Before you hire a divorce lawyer, there are some very important questions you need to ask to help you make your final decision. You need to know about their general experience, how they handle their day-to-day operations and what their fee structure is to make sure it is a good fit for you.
Once you have your list of potential names, you should set up initial interview meetings. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to so that you can determine how your particular case will be handled. You also want to make sure that you are comfortable and able to communicate well with the lawyer. Below are some basic questions to help you get started:
General questions that you should ask at your initial meeting:
- Do you know my spouse?
- Do you know my spouse’s attorney?
- Do you see any conflict of interest in representing me in my divorce?
- How many divorce cases have you handled?
- How many cases were you able to settle without going to trial?
- How experienced are you with mediation or collaborative divorce cases?
- How many of the divorce cases included child custody, support, sizeable financial settlements, property distributions, personal businesses and valuation, etc.
- Do you actually have time to take on a new case?
- Will you be handling the case or will one of your associates be handling it?
- If an associate will be handling my case, will you do the negotiating?
- Will I get copies of all paperwork such as letters, faxes, legal papers, etc. involving my case? Make sure the answer is yes.
- How long do you think my particular case will take?
- How will you keep me informed of any developments?
Ask about the fee structure:
- What is your hourly billing fee?
- If associates are involved, what will their hourly billing fee be?
- Do you charge a retainer? If yes, how much is it?
- Will our final billing arrangements be in writing?
- Will you let me know exactly where we are with the retainer on a monthly basis?
- What happens when the retainer is depleted?
- Am I charged for telephone conversations?
- Do you have a minimum unit of time you bill me for? For instance, if I call you and it takes 4 minutes—do you bill for 5 or does it become an even 15 minutes?
- Can you bill my spouse for your time?
- If we end up going to trial, do you have a different hourly rate or is it the same as your office billing rate?
- What extra fees or costs should I be prepared to pay?
- Can you estimate an average cost for me based on your experience with cases similar to mine?
- Will you provide a written agreement outlining the fees and expenses?
Divorce is never easy, but being prepared will help you feel more in control of your future.