What Is the Best Way to Find a Lawyer for a Divorce?

By Christen NicholsLast Updated Jun 24, 2020 7:19:05 PM ET
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If you find yourself in an unhappy or unhealthy marriage, a divorce can dissolve your legal union and give you a fresh start. To protect your personal and financial interests, it’s important to hire a lawyer who has ample experience handling divorces.

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Working with the right lawyer can reduce the stress, angst and time associated with ending your marriage. This professional can also help you procure a fair divorce settlement. Here’s what you need to know about finding a lawyer for your divorce.

Ask and Search for Attorney Recommendations

You have a few different options for finding a divorce attorney. Start by asking your friends and family members if they have any recommendations for a lawyer. Ask them what traits they liked in the attorney and which characteristics they disliked. Were they satisfied with the ultimate outcome of the case?

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Amy Hirschi/Unsplash

Another place to check for potential lawyers is online review sites. You can view the names, ratings and information of various lawyers in your area within minutes. Take time to read over the reviews for nearby lawyers. Are there any similar complaints that keep cropping up in reviews? How does the attorney address complaints? Ideally, the lawyer should respectfully reply to the negative reviews. This shows that the attorney values client satisfaction.

If you’ve previously worked with a lawyer for non-divorce-related issues (like fighting a traffic ticket or creating a will) and were pleased with your experience, ask this attorney if they can recommend a divorce lawyer. They can suggest attorneys who have a history of providing solid legal counsel.

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Look for Lawyers Who Fit Your Divorce Needs

Every couple’s divorce is different. You should let your divorce’s unique needs influence what type of divorce attorney you use. Some couples disagree over nearly every aspect of their separation and don’t know how to begin settling these differences. If you’re in this category, you might want a divorce lawyer who’s excellent at mediating contentious divorces. Remember that the longer your divorce takes, the higher the financial costs and their impact on your mental health may be.

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Cal Injury Lawyer/Flickr

You may have just a few issues that you strongly disagree with your spouse about. Perhaps you want your spouse to live nearby so you can continue to regularly see your children, or maybe you have some household possessions that you want to keep because they have a lot of emotional significance for you. You may benefit from a more aggressive attorney who takes pride in achieving difficult negotiations for their clients.

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If you and your spouse agree on most elements of your divorce, you may prefer a mild-mannered lawyer who has experience with mediation and a deep understanding of family law and the divorce process. Your lawyer will guide the divorce process so it’s over with as quickly as possible and look after your best interests.

Gather a Short List of Attorneys and Schedule Consultations

Once you know what traits you value in an attorney, you can start gathering a list of potential prospects. Don’t settle on the first lawyer you find; instead, take the time to interview at least a few prospective divorce lawyers.

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Most attorneys offer free consultations. During a consultation, the attorney will inquire about your legal needs so they can determine if they’re suited to take your case. Take this time to observe the attorney’s interactions with you. Do they explain things in simple terms? Do you have the attorney’s full attention? The way the attorney treats you during your consultation is a great representation of how they’ll treat you throughout your divorce process.

You can also ask questions about the logistics of using a divorce attorney during your consultation. For example, it’s not uncommon for an attorney to outsource a lot of tasks (like gathering files or scheduling meetings) to an assistant or paralegal. Ask the attorney who else helps them with their cases, and see if you can meet this individual.

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Use the consultation as an opportunity to ask the attorney about their fee schedule. It’s common for divorce attorneys to charge for their services via an hourly rate. Many attorneys require you to pay an initial retainer fee when you hire them. This fee goes towards your legal expenses. Depending on the complexity of your case, you may have to make additional payments if your expenses exceed the retainer.

Ask questions about how your attorney does their billing. Do they bill a minimum amount of time, even if the issue takes a shorter length of time to resolve? If so, you’ll want to gather a list of any questions or issues you have and address them all at once (versus asking questions as they arise). This simplifies the billing process.

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Pay attention to your intuition. If an attorney seems like an excellent option on paper but feels like a bad fit in person, go with your gut. You’ll be working with the attorney during a highly emotional time; make sure you pick someone whom you feel at ease with.