How Do I Find The Best Divorce Lawyer?
Finding the right lawyer is always a challenge, but when you’re looking at a very personal issue like getting divorced, the task is that much harder. The stakes are high because the case will shape your future - and that of your kids. Furthermore, discretion is often a priority. You want to find the best divorce lawyer for your case, but you probably don’t want to start asking around.
More often than not, someone who is about to get divorced isn’t ready to let a lot of people know that they are headed to family court.
So how, then, do you find a good divorce lawyer?
First, a few important notes to remember before you embark on your search for a divorce lawyer:
Good lawyers in real life never look like good lawyers from television.
Actually, lawyers who remind you of television lawyers are usually bad lawyers. They are trying to act like television lawyers.
More expensive lawyers are not necessarily better lawyers.
Lawyers with more expensive advertising are not necessarily better lawyers.
Lawyers that show up first on Google are not necessarily good lawyers. A better indication is to look for lawyers with good reviews and ratings.
What Makes A Good Divorce Lawyer?
Start by realizing that in Family Court, the range of potential outcomes is usually not that large. The case is not going to end with a “guilty” or “not-guilty” verdict. Almost all of the time, you will get a pretty fair portion of the assets, and a pretty fair amount of time with your kids. A really bad lawyer will get you less, and a really good lawyer might be able to help you get more, but it’s almost never a “win” or “lose” battle. That’s because, even though your case is unique to you and feels like it is one-of-a-kind, in reality the lawyers, judges, and Office of Child Support (OCS) representatives have seen the same issues hundreds of times.
There is not going to be a smoking gun. Even the best divorce lawyer you could possibly hire is not going to win your case with fancy words and creative arguments. In reality, a good lawyer is only going to move the needle a little bit in your favor.
Of course, you still want to choose a really good divorce lawyer.
Here’s what to look for:
A good lawyer appears regularly in your court and before your judge.
A good lawyer knows the other lawyer in the case (this isn’t always true in larger cities).
A good lawyer tells you the truth, even if it isn’t what you want to hear.
A good lawyer listens to you and cares about what you care about.
A good lawyer tells you when they don’t know the answer to a question you have, but they do know where to find it.
Finding the Right Divorce Lawyer for You
In Family Court, your lawyer goes to battle for you, but also should help you deal with the uncertainty and stress as much as possible. The question, then, is not really just who is a good divorce lawyer, but who is the best divorce lawyer for you.
Different lawyers have different strengths and you need to determine what skills and traits are most important to you. Take out a pen and paper (or your iPad) and make a list of what matters most to you in a lawyer. Is it empathy and compassion? Affordability and a flexible payment plan? Or experience with winning tough custody battles? Write down everything that matters to you and then put it in order of priority.
Once you’ve determined what you want in a lawyer, it will be easier to know when you’ve found the right fit. Now it’s time to start looking for candidates.
Here Are 4 Steps for Finding a Good Divorce Lawyer:
1. Find someone to ask.
Sure, you don’t want to ask the clerk at the supermarket or the parents at the PTA meeting, but personal recommendation is still one of the best ways to go. The only people who know the good lawyers in your community are people who have hired them in the past, other lawyers, and judges. Is there a lawyer or a judge in your circle of friends and acquaintances? Maybe someone in your family, your religious community, or your children’s school? If so, it is perfectly acceptable to ask if they can recommend a good family lawyer. Lawyers actually love to recommend people whose work they admire. If not, has someone you know been through a divorce? Can you confide in them and ask for a recommendation?
2. Next, meet with a couple of attorneys.
Once you have some names, it’s time to meet with them face to face. Ask the lawyers what matters to them and how they run their practice. Look for lawyers who say some of the things I mentioned above. If a lawyer tells you they love to win, hate to lose, or - worse - never lose a case, proceed with caution! Those are things that television lawyers say. A good lawyer will help you get through this problem with the best outcome you can, including the lowest legal fees and least amount of emotional damage. Remember, nobody “wins” family court cases. A lawyer who focuses on winning is going to cause more problems rather than help you find solutions.
3. Pay attention to the staff at the lawyer's office.
Are you treated with respect when you call or walk in the door? Does the atmosphere seem cheerful and attentive, or do people seem anxious and unhappy? Fearful employees are often a sign that the lawyer is either overworked or uncaring. Either way, your working relationship with the lawyer is likely to cause you the same anxiety.
4. Refer back to your list.
Once you’ve spoken with some divorce lawyers, look back at the list you made of the traits that matters to you. Who fits the requirements? Who made you feel comfortable? Who took the time to listen to you?
It can be tough to choose a lawyer for such a personal issue. Remember that family law cases are rarely as complex as they seem and a good lawyer will do everything they can to keep your case simple.
If you have questions about all things divorce, I'm happy to help.
I offer flat-fee divorce consultations.