Hiring a lawyer to handle your divorce is an important decision. For many people, the choices they make in their divorce are some of the most important choices they will make in their lifetimes. Decisions concerning timesharing with children, child support, alimony, division of assets including retirement assets and the disposition of the marital home resonate into the future.
The first thing you want to consider is how experienced your lawyer is in the matrimonial field. Attorneys who primarily handle divorce and family law have managed more cases and presumably have more knowledge than those who handle divorces along with everything else. They also have more connections with other lawyers, and familiarity with the court process.
It is very important to personally interview your prospective attorney. Just as in other aspects of life, there is an intuitive aspect to this decision making process. Do not be intimidated; instead, focus on asking questions and deciding if this is a person you trust and with whom you want to work. These are some questions to ask when you are evaluating an attorney:
- How long have you practiced this type of law?
There are few areas of law where length of practice is as compelling a consideration as family law. Although divorce lawyers get a bad rap, the truth is that many of the best and the brightest attorneys practice in this field. Experience counts.
- Are you Board Certified?
Florida recognizes attorneys who have passed a test and proved to be of sufficient experience as board certified. Family Law is a recognized specialty in this regard. Recertification is required every five years. Board certification counts.
- What are your fees?
Fees are based upon the experience of the professional, the type of work to be accomplished and the rates that prevail in the legal community. In this field, a retainer is generally required.
- How much do you think a case like mine would cost?
The lawyer should be able to give you a range of fees depending on how contested the case becomes.
- What are the chances of my spouse paying some of my legal fees?
The court may order the moneyed spouse to pay the legal bills of the non-moneyed spouse.
- Do you provide a written contract?
Always insist upon this.
- Who will handle my case?
If it won’t be the lawyer you are interviewing, ask to speak to the person who would be in charge.
- How likely is it I will get what I want? What am I asking for that is not realistic?
You really want a lawyer who can be realistic with you and not promise you the moon. Setting expectations is one of the most important aspects of legal representation. Remember the more litigated your case becomes, the more expensive it becomes. Most cases are resolved by financial compromise.
- Is this a case you would try to settle?
Most cases can be settled, and a settlement is much less expensive than going to trial. However, settlement involves compromise. There are some issues, such as child welfare, that are not subject to the concept of compromise. However, most issues that have a financial component can and should be resolved by compromise.
- How quickly do you return phone calls?
Your calls should be returned within 24 hours.
- How long would you anticipate this case lasting?
This will depend upon the issues involved and whether those issues can be resolved by compromise.
In addition to weighing the answers to these questions, you need to consider how the lawyer and his office make you feel. There is a lot of personal choice involved in selecting an attorney. You need to decide what you are comfortable with and what will help you feel you’re getting the best service.1
1 The format of this blog and some of the content ( although much of the content is original) was taken from: “How to Evaluate an Attorney”. Lawyer Brette McWhorter Sember, JD. July 06, 2016. Divorce Magazine.com. Retrieved from: http://www.divorcemag.com/articles/how-to-evaluate-an-attorney
Peacock, Gaffney, & Damianakis, P.A.
Phone: (727) 796-7774
Fax: (727) 797-6317
2348 Sunset Point Road
Clearwater, Florida 33765