ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

How to Hire a Divorce Attorney

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

How to hire a divorce attorney? So, you are contemplating a divorce, or your spouse just announced they wanted a divorce? Going through a divorce can be financially expensive and emotionally stressful. But does it have to be financially stressful and expensive; I say no. Yet for many going through a divorce, they want or need to hire a divorce attorney. Very few couples that are going through a divorce handle it all on their own. Depending on your circumstances, maybe both of you are able to agree and handle everything on your own. If not, here are three steps to consider when looking to hire a divorce attorney.

Understand how your lawyer is paid. Don’t make your lawyer rich! Know how and what they charge for. I’ve yet to ever meet with family law/divorce attorney that hasn’t done well for themselves financially. Sure, they’ll charge you by the minute. But when you send an email or leave a message, are you going to be nickeled and dimed to death? I’ve had clients tell me about billings. It’s unfortunate, at times, couples will argue to prove a point or make a statement to their soon to be former spouse. I’ve heard the saying, divorce is expensive because it’s worth it. That may or may not be true. But you need to know how the clock works and I suspect if you were told it would cost you $10,000 for a divorce, you need to add 25% to 50% to that number.

Who is their typical client? You don’t want to work with just any lawyer. You want a specialist in this arena. For many lawyers, this is all they do and that’s who you want to hire. Not an attorney who does a DUI case in the morning, midday they wrote an estate plan and now divorce settlement in the afternoon. Let’s not forget, how complicated your situation is. Kids or no kids, one parent relocating to another state, maybe you’ve been a stay home spouse, you or your spouse owns a closely held business; how many clients a year do they work with that fits your situation/profile.

Fighter or collaborator in a settlement. I don’t know who first said it, being right doesn’t always pay. And sometimes it’s easy to dig our heals in to prove we are right and beat our chest in pride to prove a point and place the nail in the coffin.

To achieve that satisfaction when it comes to a divorce becomes very expensive even though you might be right. I wonder sometimes if some lawyers fight just for the sake of increasing their billable hours. They respond to every frivolous item that your soon to be spouse or lawyer brings up when its’ really not necessary. If you are going to hire an attorney, they should demonstrate to you how they work in collaboration with the other party in finalizing a mutually beneficial agreement for both sides. That probably works for 98% of divorces. In the remaining 2% of cases, you need that fighter, that “bulldog” because of your situation and that’s understandable.

Interview a couple of lawyers. Ask for references. Ask hard pinpointed questions. Don’t just hire them because you like them, or they have a nice personality. Hire the lawyer that works in the arena full-time, you know and understand how you’ll compensate them, and someone who will work in collaboration to resolve this quickly, so you can move onto the next phase of your life. Remember you might end up paying your lawyer a lot of money. You need to get this right the first time!

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