Finding a competent divorce attorney can be a challenging task. Although they promote a compelling profile in expertise, few possess truly competent experience and skill. It’s not that there aren’t sensitive and competent divorce lawyers. In fact, a great number of lawyers fit that description. But, there are plenty of lawyers who seriously lack the knowledge and expertise of family law.
Nearly 45 to 50 percent of first marriages in the United States end in divorce. This shocking truth makes family law a lucrative practice. You, therefore, need to choose a family law attorney with extra care. The average time required for completing an uncontested divorce process, from filing the petition to getting the settlement or the final court judgment, is about 11 months. However, it takes about twice the time if the case goes to trial. Also, divorce proceedings may take an ugly turn, especially if children are involved.
Your reasons for hiring a lawyer will factor into the type of attorney best fit to handle your case. Once you know what you want, you will be ready to begin your search. Follow these nine steps to find a competent family law divorce attorney:
1. Begin Your Search with Trusted Sources
Although online search will provide you with the names of the top divorce attorneys in your area, they may not necessarily have the skills best suited to your case. You can speak with your friends, colleagues, your therapist, or a general lawyer who may know a competent divorce lawyer. If you don’t want your friends to know about your divorce, the local bar office is a reliable place to begin the search.
2. Analyze Their Websites
You can learn a number of things from a lawyer’s website. Look for general information about family and divorce law. You can also check recent blog posts, client testimonials, etc. to gain an insight into their track record and method of practice. The website will more likely provide you with information like years of experience, nominations earned, awards won, name of the law school the lawyer attended, etc. This information can be used to filter out the lawyers who don’t suit your requirements.
3. Narrow Down Your Search to Local Lawyers
Divorce in the United States is governed by the laws of the individual states; therefore, if you are from New York, an Indianapolis family law divorce attorney may not be able to handle your case as it should be. Although big law firms have offices in multiple states, their staff is mostly local with thorough knowledge of the respective state’s family law. Further, it is easy to communicate with a local lawyer. You can easily check their background and verify client testimonials in a really short time.
4. Hire Only a Specialist
If you are going through a complex divorce, it is almost always worth the cost of a more experienced and specialized divorce attorney. Attorneys who specialize in family law and divorce have the most prevalent knowledge of the law. They are conversant with the latest changes in the law and, thus, they can offer reliable service. Plus, a local lawyer is more likely to know the prosecution, judges, and investigators who may be working on your case.
5. Decide Your Cost Range
The most expensive lawyer is not necessarily the best one. There are a great number of good lawyers charging reasonable fees. Don’t waste your time speaking to a lawyer who does not fit your cost range. The average cost of a contested divorce can range from $15,000 to $30,000, most of which is spent on legal fees. Usually, the lawyer will provide you with a fair estimate of expenses during your first meeting.
6. Schedule a Personal Consultation
Initially, you can speak with each attorney over the phone. However, it is also necessary to schedule a personal consultation, which is usually free of charge. Prepare a list of relevant questions before going to the free consultation. Such a list will help you stay focused during the meeting.
7. Work with a Lawyer Best Fit to Handle Your Case
Over-aggressive lawyers tend to go on and on about how they crushed the other side in one of their recent trials in front of prospective clients. This type of lawyer will wage a war against your spouse, regardless of the circumstances. There are a great number of level-headed lawyers who like to settle the case instead of blowing things out of proportion. They know that most divorce cases can be settled before trial. Although there are different types of divorce lawyers, you should choose one who is best fit to handle your case.
8. Competent Lawyers Boast Excellent Testimonials
Speaking with former clients of your prospective lawyer will tell you if the attorney is as good as he/she claims to be. They can provide you with valuable information about the personality and litigation style of the lawyer, and his/her approach to family law. You can certainly consider a lawyer who is recommended by your friend or family member. However, it is also possible that, depending on the circumstances, their recommendation may not work for you. So, choose wisely!
9. Beware of the Red Flags
Several lawyers consider their practice as nothing more than an opportunity to make money. It is better to stay away from those who practice law only for monetary profits. Also, make sure your lawyer does not use unethical means to win a case. You should always work with a legitimate divorce attorney with a clean background.
Make sure that you work with an attorney who shares the same philosophy towards divorce. He or she also needs to have in-depth knowledge of local and state family law. It is important to have a good personal rapport with your attorney, because divorce is a highly sensitive process. If you follow these nine steps carefully, you will find a competent divorce attorney who has your best interest at heart.