Do you want to feel confident in family court? Then hire the best lawyer that you can afford for your case. Sounds pretty simple, but the devil is in the execution. How on earth can you know that you are getting the right lawyer for your case?
I like to consider myself a pretty savvy gal, but this it took me three attempts to get it right. The majority of my clients that are “lawyered-up” before I meet them, end up needing to change. Choosing a lawyer is tricky business. In fact, this is the number one mistake that I see clients make. It’s no wonder. We have no frame of reference for choosing a lawyer. Most of us have never needed to do this before.
Having a process to interview and compare lawyers enables you to compare “apples to apples” more scientifically. Today I would like to share my tips and tricks for how to choose the best lawyer for divorce.
Be prepared before you interview
My first tip is to go into the initial consultation well prepared. This involves preparing a digital document with 3 important items: a timeline of your marriage, your goals for your divorce, and predicted obstacles. This document should be sent to the lawyer prior to your consultation. Extra points to the lawyer who has read the document in advance. Let’s look at each item in the document.
The first is a visual timeline of your marriage. This should have the dates of all important events from the Date of Marriage to the Date of Separation. By important events, I am referring to date of birth of the children of the marriage with their names, ages and schools as well as any noteworthy events that have occurred during the marriage. This may include property purchased, changes in living arrangements, employment changes, arrests and criminal charges, and medical events.
The next item on the document is to be a list of the goals that you want to achieve. Think about what you must have versus what you want to have in terms of custody, access, and support. I like to work with my clients to create this list of goals and put them in order of importance. We often include things like a blanket travel consent for the children.
The final item on the document is a list of obstacles you envision facing when going after these goals. Nobody knows the opponent better than you. Challenge yourself to predict what is coming your way. This will help you assess if the lawyer has the chops for the battle.
Now that each lawyer candidate is armed with the same information, you can ask them if they think the goals are attainable and what strategy they would employ. Now you are able to compare “apples to apples”.
Just because a lawyer is recommended by a friend or family member, they may not be the best person for the job. Everyone means well, but they don’t know the nuances of your case and the terroristic potential of your ex. You need a lawyer with experience in the obstacles that you are predicting. Not every lawyer loves a contentious custody battle. Some prefer financial cases only. No problem, but it is best to know.
If you have a high-conflict ex, ask the lawyer about their experience in dealing with such an opponent. Make sure they have confidence in litigating. Question their methodology for dealing with personality-disordered opponents.
Does the lawyer listen?
Nobody knows your ex better than you, so that makes you a very important source of information. Do you feel like you are being heard? Try to determine if the lawyer is processing the message you are transmitting about your ex. Will you receive drafts of all correspondence prior to releasing? Will they be available to debrief after phone calls with opposing counsel or court appearances. It will help you feel more secure if your lawyer has a collaborative approach to working together.
Do your homework
To choose the best lawyer for your divorce do your homework and interview at least three candidates. I know this is expensive, but making the right choice here can have a huge positive impact on the outcome of your case. Consider this an investment in your future and the safety of your children. Knowing you are well protected in court is invaluable. This is money worth spending.