(US family/divorce law & general tips) Most of us would agree that “things” have gone wrong long before you realize you must look for and pick a divorce attorney. Whatever is wrong with your marriage did not sneak up on you – it has been in the works for years. But you probably did not get much warning before the emergency alarm bells started to ring in your head. You may have discovered your spouse was cheating on you. Or one of you may have moved out of the marital home. The most clear-cut emergency alarm bell may have taken the form of a process server appearing at your door.
Whatever the case, you fell into a situation where you had to pick a divorce attorney really fast. That means you must make one of the most expensive, critical, and life-changing purchases in your entire life, and you must do it really fast. That is not the best of combinations to face. But if you follow this quick list you will find the decision a bit easier:
1. You have 20 days to respond to the petition if you have been served.
This timeline could vary in different states. Normally the time to respond is on the court summons. What many people do not initially know is that a response can be put together and filed by an attorney in one day. Most responses are not a big deal. They usually consist of boilerplate provisions and are easy to bang out. So that means you have more time to pick an attorney than you think. Don’t rush out and hire an attorney in one day. This is way too important a decision to make in a dire rush.
2. Do not call around for pricing and make a decision solely based on price.
There is an old saying: “statistics don’t lie, but liars use statistics.” For this discussion we can modify that saying: “prices don’t lie, but liars use prices.” Understanding divorce attorney prices can be very difficult because most of the tactics regarding pricing will always be invisible. For example, you may find out the attorney that bills $100/hour is more expensive than the attorney with a billing rate of $300/hour. It all comes down to billing practices in that particular law office. One attorney might take four hours to draft your initial documents where another attorney takes one hour. Another example is where attorneys quote their initial retainer. An unusually low retainer might be “burned up” in the first two weeks of the case. A good attorney quotes a retainer that will cover a significant part of the case. That retainer should have some chance of covering your case through the end of mediation. Most cases end shortly after mediation. So a realistic retainer should be designed to possibly reach that goal.
3. Carefully examine the appearance of the attorney’s office.
Not all attorneys have an office in Trump Towers. But any office should be reasonably neat and organized in appearance. Are there stacks of papers all over the office? Does the office equipment appear to be held together with duct tape? Does the attorney have personal pictures or other personal items in the office that show a long-term presence? A disorganized office usually means a disorganized case. Take the hint when the attorney’s office is a complete disaster.
4. Is your prospective attorney willing to give real answers to real questions in the first meeting?
A good attorney never uses mystery and fact spinning to get your business. They are proud to show off their expertise. Giving good answers to potential clients is a way of showing there is more expertise available in the same person. Try not to waste the attorney’s time – but you should have some expectation of good answers for your initial questions. Attorneys that do nothing but sell themselves are a red flag.
5. Did the attorney promise specific results?
If they did promise results, this is a big red flag. Most state Bar associations prohibit promises of specific results. And the fact is that judges make decisions, not attorneys. Besides, wouldn’t it be silly for the attorneys on both sides to promise completely opposite results? How could they ever both be right? A good attorney will tell you the chances of success and then explain several possible scenarios based on your individual facts.
A good attorney will tell it like it is. Their pricing is transparent, ethical, and oriented toward the benefit of the client. They will show you their best in the initial interview and then continue to prove they are the correct pick by conducting an organized, cost-efficient case. Never make your decision on a moment’s notice. For a life-changing event, you must carefully choose who will best help you achieve your goals. Make sure you follow these easy steps and you will soon be on your way to a new life and continued happiness.