Guide to Divorce
How do I find a lawyer?
Friends and family members who have been divorced
are often a good source of referrals. When discussing lawyers
with friends or family members, be sure to ask about the lawyer
who represented the other spouse.
What qualities in a
matrimonial attorney are important?
As a prerequisite, the attorney must have a
demonstrated level of competence in matrimonial law. The
attorney need not handle only matrimonial cases, nor need he be
well known in the legal community, but he should have handled a
sufficient number of cases to be able to conduct yours
efficiently and properly. Resist the temptation to use a friend
of the family or your business lawyer who has never handled a
matrimonial case. Often such lawyers, however well intentioned,
must bail out of the case if and when it becomes too
complicated, leaving you in the unenviable position of having to
find a new lawyer in the middle.
at an initial consultation?
Every attorney has her own style, but most will,
at some point in the consultation (preferably sooner rather than
later) listen to your rendition of the problems in the marriage
and possibly take notes. After hearing your problems and
concerns, the attorney might give you a brief overview of the
law of your state, explain the different options available to
you, what she can hope to accomplish for you. Be wary of any
attorney who guarantees results.
What should I ask at
the initial consultation?
To the extent the attorney fails to cover these
points, you should ask how the divorce procedure works, how long
it will take, how available the lawyer is, how many cases he has
tried, how many he has handled (many cases settle without ever
going to trial), how much it will cost, how charges are
determined, whether you are billed for telephone calls, who else
will be working on your case, whether you will have to go to
court, what happens if you reconcile, what information the
lawyer needs from you.
spouse have to pay my fees?
The answer varies according to state law and the
judge assigned to your case, but in general, unless your spouse
is wealthy and you have limited assets available to you, you
should not hire a lawyer assuming your spouse will be
responsible for your fees. Even if your spouse can afford to do
so, a judge may decide your lawyer "over litigated" the case,
and not award her all the fees she seeks from your spouse. The
lawyer may still look to you for the balance due.
Should I get a separation or
n some jurisdictions, the grounds--or reasons--you must prove to
become legally separated (which means you have a judgment of
separation signed by a judge) are nearly the same as the grounds
needed to obtain a divorce, and so there is no advantage in
getting legally separated.