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questions to ask a divorce lawyer

If you are getting ready to separate/divorce, interviewing at least two attorneys is an excellent idea.  Some attorneys are more aggressive than others – some want to stay out of the courtroom.  Let your conscience be your guide, but be ready to ask some good questions to be able to find your best match.  These questions to ask a divorce lawyer will help you choose who will advocate for you.

  • Do you practice any other type of law, or do you specialize in family/divorce law?  Best answer:  specializes in divorce law
  • How do you feel about people coming to you with the intent to ditch child support, i.e. they are simply a deadbeat dad or mom?  Best answer:  they don’t represent them, and they like to have a say in who they will represent
  • What is your initial retainer or fee for retaining their services?  How do you proceed after a retainer has been exhausted?  What is your hourly rate?  Best answer:  For reference, people I have spoken with typically do anything from $3500-$7000 up front as an initial retainer.  You should try to work something out with your attorney of choice to make this work within your means.
  • If you are in a particularly hairy situation (you are leaving an abuser, you have a safety issue), be sure to ask the lawyer if they have had any experience in working on cases like yours.  What was the outcome?  What made it a favorable outcome for his/her client (if it was positive) and if it wasn’t, why not?
  • Get personal.  You really have to.  Why are you getting a divorce?  What examples do you have that you can share with this lawyer to outline what has happened to you/your kids?  No example is too dumb or weird.  Trust me.  Sometimes the examples we have all seem that way, but your lawyer needs to know what you have dealt with in order to move forward and really get a feel for the situation.  Bring documentation if you need to in order to better describe your unique situation
  • Does the lawyer have any recommendations to you based on what you’ve explained about the case?
  • Based on X, Y, and Z, what do you see the outcome of this case being?  Or, how do you think a judge would rule based on X, Y, Z?  (This question is really going to be for those faced with a contentious divorce)
  • What percentage of your cases are settled out of court?  (If you are dealing with a difficult separation and divorce, it is ultimately your call with regards to settlement or going to court, but note that you will need someone to really be able to advocate for you.  That does not mean you can’t settle out of court, but it means you also want an attorney that’s not afraid to push for what you deserve). Listen to how the attorney answers this question – if most of her cases were settled out of court, ask why.  If they’ve had to move to court, what circumstances drove this?
  • Make sure your lawyer has at least a few years’ experience within your county.  You want someone who is familiar with the family court judges in your jurisdiction and how they tend to rule.
  • How many cases do you have at any given time?
  • Will I be dealing directly with you, or do you have others working the case?  (I personally feel better with an attorney that works the case primarily and might have a paralegal for admin/paperwork)
  • Do not sign with an attorney without viewing a fee contract.  Trust me, at this time in your life, you need stuff in writing, and to know what happens to fees if they go unused, etc.
  • What would you estimate I could be spending on this divorce in total?  Would you be able to petition the court for my spouse to pay my attorney fees?
  • Ask about extra fees outside of a retainer – what do those typically consist of (filing fees, process server fees, document fees, etc)?
  • How do you feel about sole custody?  About joint custody?  (Depending on your situation, listen to where this lawyer’s feelings lie, and see how you feel about their answer)
  • You should not feel pressure to sign with a particular lawyer.  This should be a dual-interview for both you and the attorney

 

Follow Jennifer:
Hey! Hi! An-yong-ha-sae-oh! I’m Jenn, and I am here to share what has worked for me (and what hasn’t) while going through my separation, divorce, remarriage, and blended family. Wow, that's a lot, but I've been through a lot and here is where I share it with you!

  1. All were valid and needed questions. Thanks for the article.

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