Courts have been closed since this coronavirus pandemic started, but now the economy is open for business again and so is the court. Finding the right divorce attorney is a VERY challenging task. It is better to start sooner rather than later. Family law operates on its own island and the only ones that know the ins and outs of it are the family law attorneys, clerks and judges. Do not hire an attorney, because a friend tells you to hire a divorce lawyer. You must assess your case and then seek advice from there. Some cases are much more complicated, and some cases are simple. If you have zero income and you feel you need an attorney or lawyer, you may qualify for a volunteer attorney or lawyer (check with your court facilitator on the options and/or fee waivers). If you have zero income and some assets, it is very likely you WILL NOT meet the qualifications for a free divorce attorney. Volunteer attorney organizations will be dependent on what’s available in your county where your local courthouse is located.
As the respondent in any divorce there is no choice, but to go the traditional dissolution court route if the petitioner chooses litigation; however, if you are the petitioner and you once loved your soon to be ex (STBX) please consider mediation or an online divorce option (some restrictions apply). Follow these 5 steps to hire a divorce attorney:
- Consult with the largest divorce law firms in your city. These firms have high net worth cases, have been around the block and can help you assess the type of divorce case you have. You will have to pay for a consultation; but it is worth its weight in gold to have them assess your position.
- Look at divorce attorney reviews online you can filter by location but take them with a grain of salt. There are some popular review sites like www.avvo.com and https://www.yelp.com/nearme/divorce-attorneys; however, pay special attention to the dates of the reviews. Often these reviews will not be current and old reviews do not reflect the attorney’s current performance. If you find an attorney you like; however, they are working on their own be sure to ask for references. If they turn you down, move on.
- Direct referral, you can also ask your social circles if they know anyone. A referral is not necessarily a guaranteed course of action, so you must follow the steps above. If the person is referring from experience, divorce is an emotional jungle and truly the person giving the referral may not be a great source considering their state of mind while they had an attorney. The divorce process is mind altering – this is not an exaggeration. Depending on the timing, a divorce now is much different than a divorce that happened a decade ago. Be very aware of the timeline and keep in mind the referral may be there to prepare you for the right attorney which you could find elsewhere.
- Discover which law firms are near the courthouse. All attorneys go by the hour and most charge for travel time, file time and wait time. The closer the attorney is to court, the less transit money you’ll be wasting, and the more money will be spent on court preparation and the hearings. Some attorneys may not charge for travel or they will charge a travel rate; however, that is rare. The more proficient attorneys are nearby the action, always go to court and know intimately how it is run. Attorneys further away usually have smaller case loads (this means you will have their attention; however, they may have slow court response times as far as submitting paperwork or filing new orders).
- Finally, do not hire an attorney at all. Avoid court and choose a mediation company. A mediation company is great if you already agree on what should happen in your divorce. They will sit down with both of you and help you figure everything out with as little arguing as possible. Whatever you do, if you disagree be sure to mention it after the meeting so whenever you are in front of them you are united and get things done. Find a mediation company that will file all your paperwork so you do not need an attorney and you avoid litigation.
Finding an attorney does not need to be a daunting task. Do your homework and be sure you find someone that you can talk to and who does not talk over you. Remember, an attorney is not a counselor nor are they qualified to tell you whether or not you should divorce; if you need a listening ear it is best to call a friend for that or a Life Coach. Consult with established law firms, look at reviews online, setup meetings from direct referrals, interview attorneys near the courthouse or scratch everything prior and choose a mediation company.