How to hire a divorce lawyer

Reader's Digest Editors

While many lawyers say that they handle divorce cases, many may have only done simple cases. Interview several candidates before you hire one. Here are some questions to ask…

How long have you practiced law, and how much of your practice is devoted to divorce cases?

The more time spent on divorce cases, the better, but this area of the law should ideally account for at least half of the lawyer's practice. 

 

Do you represent both men and women?

A lawyer who represents only one sex or the other may lack insight into the mindset of the opposite sex, or have some kind of personal axe to grind. 

 

Do you try to settle disputes before going to court?

Some lawyers are proud of their reputation for fighting over details. If that's your style, great. But many clients want to minimise conflict and stress and like the fact that compromise lowers the cost of their divorce. 

 

Will you be handling my case, or will most of the work be done by an associate or paralegal?

If the lawyer you are speaking to won't be handling the bulk of the work, then you are talking to the wrong person. Ask to speak to the people who will be representing you. 

 

When can I expect to have my telephone calls/emails returned?

Most of the complaints that people make against lawyers concern unreturned telephone calls or emails. As a rule, your lawyer should call you back within one business day—or have someone from the office contact you if he or she cannot. 

 

How much will the divorce cost, and how will I be billed?

Once an experienced divorce lawyer knows your case, they should be able to estimate how much your divorce is going to cost. Keep in mind that estimates are just that; complications or a stubborn opponent can quickly raise the costs. 

 

Can you handle this for a flat fee?

Some lawyers will agree to represent you for a flat fee, especially if your case isn't too complex. If you have serious issues about custody, child support, or about dividing your property, however, don't be surprised if the attorney refuses to agree to a flat fee.