One quick search for a divorce attorney on Google or in the White Pages and you’re likely to find 100 attorneys ready, willing, and able to take your case. However, when it’s time to hire someone to be your advocate, what qualities matter most? Sure, many attorneys may promise to be the best choice for your case, but before you sign on the dotted line to hire someone, it’s essential to do your research.
If you’re considering a divorce, or if your ex recently filed for divorce, it’s not uncommon for your first instinct to be to hire the most aggressive "Pit Bull" attorney in your area. Of course, it’s natural to want to protect your parental rights, your personal property, and your money, but hiring an attorney who wages a battle over every issue in your case may end up costing you more in the long run.
Aggressive attorneys may seem like the right solution at first, especially in a highly-contested divorce, but what most clients don’t realize is that attorneys with a fighting mentality don’t just fight for you, but their strategies may end up working against you.
You may like the idea of your attorney demanding documents or actions from your ex, may argue with opposing counsel, or may even go as far as humiliating or harassing your ex-spouse. But, in the end, that behavior could cost you and your spouse more money and time and eliminate any civility you and your ex could have maintained after the divorce.
Most “fighter” attorneys are so concerned with keeping up the image of being tough that they fail to remain honest with you about your expectations, fail to keep you informed of the status of your case, or do anything they can to frustrate the other lawyer, which could hurt your case later.
These traits are appealing if you want to “bury” your ex in the divorce, but in reality, hiring an attorney with a fighting mentality could cost you thousands of dollars and a reasonable settlement in the end.
First and foremost, look for an attorney with experience and knowledge of your state divorce laws. Although it can be overwhelming to search for a quality attorney, asking your friends or family for personal recommendations may be the best first step in finding the right attorney for you.
When you’re calling attorneys, one of the essential qualities to look for is honesty and someone who willing to tell you what you may not want to hear. Many divorce clients expect to hear that they will walk away from the divorce with everything they want, but a good divorce attorney won’t tell you that, especially during the first meeting.
A quality divorce attorney isn’t afraid to tell you that you may need to pay your ex spousal support, or that you must sell your marital home to pay your marital debts. Although hearing that the court will probably award your spouse 50% of your retirement accounts isn’t pleasant, it’s your attorney’s job to tell you all the news, not just the good.
Lastly, seek an attorney who has a good reputation, cooperates with other attorneys, knows the local family law bench, and has experience with alternative dispute resolution, like mediation. Attorneys who are willing to work together with opposing counsel will not only save you time and money but will get you the best settlement for your case without the expense and unpredictability of going to trial.
If you’re searching for an attorney for your divorce case, it’s beneficial to find one who is more of a peace-maker than a fire-starter.