A divorce attorney will likely be one of the biggest investments in your divorce. I say investment because that is exactly what it is.
You need quality here, someone who resonates with you and understands the unique situation that you are in. Who you hire and how proficient they are will have a huge impact on the outcome of your divorce. At the time of my divorce, my options were pretty much limited to the phone book and whatever ad seemed most promising in the yellow pages. I called a few and settled on the one who seemed the “nicest.” Big mistake.
Fortunately, these days you have some expanded options for researching lawyers in your area. Hello, Internet! Many attorneys’ previous clients have reviewed them either on their websites or a Yelp review or something similar. That is the first step. It is also critical to understand what type of background they have that may be relevant to your particular circumstance. As you prepare to begin your search, think about the things that you will need specific emphasis on. For example, is domestic violence involved? Do you have children? Have you been a stay-at-home parent or homemaker? All of these things are going to play a part in how your divorce proceeds; it’s best to hire someone who has worked on cases with similar issues in the past.
Once you have your short list, it’s time to contact the lawyer and set up a consultation. Many will do this either in person or via phone. Some charge a consulting fee that they will credit towards your case should you hire them; be sure to find out.
Divorce can get very expensive very fast. It’s critical that you understand the billing process clearly. Some lawyers prefer you set up a retainer, a set amount of money to get them started on the case. As they work on your case, they bill against the retainer. If the retainer is used up, they may require a second retainer or perhaps they will charge you. Make sure you find out. You will want an itemized list of what you are being billed for to ensure you received the services on the list. If you have financial concerns, you must mention it up front with your lawyer. This is no time to be shy!
Once you start with an attorney, it can be difficult to change to another, so you want to get it right the first time. If ever you don’t understand what they are telling you, you MUST ask and keep asking until it makes sense to you.