Getting divorced is not a fun ride, but the process itself does not have to be unbearable. Choosing the divorce attorney that will represent you, your assets, and your side of the marital relationship is a crucial first step in the process. Before picking a lawyer, consider these five tips to select a professional that will contribute to making your divorce faster, more cost-effective, and less painful overall.
1. Choose Your Type of Divorce Before Choosing a Lawyer
Though you may have hung up the phone or closed the door on your spouse for the last time, you may have no idea where you are headed in terms of divorce law, attorneys, splitting up assets, and other details that can make divorce proceedings smooth and easy or a living nightmare. While they are a lot of great lawyers, each lawyer you meet with may specialize in a different type of divorce. Start by familiarizing yourself with these terms, and then bring your knowledge to lawyers you interview.
- The best choice may be an “uncontested” divorce: This is a divorce in which you and your spouse agree on the terms and you file your paperwork with the help of a divorce attorney if you wish to consult one for legal advice. There is no court date, no nasty legal battle, and none of the hullaballoo you may see on TV.
- A mediated divorce similarly does not include a trial, but it will include a mediator, or a neutral third party, who has been trained in helping couples sort out the divorce process. A mediator may be, but is not necessarily, a lawyer.
- A collaborative divorce can be helpful for those who have complicated financial or legal issues standing in the way of a smooth divorce. This type of divorce can include divorce attorneys, while a mediated divorce may not — though it is always a good idea to seek legal counsel when getting divorced.
2. Factor in Who You Are Divorcing
You are getting divorced for a reason — and sometimes that reason is glaringly obvious. Are you married to someone who cannot get his drinking or drug use under control? Does your husband like to bulldoze conversations and turn the blame on you at every point in the conversation? Does your wife insist on pointing out all of your wrongdoings at the expense of having a productive conversation about splitting up your assets? These are great examples of why having a qualified attorney who has experience dealing with highly emotional couples or difficult personality types is crucial to making your divorce as fast and painless as possible.
Similarly, if there are concerns about your safety (or your children’s), you need to find a lawyer who has substantial experience with these cases. Domestic violence complaints or high conflict divorces need specialized care in order to navigate potentially tricky situations and flaring tempers. A lawyer who focuses on peaceful mediation may not be your best bet when working with a narcissistic personality or a spouse who struggles with addiction. Spouses who do not want to get divorced can be equally difficult to deal with when it comes to legal proceedings. Choose a divorce attorney that you feel that you can be completely honest with in order to avoid confusing or alarming situations between you and your spouse.
3. Keep a Cool Head When Interviewing Lawyers
Ideally, you will interview at least three lawyers before choosing one to represent you. If you want to interview more, that is fine, too. It’s very important to make sure that you do not meet with lawyers — and talk about money and terms of the divorce, specifically — if you are upset, angry, or feeling vindictive toward your spouse. Many of these feelings are normal and will come out during the divorce proceedings, but when you meet with legal counsel, try to see the situation as objectively as possible and keep your mind on the end goal: retaining as many assets as possible and completing the legal side of the divorce as painlessly as you can.
4. Remember That Lawyers Are People Too
Imagine that you are seeking a therapist for the treatment of depression related to the loss of a parent. If you choose a therapist who has lost a parent in a similar way at a similar age, your therapist may find it difficult to remain objective while counseling you. Aren’t therapists, lawyers, and other professionals supposed to completely remove their feelings from the process? Ideally, yes. Remember, though, that these professionals, regardless of their training, are human, and they are navigating through life in the same way you are. If you feel that due to a personal conflict, or perhaps a similarity in the way your divorce lawyer herself got divorced, you may need to pick a different attorney who can separate herself better from the subject matter.
5. Ask for Advice and Be Careful on the Internet
If you have a friend who recently went through a divorce and you know that she liked her lawyer, ask your friend for the lawyer’s contact information. Word-of-mouth referrals, even in the age of the internet, are still the ideal way to find services from contractors to hairstylists to divorce attorneys. You will want to be careful choosing a lawyer based on great internet reviews: Remember the above tips and choose your attorney based on the type of divorce you need, his or her experience, how well his or her understanding of your relationship and divorce needs match up with your situation. Shy away from lawyers who have no internet presence, those who have an outdated website, and those who are not clear with you in terms of their fees, their previous cases, or what services they offer in general.
Getting divorced can be a simple process, but it will likely not be an easy one for anyone involved. Increase your chances of a quick, painless divorce by choosing the best divorce lawyer to represent you and your assets.
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