How do I know if a divorce lawyer is good?
First, know what kind of divorce you’re going to have. A heavily contested divorce requires a different skill and personality set from your new attorney than a moderately contested or uncontested divorce will. Keep in-mind, only a small percentage of divorces go to trial and most divorce attorneys do not have a lot of trial experience. So:
If your divorce is going to be heavily contested and acrimonious… select a lawyer with maximum trial experience, very familiar with the jurisdiction and Judges where your case will be heard. You want an attorney with enough support staff to service your case properly, but not so much there’s an incentive to churn fees to meet overhead. Ask them specifically how many divorces they have taken to trial in recent years, and by trial I mean two or three days in front of the same Judge – not arguing motions in a morning call. Cross-reference by asking other attorneys. If you have to (and don’t be afraid to) sit in the Courthouse for a couple days, observe several lawyers, and then do your interviews.
Avoid large family law firms unless you have many millions in liquid assets. Large family law firms scale up beautifully, but have a difficult time scaling down to smaller divorces and will ration services to keep their clients in the game (ie. you’ll lack fund to do proper discovery).
Don’t expect a good trial lawyer to be in close communication or emotionally supportive. They’re very busy (because they are good) and won’t waste your money on holding your hand because its needed to take your case to trial. They are not emotionally supportive because – and I say this without judgement – the skills that make an attorney great are the polar opposites of compassion and empathy.
If your divorce is going to be moderately contested or collaborative then find an attorney with a reputation for being reasonable, settling cases and getting along with opposing counsel. Interview, cross-reference and ask friends, marital therapists, etc. Often times attorneys who handle a lot of child advocate work fit this mold (but not always). But your divorce is only going to be as reasonable as the least reasonable and mature party (which can include a misguided, wealthy and influential parent of your spouse). Stay on guard and at the first sign the case is hotly contested the nice attorney has got to go.
Unfortunately most courts are often lenient and more often oblivious toward predatory lawyering where obstruction, running up fees and lengthening cases is concerned. After a few months on the bench many family law judges (who lack law clerks most places) lose interest in nuance and are become incapable of processing conflicting details in the face of a deluge of cases, information-overload and pervasive skepticism. These Judges demands shortcuts. They will, with the best intentions, often make terrible snap decisions, bring in advocates and other third parties who increase fees but lighten their load, and in the end they will still split the difference on most disputed issues in tacit admission of their inability to equitably resolve disputes. This un-winnable mess can only be navigated by a few great local divorce lawyers, hopefully not bored to sleep by your case. (Your spouse faces the exact same challenge)
Why You Still Need Representation
Choosing not to hire a divorce attorney – no matter whether you are separating from your spouse amicably or not – can be the difference between a swift, relatively painless divorce or one that drags on with seemingly endless paperwork and mistakes.
Choosing not to hire a divorce attorney is like choosing to represent yourself in any other court case: you are not familiar with the law like a lawyer. Important issues slip through the cracks and cause long-term problems. You may mishandle paperwork without realizing it or you may be unaware of small facets of you and your spouse’s financial situation. A good lawyer will be able to take all of your assets into account, handle all paperwork with care, and get you and your spouse on your way toward legal separation.
Unfortunately, plenty of “amicable divorces” turn into vitriolic ones. No matter how cordial a divorce may seem, the process is painful. A union between you and your spouse is ending, which is stressful. Due to the emotional nature of a divorce, you never know what the other party may be feeling. They may change their mind and attempt to reconcile. They may become angry and try to get more than their fair share or change the initial agreement. If that happens, your divorce attorney will be there to handle all of the issues.
It is in your best interest to secure a divorce lawyer to ensure all of your assets are handled. If any of the following apply to you, do not second guess yourself: hire representation for your divorce.
You Have Minor Children
Children are the number one reason you should get representation. Children are complicated in a divorce and ensuring their best interests are kept in mind is paramount. Even if you and your spouse decide on shared custody, it is important a lawyer is there to handle all the paperwork and keep you and most importantly, your children protected.
