Step 2 – Selecting A Divorce Attorney
Selecting an Attorney
Once the difficult decision of divorcing a spouse has been made, the next step is securing legal counsel. The decision of selecting an attorney can be daunting, but it is the single most important decision in pursuing divorce. Capable and experienced legal counsel can make a world of difference during a divorce in the form of both ultimate results and peace of mind from understanding the process.
What Should I Look For?
Selecting an attorney should be a process, not a spur-of-the-moment decision. In ages past, this meant several meetings with a variety of attorneys. However, the internet has made the task of selecting an attorney much easier. The website for a firm can and should convey the information needed to make an educated choice in selecting legal counsel. Every website will likely describe the firm’s practice, name the lawyers that work there, and provide information about the firm’s experience.
Type Of Practice
It may be surprising to learn that not every lawyer that is licensed to practice in a state is capable of representing an individual in a divorce. Though all lawyers take a single bar examination and complete a common curriculum to become licensed, each lawyer will develop his or her practice in a specific field of law. This is true because the law is exceedingly complex. Fields of law can include a myriad of rules, statutes, and cases that control the outcome of legal problems based on specific details of each case. Additionally, the law continues to evolve and change. Each law passed and each new case decided has the potential to shift and sway the landscape of an area of law. Mastering this ebb and flow is a career-long endeavor. Trusting an attorney that specializes in family law isn’t just a good idea—it is essential to getting high quality representation.
Simply stating that the firm specializes in an area of law is one thing. A website should go beyond this by displaying information to common questions. It is impossible to address every issue that may come up, but the website should explain what types of cases the firm deals with within each area of law. A large part of what an attorney must do is to educate: to explain why the law dictates a result to a judge or to explain how the law can help a client solve a complicated problem. A firm’s website should show this ability to educate as well. If there are no answers to any questions about a given area of law, it is impossible to know how well the firm’s attorneys can explain these issues during a divorce.
Information About The Attorneys
Law firms come in a variety of sizes and styles. Large law firms (typically 20 or more attorneys) generally specialize in hundreds of areas and divide attorneys into groups based on which area of law they practice. Larger law firms have to take more clients to support themselves. Supply and demand inform how much attention each client can possibly receive under such a model.
On the other hand, close-knit firms work quite differently. These firms have lower costs, which translates into fewer clients and less division of attention. Additionally, the attorneys in these firms are able to “cross fields” as needed. If a case requires particular attention for an important filing, rather than increasing the hours of the attorney in that group, the firm can work together to meet the task. This ensures things are less likely to fall through the cracks, as the firm can focus its workforce on the projects that need it. Large, compartmentalized firms lack the flexibility to make these types of adjustments.
Divorce may culminate in a trial before a judge. The attorneys may have to prove to the judge that property should be divided in certain ways, child custody should be awarded to one spouse over the other, that one spouse should be entitled to maintenance payments from the other, or that certain debts should be the responsibility of one spouse. These decisions will have long-lasting and crucial effects on the lives of the parties involved. The only way an attorney can develop the skills required is through practice. This is why trial experience is so important for a family law lawyer. Divorces are not tried by juries, but judges. And judges, unlike juries, are aware of an attorney’s repudiation before the case ever opens. Rules exist to ensure that judges don’t punish clients for their choice of attorney, but having a solid reputation as an attorney that knows how to try cases sets a good starting point for a judge-tried case. In fact, if the decision regarding legal counsel was based on one thing alone, experience would be the safest factor to choose.
What Should I Ask?
Just as important as what to ask is how are you able to ask it. A phone consult with an attorney is a great way of confirming what you have learned from the firm’s website. Consults do not have to be free, and many firms will charge a fee just for hearing your problems. However, confident firms will hear your problems out in a short, free consult. This allows for you to present your concerns and get any additional information from the attorney before you extend an offer to hire the firm.
As far as content, each divorce will be different and likely produce different questions. Two main points should be considered. First, is the attorney able to set out a timeline of the process? The attorney will not be able to set hard dates, but he or she should be able to outline what exactly to expect throughout the process. Predictions are also appropriate. A good, experienced attorney will know when the answer is uncertain, but will be able to make an education prediction. Second, the attorney should be able to ask you questions. These questions may seem a bit strange, even giving the impression that the attorney is focused on the wrong issues. But if you ask why the question matters, a good attorney will be able to explain how the answer is effected by the law. Again, the law is complex and can turn on seemingly unimportant factors. It is the job of an effective attorney to know what these details are and to flesh them out to get a true, accurate picture of a client’s case.
What If My Divorce Is Uncontested?
Sometimes couples can maturely and honestly agree that divorce is the right option. These uncontested cases can be extremely tempting to pursue without legal counsel. Options even exist for “divorce in a box” and other package-type forms. However, it is important to remember what has been discussed already: divorces are high stakes. Even spouses that are on the best of terms can quickly turn against each other when the issue of dividing debts or property comes up. Additionally, the law is simply too complex to be handled by fill-in-the-blank forms. Lawyers spend entire careers perfecting the practice of family law. These lawyers would be instantly driven out of business if “divorce in a box” documents were sufficient to achieve the goals of spouses.
For further information regarding the divorce process, please see the below link.
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