I’ve yet to meet a single person who was jumping with joy to find a divorce attorney. It just never happens.
No, more often than not, in my 30+ years in divorce finance, people rank finding a divorce attorney a couple rungs higher than getting a root canal on the “Things I’d rather not be doing” ladder.
But here’s the thing: Finding good, solid counsel is a difference maker in the divorce process. The folks who skip over this step or don’t come prepared with the right advice tend to be the people clamoring over their disastrous divorce 15 years down the road (and you don’t want to be one of those, do you?)
So, how do you find the right divorce attorney (when it seems like there are just so many of them?)
We’ve all heard the stories of the ravenous, blood-thirsty divorce attorney who can take your spouse to the cleaners in the blink of an eye. If you’re looking for one of those, you won’t find tips for finding them here (but you should definitely continue reading—because you might discover that’s not a great idea anyway.)
I had a chance to sit down with a good friend, colleague and well-respected family law attorney, Randy Michel, who had some great advice for finding the right counsel for your divorce team.
(And a little side-note: Randy is anything but one of the aforementioned attorneys. You won’t find a more articulate, congenial and dedicated professional working to serve couples and families during divorce, I assure you.)
Tip #1: Consider the source
Divorce horror stories are (sadly) about a dime a dozen these days. So why then are we consulting these folks who have had terrible misfortune with the divorce process for information on how to successfully get a divorce?
It’s important you consider the source when taking advice on getting a divorce, finding the right attorney or how to manage your affairs while going through the process.
Best piece of advice: Find someone who you know, like and trust who has an outcome that looks like what you’d like to achieve with your resolution. Have they found some normalcy after the divorce? Do they have open lines of communication with their spouse? How have their children adjusted?
Ask questions and take notes. You’ll want to have a good model to work with when you interview prospective counsel for your divorce team.
Tip #2: Asking the right questions
It’s important to have an agenda and a desired outcome when you interview professionals as prospective additions to your divorce team.
Randy suggests a few questions you should ask each attorney when you sit down with them:
- What is your experience with family law? (Tip: This is not the same as asking “How long have you practiced as a lawyer?)
- Are you board certified in family law or civil trial law?
- What experience do you have in front of local judges?
- How often will you communicate with me about the status of my case?
- What is your practice regarding me receiving copies of letters, emails, documents, etc etc, which have been received from my spouse and their counsel?
- If my spouse has handled the money most of our marriage and I’m unaware of what debts we owe, how will you uncover necessary financial details?
Randy also mentions the importance of knowing which divorce option you’d like to pursue, because a litigated divorce will require a different set of skills compared to a collaborative divorce.
Tip #3: Do your homework
The internet makes it very easy to dig up information on professionals these days. One Google search could save you hours of head aches if you poke around with the right keywords and sites in mind.
Some great searches to get you started include:
- divorce attorney in college station
- family law in college station
- collaborative divorce in college station
- collaborative law in college station
You’ll find websites and content for individual attorneys and divorce professionals, but you’ll also stumbled upon some valuable directories which may provide ratings and reviews for your prospective counsel.
Another great resource for researching legal professionals is called Avvo, which is a crowd-sourced directory providing reviews, ratings and any disciplinary actions for attorneys from across the country.
It’s important to remember that anyone can get online and post reviews and comments, so use your best judgement and take online research with a grain of salt. Use it to help you pose better questions and narrow your list of prospects—not as a final “yes” or “no”.
Tip #4: Think like a judge
Appearance and attitude matter, especially when the fate of your family and finances is dead-centered in the crosshairs of a judge.
You want your attorney and counsel to look sharp, like they care about what a court thinks of them. Their appearance should be neat and presentable—not messy and disheveled (trust me, those are out there.)
You want them to be approachable with a pleasant demeanor. If you don’t want to work with them, a judge probably won’t either.
Tip #5: Get the inside scoop
This one will require you to get the lowdown on your prospective counsel from the folks who (may) know them the best—the clerks and deputies of the court.
Here’s how it works: You make a phone call to the courthouse and ask a clerk or deputy, “If you were going through a divorce, would you have so-and-so represent you?” Sometimes, they’ll be reluctant to answer or may not have any information for you.
The other way you can work this one is to give them a few names (including one of your top prospects) and see if they can rank or suggest one from the bunch.
The clerks and deputies will often have had interactions with many of the attorneys you’ll come across, so they can give you the details they know. And hey, it’s like any other office—people talk.
Tip #6: Go with your gut
Randy is right on when he says that you should pay attention to the personality and habits of your prospective counsel. If you don’t feel comfortable, or just don’t get along, you don’t want them representing you in court.
If they seem distracted, disorganized or disinterested in you, you want to walk right out the door and continue looking.
If you think you look like a giant trio of dollar signs to them—red alert. There are plenty of options out there, so stay on the prowl.
Finding the right attorney will set you, your family and your financial future on the pathway to success after your divorce. But there’s even more you can do to secure the right outcome.
In my free ebook, “The Pitfalls of Divorce: Avoiding the 5 Most Common Mistakes Couples Make During Divorce”, I’ll show you five more slippery slopes to watch out for along the way. Drop your details in the boxes below, and I’ll send a free copy your way.
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