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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?
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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Divorcing couples struggle with the complex financial issues that come with their divorce. I find that most people who are going through a divorce are unaware of key bits of information that relate to their own financial situation. Failure to fully understand these details leads to major challenges in the divorce process and makes it difficult to arrive at a mutually agreed upon settlement.
You can solve this problem by working with a financial professional who specializes in divorce financial and tax issues. Look for a CPA with the added credential of a Certified Financial Divorce Adviser (CDFA). This article explains the advantages of having one of these professionals on your team.
I hear questions from people who come to me for divorce financial advice. No matter whether we are talking about College Station or Houston, the answer is always “it depends.”
It depends upon which divorce process you choose. Do it yourself, litigation, mediation or collaborative. Even the do it yourself can be expensive if you are not fully aware of the complexities of your financial situation. Don’t be like most people. Don’t assume your situation is simple.
It depends upon how cooperative you and your spouse are going to be with each other. Will you compromise quickly? Will you fight over the vacation souvenirs? (Yes, I saw that happen.)
It depends upon whether you are counting the future hidden costs of incomplete information. Don’t be focused only on the present. Look ahead at the possible financial gotchas that will bite you if you shortcut your divorce. Hire competent professionals: attorney, divorce CPA and child specialist.
It depends upon whether you hire the cheapest or the most expensive attorney. Don’t do either. Hire an attorney with average hourly rates. Ask other professionals for recommendations. Your friends and colleagues will give you names, but that doesn’t mean their favorite is the right fit for you.
It depends upon how organized you are. The more organized, the more you can save on fees.
In the divorce process, it is likely that you will face unintended tax consequences in your settlement options. Brazos County divorce attorneys are not always aware of many of these tax issues. A CPA can identify these divorce tax traps that can pop up after your divorce.
When your tax CPA has represented both you and your spouse in the past (such as preparing a joint tax return or giving estate planning advice) but now provides divorce advice to only one of you, one kind of conflict of interest arises. A second kind of conflict arises when your CPA has attempted to give you both generic marital property advice early in your divorce. For example, while attempting to help you both in the divorce, your CPA recommends a basic division of property. Your CPA has used preliminary values for your property. Later, it turns out that the values used to calculate the final division are substantially different. This can result in very different property split and it appears that your CPA has acted in the interests of one of you over the other. Conflicts bring liability risks for CPAs.
Your risk is that your CPA doesn’t think about the liability risk and kindly starts giving financial advice that turns out to favor your spouse. Whether the advice is for both of you or just one of you, the result could unintentionally cause lopsided financial effects for you.
Many times, CPAs would rather not get involved in divorce issues. Those CPAs prefer to avoid giving financial advice until after the divorce is final. Fortunately for these clients, there are CPAs out there who are willing to guide clients through the financial maze of divorce.
Brazos County divorce lawyer, Randy Michel, explains that a judge may consider the income tax implications in considering what a “just and right” property division would be. However, that does not mean the judge will ask questions on his/her own or drill down deeply unless your attorney can and will educate the judge as to the applicable tax implications.
If your divorce lawyer is not also a CPA, educating the judge could be a challenge. A CPA with experience in divorce cases can identify those unforeseen financial and tax issues and educate your attorney and your judge.
If you think you could benefit from this kind of advice, let me know. I can also refer you to a Brazos County divorce lawyer.
After a long marriage, women facing divorce struggle with knowing how much spousal support to seek. You can help yourself by understanding your future cash flow situation.
Make a detailed list of the living expenses you will have after your divorce. Identify your expenses. Create a separate list of expenses you wish to cover for your children. Look over your bank statements and credit card statements for the past year. Identify those expenses that will not change after your divorce. Then make a list of spending amounts that will change after your divorce. Will you have a new cell phone contract? How about your vehicle insurance premiums? Are you expecting to have a different home?
Estimate how much of your living expenses can be covered by non-wage income. If you have investments, the income on those may change after you start making investment decisions on your own or are working with an investment advisor. Consider whether you might have Social Security income or pension income. Estimate how much child support you think you will receive.
Will you have income from a job? How much you can earn in a career? If you already have a career, this step is relatively easy. If you are just now entering or re-entering the workforce, this step is more challenging. Consider seeking advice about your employment possibilities from a career advisor.
To find out how much spousal support you might want to ask for, add your estimated sources of income together and subtract your anticipated expenses. If the result is a negative number, that is your starting number for how much spousal support to seek. Weigh this against the Texas spousal support guidelines and the amount your soon-to-be-ex husband can manage. Work with your divorce attorney to fine-tune your approach.
I can refer you to Brazos County divorce attorneys as well as career advisors and investment advisors. Contact me today for a referral.