Questions to Ask a Divorce Lawyer Before Hiring
Looking for divorce attorneys and wondering what types of questions you should ask before hiring someone?
1. Does your law firm routinely handle divorce matters?
Make sure the lawyer you choose is experienced in family law, including divorce. Ask: When did you start practicing family law? How many divorce cases have you handled? Are you a certified specialist?
2. What is your fee structure?
Do you require a retainer/deposit? What is your hourly rate? Will you have other staff members work on my case? If so, what is their hourly rate? How do you bill for the time you spend on the case? Does time spent answering my questions count as billable time? How will you communicate with me about the fees? Will there be other costs involved in my case?
Getting a divorce can be expensive so make sure you know what you are being billed for.
3. How long will my divorce take?
What is your law firm’s strategy for my divorce case? What can we do to move things forward smoothly? How long will my divorce take? What if the other spouse tries to drag things out? According to Nolo, “Cases that went to trial on any issue took an average of 17.6 months to resolve, while the readers who settled their issues were able to resolve their cases in nine months.”
4. What is the divorce process in my State?
There are different divorce procedures you and your lawyer will have to follow depending on what state you live in and the complexity of your case. Getting a divorce requires a major time commitment, so knowing the process and procedures beforehand can help you be more prepared.
5. How Long is Your Average Response Time?
How long does it usually take for your firm to return emails and phone calls? What is the best way to contact you and your staff about day-to-day questions? How can I contact you during an emergency?
6. Will I pay (or receive) spousal maintenance/alimony?
How will you help to determine whether I will owe (or receive) spousal maintenance payments? When would the payments start? How much will I owe (receive)? How long will I pay (receive) the support?
Depending on how long you were married, how much money each of you earns, and other factors, spousal maintenance may be an issue to address in your case.
How do I know I’m choosing the right lawyer?
Selecting a divorce lawyer can be a tricky business: many claim to be ‘top family lawyers’ but can you believe that? If you have children under the age of 18, it is vital you choose a lawyer who is a specialist family practitioner, accustomed to family courts and to dealing with access/care issues. If your case includes discrete issues such as farming businesses or trusts, ensure your lawyer has expertise in these areas. Check that your solicitor has the appropriate level of experience. If you have limited means, avoid senior lawyers, who will be more expensive. A younger lawyer will be cheaper and also be useful in cases where, for example, social media is relevant. You will need to discuss very personal matters in a frank way, so make sure you are comfortable with your lawyer. Many women, for example, find it easier to share details of their personal lives with a female solicitor, who they may find more understanding. A family lawyer at a firm with a wide range of expertise can be beneficial. In particular tax, property and commercial departments often assist.
How much money will my ex have to pay me?
The amount a spouse might have to pay is decided on a case-by-case basis. There is no categorical answer and there is no formula: any payment will be at the discretion of the judge, who will make a decision based on a statute dating back to 1973. They have a very wide leeway to interpret that law. When it comes to capital, a rough-and-ready way of considering it is to look at what is ‘matrimonial’ – whatever is accrued through the marriage. There is no absolute fixed line, and the longer the marriage, the harder this can be to define. This matrimonial capital is divided equally, whereas everything else is kept separate. Then you analyse what your needs are in terms of a house, income and earning power – assuming it is a long marriage with children. You compare the results of both these equations, and you get the higher of these two numbers. In technical terms, this is a ‘sharing claim’ versus a ‘needs claim’.
If there is only enough money in the pot for one home, the partner in need of a house for the children will get the money. The economically stronger partner is sometimes upset by that. There is child maintenance, and sometimes spousal maintenance, to prevent hardship to one party if they earn less than the other. There is the question of whether spousal maintenance should be for a set term, such as until the end of the children’s education, or for life. Term orders are coming into play more often now.
How Can I Avoid Upsetting Or Angering My Spouse?
Divorce is a stressful process for everyone involved. Using a solicitor who knows how to handle sensitive or acrimonious situations can help you and your spouse deal with the divorce in a more positive way. Like many divorce lawyers, Brookman is a member of Resolution, the group of legal professionals that strives to find constructive, non-confrontational solutions to the issues raised by divorce.
How Do I Get A Divorce?
You start by presenting a petition to the court. If the court is satisfied that the marriage has broken down irretrievably it will issue a decree nisi. So long as you or your partner don’t try to establish that the marriage hasn’t broken down, the decree nisi will become a decree absolute after six weeks. The process shouldn’t take more than a few months, however if there are disputes over finances or children, matters will usually take longer to resolve.
Can I Throw My Spouse Out Of The Family Home Before The Divorce Is Final?
It will depend on the circumstances. If the home is jointly owned it may be difficult to exclude your spouse from the property because he or she may retain a right of occupation. And even if the home is owned by you there may be occupation rights because of marriage and the fact that the property was a family home. If your spouse leaves the home voluntarily and subsequently wishes to return he or she may have to apply to court. Different factors will apply where there are allegations of domestic abuse. This is a complicated area and you should ask your solicitor for advice in light of your personal circumstances.
Are there any other attorneys that will be working on my divorce case?
Under what circumstances will other attorneys work on my case? How experienced are they? Am I able to meet with them as well? You should have the opportunity to “meet and greet” anyone who you will be working with during the course of your case.
Are there any out-of-court or peaceful divorce options?
Not everyone wants to battle it out in court. Make sure to ask your lawyer about peaceful divorce options available to you: If my spouse and I agree to the terms of our divorce, or if we think we can reach agreements with some help, what type of divorce would work best for us?
Mediation and collaborative divorce are out-of-court options that can help you and your spouse to end your relationship amicably and in a way that allows you to focus less on the problems in your marriage and more on your family’s future.
Concerning general experience, ask these questions:
- How many matrimonial cases have you handled?
- How many of those cases went to trial? (An attorney who has done a lot of trials might not be a good negotiator. Keep that in mind, especially when the lawyer hasn’t been in practice very long.)
- How many of these cases involved custody, support, business valuations, large financial settlements, or whatever issue feels like your major concern?
- Where did you go to law school? (Don’t ask if the diploma is staring you in the face.)
- Are you experienced in unbundled divorce (or collaborative divorce, or whatever style of divorce you hope to enter)?
- Do you have the time to take on a new case now?
- Do you know my husband (or wife)?
- Do you know his or her attorney?