Okay. So you are filing for divorce or maybe your partner has filed for divorce and you don’t know where to turn. Before you rush to the phone and call the first lawyer that pops up on the Internet’s top divorce attorneys, take a pause. Think.
What, if anything, do you know about getting a divorce in your state? What do you know about the process? What will happen to your finances, your home, your children, your life?
Your next step is to do some research, find out for yourself what lies ahead and what your options are, legal and otherwise.
Then, throw your shoulders back and get started.
Divorce is a Legal Process but an Attorney is Not the Only Option
There are alternatives to a lawyer and litigation. If you and your soon-to-be former partner have few issues to resolve (no children or custody battles, no financial issues), you may be able to hire a mediator to help you negotiate the terms of your settlement. Another alternative when children are involved, is collaborative divorce, a process of negotiation with specially trained attorneys that preserves a co-parenting relationship. When these options can’t or don’t work, it’s time to find an attorney.
Know What You Want, Be Realistic but Don’t Just Settle to Get it Over With
Your goal in the divorce process is to dissolve your assets equitably, resolve custody issues, if any, and to do so in a reasonably fast, effective manner.
Make sure the attorney you select listens to and understands your wants and needs and is able to communicate the process and ground your expectations.
Key Items to Understand
- Define your budget.
Attorney hourly rates can range drastically but the average cost is $270/hour. Top attorneys often cost $400+. Be clear on what you can spend. Spending can be contained in a few ways:
- Leverage your attorney for big strategic discussions and lower cost associates for other work
- Do the leg work & research yourself – connect with knowledgeable women who have been through the process and can provide advice
- Get very clear on your strategy and use your attorney only where you need them (not for emotional support)
- Think through your goals
The more clear you are on your goals through the divorce process, the more refined you can get on your attorney selection as you will be able to match their skills with your needs (see next bullet). As much as you can, get clear on your goals around:
- Your life post divorce
- Your relationship with your ex post divorce
- Timing of completion (sometimes it may be in your and your children’s best interest to draw out the process)
- Be clear on the type of attorney you need at this time.
Once you have established your goals, questions like the following can help you refine your choices. Do you need a litigator that can fight in court or a negotiator that will help you get to a fair settlement? What type of attorney did your spouse hire – a fighter or a compromiser? Are you more focused on the financial or the custody aspect of your divorce? Do they have access to a wide range of trusted experts – financial experts, parenting coordinators, coach facilitators, and forensic appraisers? Do you work better with a man or a woman? Does this attorney represent mainly men or women? IF YOU DO NOT KNOW THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS, ASK.
- Make sure the basics are covered
What is the fee structure? How much is their retainer? Who will be handling my case day to day? What is their caseload? What percentage of your clients are Family Law cases? How often to you settle versus go to court? How quickly can you expect a response if you have an issue?
- Watch out for red flags
Remember that your divorce is your attorney’s business but it’s your life. If there is anything that doesn’t feel comfortable with an attorney, move on to the next one.
Select and interview at least three Family Law attorneys and know that your first attorney may not be your last attorney.
Colibri Life Pro Tip:
If there are attorneys you do not want your spouse to have representing them, do an informational interview with that attorney. If they spoke to you, they cannot represent your spouse.
Now that you know how to select an attorney, how do you build your list to speak to? We recommend a few resources:
- Start with our Colibri Life Legal Specialists
- Ask friends who have been through the process if they have any referrals (or any they wouldn’t recommend and why)
- Ask other professionals you may know – therapists, financial advisors, etc.
- Look at resources like the Washingtonian Top Family Law Attorneys
Become a Colibri Life member today to leverage our Specialist network for a free interview consultation with up to three of our attorneys (potential savings of up to $1,500!)