The Initial Consultation
Even if you do not believe you need one, consult an attorney. An attorney is the only person qualified to give you legal advice. A short consultation will help you assess your legal needs. An attorney will help you explore these questions:
•· Should I file first?
•· Where will my case be heard?
•· Are there any emergency papers that must be filed?
•· Are there any reasons I should act immediately?
•· What are the legal issues?
•· Can an agreement be reached outside of court?
•· How complicated is my case?
•· What are my rights?
•· What are my responsibilities to my spouse?
•· What type of custody arrangement can I expect?
•· How much money will I get?
•· How do I get child support?
•· How long will spousal support last?
•· How much money will I have to pay?
•· How much will the divorce cost?
•· How long will it take?
•· How should we divide our assets?
•· How should we divide our debts?
•· Should discovery be conducted?
•· What will happen to our home?
•· Do I need a restraining order?
•· What information do I need to resolve my case?
•· Do I need an attorney?
If you determine that you need to hire an attorney, you will then need to select one. This is an important decision because a good attorney will help you through the divorce process.
Choosing Your Attorney
There is a difference in quality and experience of attorneys. A good attorney knows the law, is capable in court, knows when to settle a case, completes tasks in a timely manner, and keeps his or her promise. Clients must have confidence in their attorney. Confidence begins with communication. Your attorney should explain the process and answer all your legal questions. He or she should be accessible for appointments and by phone, text or e-mail. Your attorney should send you copies of all documents. While the selection of an attorney is largely a personal choice, here are some things to look for:
•· Does the attorney know the law? Beware of attorneys that cannot easily answer your legal questions.
•· Is the attorney telling me what I want to hear? Beware of attorneys that over promise and only tell you about the pros of your position.
•· Does the attorney have enough experience? Beware of attorneys who have been in practice less than five or ten years.
•· Is this a family law attorney? Beware of attorneys who practice in more than one area of law.
•· Will the attorney get the job done for me? Beware of attorneys that do not have support staff.
•· Will I get the attention I deserve? Beware of attorneys who are slow to return phone calls.
•· Will the attorney act in my best interest? Beware of attorneys that have reputations for being "aggressive." This is someone who does not settle cases, and runs up his or her attorney fees.
•· Will there be hidden fees? Beware of attorneys that bill by the hour and cannot even give you an estimate of his or her fees.
•· Can the attorney articulate a strategy? A good attorney will immediately be able to assess your case and formulate a legal strategy.