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By Val Hemminger; Family Law Lawyer, Divorce Coach and creator of The Better Divorce Project
You may not realise that divorce lawyers are not created equally. It's just like any other profession except that when you are getting a divorce, there is plenty of emotion and (sometimes) high financial stakes or children in the mix.
And what's worse, when you are already in an emotional state, without the information and guidance I provide on this page, you are extremely vulnerable to making a hasty or incorrect decision.
Choosing the wrong divorce lawyer when you are getting divorced can significantly impact everything related to your proceedings.
It can impact your finances, how long the process will take, and if you are divorcing with young children, let’s just say that you cannot be careful enough.
Unless you and your partner have completely agreed on all of the settlement details, getting divorced is not always the quick and simple matter that many websites will tell you. Even in the simplest situation it is quite possible you will need a lawyer to settle some of the legal matters.
However the process can be made significantly faster and simpler, by following the checklist I have laid out below.
Think of your first conversation with the lawyer as an opportunity to get to know your potential lawyer. Use it to decide whether or not you are a fit for each other to move forward. Do not rush and commit at the first meeting, at least until you have asked yourself these questions.
You want a lawyer who not only appears to have a successful law practice
but a lawyer who demonstrates that their practice and approach are not
disorganized. Nobody wants a lawyer with a disorganized law practice!!
You want a divorce attorney and staff that cares about you and demonstrates that
they will be efficient with you and your family law matter.
This is so important. If you don’t jive with your lawyer, they are probably not the right person to help you. If he/she talks over you, rushes or tells you repeatedly not to worry you are probably in the wrong place.
It better be. You do not want a lawyer who has a disorganized law
practice. If their office is chaotic, imagine how chaotic they will be
with your matter.
If so, run. The best divorce lawyers tell you both the good news and the bad.
Some lawyers are way too busy because of their financial concerns. Believe it or not, there are many broke lawyers out there. A lot of divorce lawyers struggle financially. Ensure your divorce attorney has time for you and your family law matter.
There is a lot of misinformation online and even among families and friends. You want to make sure that your divorce attorney clearly outlines what you are to expect.
You want a person who identifies as a family law attorney, not a “jack of all trades.”
You want to know if they have a successful law practice that focuses on family law.
Top family law lawyers are rated everywhere by former happy clients. One place to check is Google where you can usually see reviews for the company. (This link shows you reviews for my practice; Pathway Legal in British Columbia).
There are rare occasions when going to court is necessary. Find out if your divorce attorney will go in to bat for you, if necessary.
For almost everyone, having your family matter unresolved is very stressful. This is why you want to ensure that your divorce attorney is an organized lawyer who will be able to pay the right amount of attention to your matter to see it resolved.
Efficient divorce attorneys ensure that your case gets concluded without wasting valuable time.
You want to make sure they have provided clear options and direction about how to move forward.
When getting divorced, you know you are choosing the best family divorce lawyer if they are trained in dispute resolution. Some lawyers for family law have extensive dispute resolution training, way beyond what law school taught them. Your family law lawyer must have this additional training if they will be any good.
resolution training teaches lawyers to be non-combative, which is good
for you and your changing family. This means you resolve your matter
quicker, better, faster, and with less money spent lining the pockets of
the divorce attorneys involved.
So many people think that hiring a bully lawyer is the correct answer. It isn’t. People who hire bully lawyers go to court much more often.
Often, parties getting divorced think divorce litigation is a better idea than divorce mediation.
At the Better Divorce Project, we disagree. The other options like mediation, mediation/arbitration (also known as med/arb), and arbitration are specifically geared to resolve your divorce matter effectively and for less time, investment, and stress. If your divorce attorney has been trained with these skills, this is a step in the right direction when choosing the right divorce lawyer for your situation.
When divorce mediation doesn’t work, you can still litigate, but as we said, avoiding court can be the best thing you do for your kids, your finances, and your sanity.
Nothing is worse than getting a bill from a lawyer you were not expecting. You want to ensure they have explained the average cost of divorce mediation compared to divorce litigation. You want to know what you are being billed for and how much.
Sometimes it is excellent to know what it will cost from the outset. Many divorce lawyers are starting to recognize that clients love flat fees and are incorporating them into their practice.
Paralegals cost less money than lawyers, and they can do a lot of the leg work on your matter. Find out if your lawyer utilizes a paralegal’s skills.
The best divorce lawyers can answer this question for you. When going through a separation and divorce, people want to know at least an estimate of how much it will cost overall.
You want to ensure you are clear regarding how you will communicate and in what time frames, and that you will be kept appraised of what is happening with your family law matter.
Top-rated divorce lawyers keep you in the loop. They have a system that provides you with copies of all documents, letters, and filed court materials. Will your family law lawyer do this?
The process of choosing the right divorce lawyer can easily be rushed. And it's is a lot to think about too! We know.
However, walking out of an office and even talking to several divorce lawyers will help you when choosing the best divorce lawyer. Taking time, weighing up these questions and, more thn anything reviewing your answers to these questions will make your separation and divorce process a much smoother process.
Disclaimer: The content of this website is only intended to act as a general overview of a legal topic and is not legal advice. It is information-based only.
All of the information is prefaced by assuming you live in a “ community property ” and “ no fault ” state, province, country, or territory. This article is written by a Canadian lawyer and has a Canadian perspective. The separation and divorce laws in the United States, Europe, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and other countries are all different.
For legal advice as it pertains to your legal situation, please consult with a family law lawyer in your specific jurisdiction.