Choosing The Right Attorney
Probably the Most Important Phase
Experience in the practice area of divorce and domestic relations should play a significant role in determining whether or not to hire a particular attorney. However, due to the intense personal nature of divorce and the attendant issues of child support and alimony, the compatibility of attorney and client may be of similar importance. In the event of litigation, you should feel comfortable discussing the fullest details of your case and your marriage with your attorney. You should also be able to expect your attorney to be both knowledgeable about you and about the law as it is likely to apply to your situation.
In most instances, you will be required to pay a retainer or 'up front' fee prior to any action being taken by an attorney in your behalf. You should be expected to be billed and to pay such additional amounts which may be charged above the initial retainer. Your attorney will provide you with a fee agreement which should set out clearly the amounts for which you will be held responsible. You should inquire about prospective fees for ancillary services such as copies, experts, investigators and court filing fees.
Keep in mind that a divorce is not primarily a vehicle to punish your spouse, nor should it be the last thing you can ever buy. In other words, do not spend all your money or time in the pursuit of a vendetta or an ill-conceived defense which may cost you far more than you can afford. Your attorney should be able to advise you when, and if, some form of mediation or arbitration will be of greater long term benefit to you than protracted litigation. Unless you pay a single fixed-fee amount for legal services (which may be quite high), the costs of a court battle may outweigh any benefits that you ultimately receive.
Some states provide for certification of divorce and domestic relations attorneys as specialists. Local and state bar associations can provide guidance in this regard. Other states do not permit attorneys to be designated as specialists in this area, but do allow them to list their areas of practice. Recommendations from friends are other possible sources to locate a suitable attorney.
Even if a particular attorney recommended to you does not handle divorce work, he or she will probably be able to suggest other attorneys who do.