How To Find A Good Divorce Lawyer
Finding a good divorce lawyer can greatly change the course of your divorce. Separations can be emotionally and financially painful, but having a legal advocate on your side protects your best interests, so you don’t feel so alone.
It can be an uphill battle to achieve your goals without an experienced divorce attorney on your side. For many people, divorce is the first time legal services have been necessary, so it can feel overwhelming to find the best representative. After all, each attorney has his or her own ideas, beliefs, philosophies, skills, and approach to divorce proceedings.
Follow these steps to find the right divorce lawyer for your situation.
Assess your needs.
A typical divorce may include negotiating division of property, alimony, child custody, and child support. You’ll want to find a divorce lawyer who has experience handling all the matters that affect you. An experienced divorce attorney will be able to give you general ballpark estimates for support payments and property divisions, as well as which factors affect the outcome.
If you are particularly concerned about ironing out parenting issues, you may want to stay out of court and pursue alternative dispute resolution, collaborative family law, or divorce mediation processes to reduce the cost, stress, and trauma of the divorce.
Ask someone you know.
With over 3 per 1,000 people divorced, chances are, you know someone who’s been there, done that. In fact, 62% of people find lawyers through referrals from friends, family, and other lawyers. Most people will give you a specific name of an attorney they’ve worked with – who may or may not be available to handle your case.
Consult the internet.
Not surprisingly, 37% of people begin their divorce attorney search online. You can check the local bar association website, but remember that it’s essentially the Yellow Pages for lawyers. Just about anyone can make it into the bar association, whether they have demonstrated expertise or not. You can also type in “New York divorce lawyer” or “New Jersey divorce lawyer” to see what comes up, and cross-reference the professionals’ websites by reviews on Yelp, Avvo, Google, and FindLaw.
Take these reviews with a grain of salt, as competitors could be the ones writing bogus or bad reviews. Check out testimonials on a firm’s website and ask the lawyer about the results from a few cases that sound similar to yours. Don’t be afraid to ask for references. Good lawyers will not hesitate to provide you with a personal referral.
Choose a local lawyer with a nice office.
Law is local. You want an attorney who is local to the courtwhere your case will be heard. You want the lawyer representing you to know the judges, clerks, opposing attorneys, and regional experts.
Knowing the judge’s style, having the respect of the court, and understanding hyperlocal divorce rules can all significantly affect how the scale tilts.
When you first walk into the office, you should get a sense that the law firm is capable because the interior is comfortable, well-decorated, orderly, and free from clutter.
Contact several lawyers and make note of your first impressions.
Your first impression will begin with a phone call. Do you speak with a secretary, paralegal, law clerk, or attorney? If no one is there to take your call, do you receive a prompt call back? Are you offered the chance to meet one-on-one with the prospective family law attorney who will work on your case?
Aim to meet with three law firms so that you can compare apples to apples.
Have your questions answered.
A good lawyer will give you straightforward, honest answers. You want to feel confident in your lawyer’s legal knowledge, abilities, and communication style. Some questions to ask include:
- How many matrimonial cases have you handled?
- How many of your cases have gone to trial?
- How many cases involve [business valuations/custody challenges/whatever your major concern is]?
- Are you familiar with the opposing counsel?
- Have you handled cases in front of the judge assigned to me?
- Will you be the only person working on my case? If not, can I meet the others?
- What are your office hours? When may I call you about my case? What if there is an emergency?
- Will I have input in strategic decisions concerning my case?
- How often will you update me on my case?
- What problems do you foresee arising in my case?
- What are your feelings on joint custody vs. sole custody?
- Based on your experience, how much do you think my case will cost?
After leaving the law office, ask yourself: “Did I enjoy meeting with this attorney? Did I feel comfortable talking about my situation? Do I feel like this person cares?”
Your attorney doesn’t have to be your best friend, but it helps if you like conversing with this person. A good lawyer has charisma and comes across as an honest professional. If you feel highly pressured to retain that particular lawyer, you may want to consider hiring someone else.
Consider the costs.
No divorce lawyer can give you an exact calculation of all the fees, but a good divorce lawyer can at least give you a range based on similar cases. It is perfectly reasonable to ask a lawyer to spell out:
- The scope of attorney services.
- The hourly rate for divorce lawyers.
- Which associates are billed, and at what rate.
- A list of possible additional costs, such as filing fees, copying fees, or custody hearings.
- An explanation of the initial deposit or retainer.
- When you can expect to receive a bill and pay it.
- Who you can talk to if you have questions about your bill.
- What happens if you get behind on your bills.
A good divorce lawyer will clearly spell out all of these financial details in writing.
Go with your gut.
Ultimately, go with your gut instincts. One candidate will outshine the rest. Consider calling Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman in your search for a New York or New Jersey divorce lawyer. Founding partner Paul Goldhamer Esq. has four decades of experience helping local families through divorce, child support, child custody, alimony, and property settlement matters.
While we are a large, full-service firm, we consider ourselves “big enough to do it all, and small enough to care,” approaching each divorce case with the patience, compassion, and counsel you deserve during this challenging time.
- NY Courts – Finding A Lawyer, http://ww2.nycourts.gov/divorce/finding_a_lawyer.shtml
- Good Housekeeping, The U.S. Divorce Rate Is Going Down, https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/relationships/a26551655/us-divorce-rate/