE FIELD OF DIVORCE AND MARITAL LAW.
Every area of law has different laws, rules and procedures. You need someone who knows what they’re doing, who does it all the time, not just as a part of their practice. What naturally goes hand-in-hand with the focus on family law is that that attorney will know the inner workings of the system, have relationships with colleagues and judges, how they think, how they react and what their reputations are.
- MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT TYPE OF PRACTICE IT IS.
It is critical to know what type of divorce practice the attorney has. Do they practice litigation, mediation, collaborative divorce? Do they focus on high net worth cases—if yours is a mid-income case, will you be put to the bottom of the list when your retainer runs out? Does the attorney work as part of a team or if your attorney is on vacation, are you out of luck? Will you be passed off to a junior/lower level associate or will you mostly work with the attorney with whom you consulted? How many cases go to trial? How many cases settle?
- MAKE SURE YOU HAVE CHEMISTRY WITH YOUR ATTORNEY:
You’re putting your life and, if you have kids, their lives in this person’s hands. Three essential words to keep in mind —trust, respect and communication. Ask yourself during and after consulting with an attorney:
- Is she approachable and easy to communicate with?
- Is she a good listener, do I feel heard?
- Will this person be a strong and committed advocate for me?
- Will I be respected or am I just another number?
- Will I be part of my divorce team or is this attorney not interested in what I have to say ?
- Is this someone I can trust?
- As far as I can tell, does she have values similar to mine?
- When will my calls be returned?
- Will I be copied on emails to my spouse’s attorney or to the court, so I know what’s going on?
Chemistry doesn’t mean that you want to date this person or even be friends with them, it means that you genuinely feel that within the attorney client relationship, there’s trust, respect, and communication and most of all, this attorney “has your back.”
- UNDERSTAND THAT NO ONE CAN EVER TELL YOU WITH CERTAINTY HOW MUCH YOUR DIVORCE WILL COST OR HOW LONG IT WILL TAKE.
Unless, of course, you go to a flat-rate divorce attorney or your case is a simplified divorce, meaning no kids, few marital assets, no alimony and /or support. In most other cases, the cost and length of your divorce will depend upon the complexity of your case financially, if there are significant issues regarding kids, and the relationship between you and your spouse. Is it relatively amicable or are you fighting like cats and dogs? If your case is litigated, mediated, or done collaboratively, is the lawyer you choose in it just for the fight
/ and does not know how to settle cases? Or is she a pragmatic, and focused problem-solver who gets cases settled without drama and unnecessary fees?
To learn more about collaborative divorce and other divorce options, go to: MaraBernsteinDivorce.com or call my office at 561-910-1870.