I’ll never forget the first divorce lawyer I interviewed several years ago when I was first separated. Walking into her office a broken woman, full of fear and anxiety and lacking any self-esteem whatsoever, I actually left the meeting feeling worse (which I didn’t think was possible!) That’s the motivation behind this article, aimed at how to find a divorce lawyer you feel great about, who you trust, and who you feel has your back.
Back to the divorce lawyer who was a nightmare, she was extremely full of herself, very cocky, and seemed a bit unstable, her skirt up to her thighs and a bottle of vodka behind her desk. During the meeting, I kept thinking ‘Would I want this woman advocating for me? Speaking to a judge for me? Communicating with my soon to be ex’s attorney?’ Hell. No.
It’s been 14 years since then and I’ve had 3 divorce attorneys–one for the actual divorce and two for post-litigation issues. I also started Divorced Girl Smiling 8 years ago, and have since met countless divorce lawyers–some awful, some not-so-great, some pretty good, and some wonderful, smart, and trustworthy.
Finding a divorce lawyer isn’t very challenging if you know what to look for.
So, here are five tips for how to find a divorce lawyer:
1. Ask yourself, “How would a judge respond to this divorce lawyer?”
Why is this important? Because the reality is, your divorce lawyer could very well be standing in front of a judge presenting your case in litigation. Same thing goes for your soon-to-be ex’s attorney. If your attorney is likable, treats others with respect, and is smart, his or her relationship with your soon-to-be ex’s attorney has more of a chance to be effective, making things a lot easier.
2. Ask lots of questions during the consultation.
Remember that you are interviewing your divorce lawyer. You are his or her client. The consultation should be complimentary. Ask good questions that include: how do you feel about mediation? How many cases have you had that have gone to trial and what were the outcomes? Why did you become a divorce attorney? How many years have you been practicing family law? Do you practice other kinds of law or just divorce? How much is this going to cost? (no attorney can really answer this question but I think it’s good to hear what they say.)
3. Get references from people you trust.
The best way to find a divorce lawyer is to ask people you know, who are either professionals, and/or have gone through a divorce. Or me! Feel free to reach out. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed, ask someone who you respect, and who you know has good judgment. It’s really nice when you can know firsthand that your lawyer has a proven track record of pleasing a client.
4. Google the lawyer.
You never know what you can find online. There could be good and bad things written about your potential divorce lawyer. Also, check out his or her or the firm’s website. Are they are as professional as you’d like, based on the site? Is the site so extravagant that you feel they are going to overcharge you to pay their web designer? Is the site outdated and old? The more you can find (or not find) online about your attorney the better.
5. Trust your Gut.
Man, I wish I’d have listened to my gut when I was working with my third attorney. I would get off the phone with her and cry, because I felt like she wasn’t on my side. She was mean and short and always made me feel bad after a conversation. I would think, ‘Wait a minute! She’s supposed to be on MY side!!’ You will know when you meet the right divorce lawyer for you. It will feel like a really good fit.
In closing, Meeting the perfect divorce lawyer is like finding the right house or the right car, or even the right guy. There’s something about him or her that just feels right. It feels comfortable. It’s just telling you to hire him or her. The gut can also tell you to run away, just as I did when I met that attorney I talked about at the beginning of this article. You’ll know. And if you don’t know, just like when it comes to dating, you should keep looking!
Lastly, it’s important to remember that your attorney is not your therapist. If you call him or her and cry and tell them the details of everything your ex is doing, it’s just going to rack up your bill. Get a therapist or get into a divorce support group and vent, vent, vent! Limit your stories to your attorney to things he or she really needs to know for the legal purposes of your case.
One more thing. If at any time you feel like you chose the wrong divorce lawyer, it’s never too late to make a change. Yes, it’s going to cost you a little bit more for the new lawyer to catch up on the case, but so what. To have the right person and ultimately get the best outcome is worth the extra cost.
If you are looking for a divorce lawyer and want my recommendations, please feel free to send me an email and we can talk. My DGS partners, Katz & Stefani and The Law Office of Tiffany M. Hughes have not only been extensively vetted, but I have referred them to many people, who have been extremely pleased with the service and performance of these two firms. I wish I’d have known them when I was going through a divorce. As for that awful woman, the last time I saw her was several years ago in a bar with two guys. She seemed drunk. First impressions are always accurate.