The simple answer to the question, “Can any attorney handle a divorce?” is a yes; however, the answer begs the question, “Would you want just any attorney handling your divorce?” It’s common place for people to hire the first attorney they may have consulted with. Don’t be lured into this pitfall. Look at retaining an attorney as you would making any other purchase. Shop around. However, target your shopping. Many attorneys say they can handle a divorce, and they probably can, but a divorce is a focused practice area and you want an attorney who is familiar with and routinely practices in the domestic arena.
Take some time and consider several attorneys before you make your decision. Get recommendations from friends or other attorneys, then go meet with them. Be prepared to pay a consultation fee and be prepared to pay a retainer to the attorney you ultimately hire. Be ready for these fees and understand that the fees can be substantial; however, don’t go about this process looking for discounts or bargain representation. You may save money in the short term, but in the long run, such skimping on costs will end up costing you many times over. If you retain an attorney and decide things are not working out, it can be time consuming, costly and a possible delay in your case to move on to another attorney. Remember, you are purchasing the attorney’s experience and expertise, but you want to be comfortable with your attorney and trust them.
Another important factor in selecting an attorney is to decide on one that will be a good fit with your personality and the fashion that you want to pursue your case. Ask yourself how you want your divorce to proceed. Do you want it over quickly and fairly? Do you want to wait a while, letting things play out and perhaps resolve themselves? Do you want to attempt to work out most of the issues directly with your spouse? Or do you want an all out war?
Many people do not realize that the attorney they retain can have not only a tremendous impact on how long the divorce may take and cost, but you decision of which attorney to hire can potentially have a tremendous impact on your future relationship with your spouse and children. After you have spoken to several attorneys and have been educated on the domestic law in your jurisdiction, armed with a better understanding of your case, consider how you want your case to go. With that in mind, you should be better able to narrow the pool of possible candidates for representation.
Earlier, I mentioned several different approaches to a divorce and there are pros and cons to each approach. First you can attempt to work through the issues surrounding your marriage with your spouse in an amicable manner, if you are successful, then you may quickly reach an agreement. Agreements that are reached in such a manner hold a high chance of working with few to no problems. However, the trade off is that there is no guarantee that the outcome you and your spouse reach will be the same as what a Court would do if presented with the case through a trial or that you could have reached with the assistance of an attorney. Also, a resolution such as this will likely cost far less than a contested divorce. The opposite end of the spectrum is proceeding full steam ahead into all out litigation. This will take time, will cause emotions to flare, will be costly and will hold the best chance of going all the way to a trial, thereby ensuring that a Court will decide the appropriate resolution to your case. The downfall to this approach is that such a scorched earth approach will virtually ensure that you have no relationship with your spouse in the future. There are few benefits to this approach; however, if the facts warrant it, the Court could possibly award costs and fees.
The attorney you select can have a tremendous impact on how the divorce goes. Some will dictate how you should proceed, others will sit back and wait for things to happen, some will churn through your fee with little discernable progress. Not all of these approaches are designed to bring about a resolution to your case. So what kind of attorney do you need? I am a firm believer that any marriage can be resolved through a mutually agreeable settlement, perhaps through some alternative dispute resolution process; however, in pursuing this approach, it is sometimes necessary to begin, and sometimes fully engage in, litigation. In short, perhaps the best approach is to have an attorney that will begin by and continue to explore the settlement of your case, but all the while, balancing preparation for litigation. The point of this is that the settlement of your case should be driven by you and your spouse’s desire to settle the matter. Remember, it is your case and you don’t want an attorney that will stand in the way of a fair and amicable resolution.
I have always been of the opinion that unless there are some unique circumstances like adultery, physical cruelty or substance abuse, you owe it to you and your family to try to work it out first. Courts are there for a reason and they will always be there. But they are there as a last resort, whenever all else has failed. There are numerous options before you run off to Court, spousal negotiations, attorney negations, collaborative law, mediation, arbitration, etc. Find an attorney who can attempt to get things resolved quickly, fairly and in an affordable fashion, but make sure this attorney can handle the matter effectively if it does go to Court. No matter what attorney you decide to hire, ask questions. Ask the attorney about mediation and alternative dispute resolution. Ask him how frequently he has a trial. Ask him how many of his cases he settles before anything is filed with the Court. Ask him what his philosophy about case resolution is. Ask him who makes the final call when it comes to the strategy of the case. The answer should always be you. It is your case and you should make that call after being advised by the attorney. The answers to these questions will help you find an attorney that you are not only comfortable with, but one that will be better able to get your case resolved.
This article is not offered as, nor is it to be construed, as legal advice, nor does it create any relationship, attorney/client or other, between the author and the reader. To obtain any legal advice, consult an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.