You or Your Spouse Own Real Estate or a Business
Real estate and business are complicated especially if one of you wants to keep the business and the other does not. Your attorney will be able to handle everything fairly.
One Party Wants or Needs Alimony
Alimony is famously complicated especially if one party has been a stay-at-home parent while the other is the primary income provider. Your divorce attorney will ensure you get what you are legally owed.
Reasons Why Good Divorce Attorneys Are Worth Every Penny
You might be able to do your divorce by yourself, but that doesn’t mean that you should. Divorce can be a multifaceted legal matter involving property transfers and complex financial accounts. And, most importantly, it will establish the future relationships between you, your spouse, and your children. Hiring a good attorney can make your divorce less stressful, less bitter, and even less expensive.
You only want to do this once. You need to get it right the first time. Hiring a trusted and knowledgeable attorney gives you an advocate, an ally during one of the most difficult times of your life. We know good lawyers can be expensive.
Here are 5 reasons why hiring a trusted and knowledgeable divorce attorney is worth every penny.
Stop worrying about what you don’t know
The unknown is frightening. You don’t know the divorce laws in Colorado. Why should you? Working with an attorney gives you an advocate, an information source, and peace of mind that you don’t have to know the law. If you have a legal question, just call.
Your attorney will also assess your case and tell you what to expect, from how the court is likely to divide your property to your odds of facing a contested hearing. Knowing what to expect before you start reduces the unknown and enables you to determine which legal paths to take. Hiring a lawyer may actual give you more control over your case.
Talk to my lawyer
You can’t stop talking to your spouse entirely, but you can have an intermediary when the fighting begins. Let the lawyers negotiate the settlement agreement and resolve your differences instead of starting a verbal MMA match in the kitchen. If your spouse is being a jerk, don’t confront him or her. Your lawyer is your champion.
Don’t face them alone
Standing in front of a judge is intimidating, even for some experienced attorneys. I can’t imagine how terrifying it is for people outside the legal profession. Even facing a mediator can be chilling; you’re sure she’s judging you. A lawyer will prepare you for a court appearance or mediation and stand with you. Most of the time, the attorney will do 95 percent of the talking.
Get it done
Missed appointments, deadlines, and incorrect paperwork can cause your DIY divorce to actually take longer than if you hire an attorney.
Is your spouse hiding assets or spying on you?
Your spouse is acting suspicious. You think he’s fudging his financial information and possibly hiding assets. You might not be able to prove it, but a good attorney will find out, and make sure everything gets added to the marital pool the court will divide. This is one way hiring an attorney can actually make you money. And if you think your spouse is spying on you or snooping through your online accounts, your attorney can find out, and make it stop.
Experience on Your Side
Even if this isn’t your first divorce, there are things about each divorce situation that are different. Different assets, different reasons for filing for one, etc. As such, you’re not equipped with the necessary knowledge to gain everything that you deserve once the divorce is finalized.
Not hiring a lawyer can mean losing out on thousands of dollars in assets you could’ve otherwise had. Not to mention, there are things you’re entitled to that probably never occurred to you. Things like receiving future retirement income and splitting up certain assets, for example.
There are several things in your individual divorce that you’ll need an experienced and trusted divorce lawyer to comb through. Things such as child custody, income, debts you’ve consumed, inheritance, etc. all fall in this category, and need to be sorted. If you don’t have a lawyer on your side, those things won’t be split in your favour.
Decide What Needs to Be Split Up
Possibly the most difficult aspect of the entire divorce process (other than the actually thought of divorce) is finding where the line is drawn.
Where are you and your (soon to be former) spouse entitled to the assets you’ve accrued together? More importantly, what needs to be shared and what doesn’t need to be shared? It’s a highly emotional time and depending on how amicable (or not amicable) the divorce is, your spouse may try to get you back where it hurts.
Dual representation (both parties using the same divorce lawyer) is highly unlikely these days. That means your spouse will lawyer up and defend their assets to the best of their abilities. Their lawyer will have worked through everything you two have accrued and given them a thorough understanding of what they deserve. If you don’t have a divorce lawyer on your side, you’re already at a significant disadvantage.