15 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Divorce Lawyer

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How to Find a Good Divorce Attorney

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When you've decided that your marriage is no longer working, it can be tough to navigate the legal nuances of divorce. You will want to find an attorney who will act on your behalf in a competent and professional manner. Depending on your situation and how amicable your divorce is, there are several options for getting the legal assistance you need.

Quick Summary

If you have an amicable relationship with your spouse and have few assets, your divorce can likely be handled by an experienced mediator. However, if you anticipate a messy divorce, get referrals for a trial attorney from your local bar association. When you are ready, consult with several attorneys before choosing the right one. During consultations, ask about fees and the attorney's experience with family law, and choose an attorney you feel comfortable with.For more from our reviewer on negotiating attorney's fees, keep reading.

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Determining the Type of Attorney You’ll Need

  1. Decide whether you need an attorney.Before beginning your divorce attorney search you should first consider whether a divorce attorney is actually necessary.If you and your spouse can resolve the situation amicably, and have no marital property, it is possible to file for divorce pro se, ie. without the assistance of an attorney. In fact, most divorces don't require court proceedings, especially if there are no children involved and the divorce will not be contested.
  2. Consider using an experienced mediator if you and your spouse’s relationship is amicable and you foresee comfortable and friendly negotiations.A mediator can work with you and your spouse to come up with a division of assets agreement that is agreeable to both parties. After the assets have been divided, you and your spouse can file for divorce on your own.
  3. Give yourself and your spouse some time before officially filing for divorce.You and your spouse can reduce both the fear and perception of the need to “lawyer-up” by mutually agreeing not to take any steps that will materially affect either of your financial situations. Even if you later decide to retain a lawyer, the divorce process will be much easier if you try to cooperate with your spouse.
  4. Evaluate you and your spouse’s financial situation.While many attorneys provide general divorce services, others specialize in divorces involving children, high-net worth individuals, and some lawyers even choose to represent only husbands or only wives in divorce proceedings.

Making a List of Local Divorce Attorney Options

  1. Ask others for a divorce attorney reference.Talk to friends and family members who have already been through a divorce about their experiences with their attorneys.Most people who have gone through a divorce won’t shy away from relating their stories, and some may even be willing to openly discuss the consultation fee they paid as well as their divorce attorney’s hourly rate.
    • Ask specific questions about your friends’ experiences communicating with the attorney. Helpful questions that you should ask include:
      • Does the referred attorney promptly answer emails and phone calls?
      • Is the attorney’s staff friendly, knowledgeable and easily accessible?
      • How was the attorney in court – did he or she seem comfortable communicating with the other attorneys and the judge?
      • Were all terms clearly spelled out and all questions answered prior to the attorney requiring a retainer?
      • Would your friend select this same attorney if they were in the same situation again?
      • Were your friends’ cases settled in the agreed-upon timeframe or did the attorney tended to drag things out?
  2. Conduct a divorce attorney search online.In this digital age, most attorneys have at least a website or social media profile. Use a search engine like Google to locate both general and specialized divorce lawyers operating within your community.
  3. Receive a referral from your local bar association.Bar associations such as the American Bar Association (ABA) are a great resource for attorney referrals based on your location and the type of attorney that you require. You can find your bar association’s website by selecting your state from the State & Local Bar Associations page provided by the American Bar Association.
    • Some state bar associations also have certification programs for experienced family law attorneys that have to meet specific experience requirements, pass a written exam and be recommended by their peers. These are typically very experienced and qualified. Many state bar associations will allow you to search for these attorneys.

Choosing an Attorney

  1. Make appointments with prospective divorce attorneys.Don’t just choose the first attorney you find. Instead compile a list of potential attorneys from the sources mentioned above. Contact each of the attorneys on your list and set up a consultation.While most attorneys do consultation appointments for free, some may charge a small fee for a consultation.
  2. Prepare for your divorce attorney appointment.Before meeting or having a phone consultation with the attorneys on your list, you should prepare for the appointments. Remember that you are interviewing the attorney for a job, and treat your meeting like a job interview, wherein you are the employer.
    • Before calling you should research each prospective attorney online and write out a list of questions for the attorney. You have a limited amount of time with each lawyer, so make each question count. Some questions you should ask include:
      • Does the attorney know your spouse?
      • How long the attorney has the attorney been practicing family law? You should look for someone who has practiced for at least three to five years.
      • How many divorce cases does the attorney handle per year? You want to hire someone who spends at least 50% of his or her time doing divorce work.
      • Is the attorney familiar with the area’s family law court judges? Knowing the judges who will handle your case is a plus - the judges will be more likely to like the lawyer and trust what he or she says.
      • Also ask any questions related to your specific situation. The attorney should not have any problem answering any questions you may have, and should not sound hesitant or unsure. However, if your particular issue is complicated or extremely rare, it is possible that some attorneys may have to research the specifics of domestic relations law in your state and how they would apply to your case.
  3. Gather all the information and documents you were asked to bring to your consultation.If any of the attorneys asked you to bring certain documents or information to the meeting, gather it together ahead of time in order to be sure that you can locate it on the day of the appointment.
  4. Attend your consultations and choose an attorney that you feel comfortable with.Meet with and/or talk to each of the lawyers on your list. Feel free to take notes while talking to each divorce attorney, so that you can remember later what each attorney said and what your initial impressions were.
    • Aside from experience and strong knowledge of family law, choose an attorney who you think that you would get along with and like working with.
    • If the attorney makes you uncomfortable in any way or seems dismissive of your case or your situation, you should choose someone different to represent you.
    • If more than one attorney has the qualifications you are looking for, you should choose the one that you feel the most comfortable with.
  5. Consider cost in your decision.Depending on your budget, you may need to consider what the attorney will charge to represent you in your divorce.
    • Usually, if the divorce is not complicated and will not be contested, you can negotiate a flat fee arrangement with your attorney. A flat fee is where you pay the attorney an agreed upon price for the whole divorce, regardless of the actual number of hours the attorney spends.
    • On the other hand, if you think that your divorce will be contentious, or if you and your spouse have lots of property that must be split up, your lawyer may want to charge you by the hour.
    • If you think that you will struggle with paying an attorney, check out Wikihow’s guide on hiring a lawyer when you have a low income.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    Can I get the house if my husband has not worked for seven-plus years?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Each state has its own laws regarding separation of property. You'll have to check with your own state. Typically, though, if the two of you bought the house together, then he's still entitled to it even if he has hardly contributed.
  • Question
    My wife is making false statements about me! What can I do?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Try talking to her about the issue. You could file for "defamation of character" if she is making the statements publicly. Otherwise, you're better off ignoring it. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
Unanswered Questions
  • What if you can't live apart for 180 days? What if it's financially impossible?
  • How or where do I look for an experienced mediator?
  • Would it be better too have a male or female work on my divorce case?
  • How can I find a good divorce attorney?
  • Is there an advantage to the person who files for the divorce?
Ask a Question
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Include your email address to get a message when this question is answered.
  • Look for an attorney that specializes in divorce.
  • Everything you say to an attorney is confidential, so rest assured you can talk about sensitive information without feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed.


  • If dealing with a mediating attorney, understand that should the negotiations between you and your spouse break down, the attorney will most likely excuse himself or herself from the case. You will then both have to start over with new attorneys.
  • Make sure that you take your time when looking for a good divorce attorney, this will save you time, money, and hassle in the long run.

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Date: 14.12.2018, 10:48 / Views: 54585