Divorce is a massive event in a person’s life on both an emotional and a practical level.  A divorcing person must abandon their personal identity as spouse, unwind their financial details from their spouse and often create a formal parenting schedule with the same person they are detaching themselves from in all other aspects.  This whole process requires good counsel so as to achieve the best possible result for the divorcing person and their family.

Who To Talk When Faced With Divorce?

When pursuing counsel for divorce there are numerous avenues a divorcing person can choose.

A therapist is a fine person to guide you through the emotional turmoil of divorce and develop strategies regarding adopting a new identity as a single person and co-parent.  A therapist has little insight into the details of the legal system, though, especially as they apply to financial issues such as alimony and division of debts and assets.

A mediator is a person who can explain the broad terms and possibilities of a divorce settlement to both parties and hopefully bring those parties to an agreed understanding and settlement.  The mediator can only use the information that both parties voluntarily present to him or her.  If a party withholds or falsely modifies information that impacts the settlement, there is little the mediator can do to get to the truth of the matter. Furthermore, the mediator cannot advise each party as to the various strategies they could employ to achieve their respective goals.  A mediator can only try to bring the parties together in a satisfactory “meeting of the minds”

Only a family law or divorce lawyer can truly guide and empower a person considering and/or navigating a divorce. A divorce lawyer can investigate the facts, discovery additional facts, develop a strategy based on those facts and then execute that strategy to either negotiate a favorable settlement or extract a favorable ruling from a family law judge.

How To Pick A Divorce Lawyer

When choosing a divorce lawyer, there are several considerations that should be made.

  • Does the lawyer practice other areas of law?

Family law lawyers typically focus on just family law for various reasons.  There are usually more than enough family law cases to keep any lawyer occupied who chooses to practice in the field.  Also, family law may not be deeply complicated compared to, say, Nuclear power plant regulation law but family law is very broad.  A divorce lawyer needs to know how to craft a parenting plan that works for both toddlers and teenagers and how to value a business that will be dissolved in a divorce.

Lawyers that practice multiple areas of law show that a) they may not busy enough to do just family law (with all that portends) and b) they may not have the broad mastery of family law that is usually required for effective representation.

Lawyers who practice other areas of the law may still be excellent at providing family law counsel.  It all depends on the individual lawyer but multiple practices can justifiably give any divorcing party pause when selecting a divorce lawyer

  • Does the divorce lawyer have experience?

Lawyers are allowed to practice any kind of law in any capacity, the moment they have passed their respective states’ bar.   Does that mean you should hire someone straight out of law school or someone with more experience?

A fresh lawyer may actually be an excellent choice is your case doesn’t have byzantine complications like prenuptial agreements and complicated finances.  Family law is not especially deep and few states’ family law statutes exceed a hundred pages.  The enthusiasm of a young lawyer focusing on your case may be refreshing compared to an older lawyer who sees every divorce settlement as a form with different names on it.

An older, experienced lawyer may be more effective if your divorce has possible complications.  A lawyer’s real skill is “issue spotting” or noticing problematic issues so the lawyer can take advantage or mitigate the damages arising out of those issues.  The more issues a lawyer has seen in his career, the more likely the lawyer will notice them while working on your case.

  • Does the divorce lawyer have staff?

A great deal of the process that happens in a divorce lawyer’s office is processing paperwork. Divorce lawyers must prepare financial affidavits, notices to produce, interrogatories, verify discovery on both sides, and prepare final documents.

80% of this paperwork can be prepared by a person who has not passed the state bar or even attended college (much less law school).  So long as a divorce lawyer adequately supervises the person (usually referred to as a paralegal) preparing the documents.

Having paralegals work on a case greatly reduces the cost of the case overall.

If your divorce is full of important details that cannot be left to chance then perhaps a divorce lawyer should be handling all of the matters, no matter how mundane, personally.

  • Do you connect with the divorce lawyer?

While the divorce process involves numerous documents going back and forth, the divorcing person is more than just a piece of paper.  It is important that your divorce lawyer sees you as a whole person who had a family and is now crafting a new family in the midst of all the legal maneuvering

A divorce lawyer who respects you as a person will put a real value on the outcome of your divorce and weigh that value against the costs of the divorce.

This careful consideration is crucial when you’re employing a lawyer who embraces the billable hour system.  The temptation for lawyers to make money should never exceed their duty to provide quality holistic legal counsel during your divorce.

Finally, it is important to recall that you are not obligated to continue in your case with the divorce lawyer you started with.  You can divorce your divorce lawyer!  If at any time you become dissatisfied with your current counsel, you can employ alternative counsel.  This can often be a costly process as the new counsel will have to get up to speed with the facts of the case and justifiably charge you for that.

No matter what, please retain a divorce lawyer if your divorce involves any issues whatsoever.  Divorce can be a perilous process but never more so without counsel.

The author, Russell Knight, is a Naples Florida Divorce Attorney who has been practicing family law for over 13 years.