Questions to Ask Your Divorce Attorney
When you are staring at divorce and looking for the right attorney to guide you through the process, it is prudent to evaluate your options objectively and make your decision after careful consideration. Choosing a lawyer can be the single most important decision that you make regarding your divorce.
Even if you have a specific recommendation from friends or family, it is always wise to do thorough homework yourself. Looking into the qualifications and professional track record of an attorney can provide you with insightful information.
In order to determine whether a particular lawyer is the best advocate to stand by your side during a divorce case, here are a few questions that you can ask them. A lawyer’s answers to these questions will help you determine whether you have found the legal counsel you are looking for.
Do you handle cases outside family law and divorce?
In legal matters, it is usually important to focus on specialization and dedicated expertise in a particular area of law and jurisdiction. Lawyers who work on cases involving multiple areas of the law and go for versatility instead of specialization might not have the focus, insight, and experience needed exclusively for divorce cases.
The lawyer’s courtroom experience and the ability to deal with complications can be a huge positive. While it does not necessarily mean that a lawyer not exclusively dedicated to family law would lose your case, it can definitely be worthwhile to prefer a specialist when it comes to the complex matters of a divorce proceeding.
What is your experience with family law?
Experience matters when it comes to family law cases in more ways than one. The experience of your lawyer can come into sharp focus, especially if the divorce turns out to be contested or difficult. A number of divorce cases also go to trial. In such cases, your lawyer would have to –
- File motions and prepare legal arguments
- Present evidence to the court
- Make logical objections to evidence
- Conduct direct examinations and cross-examinations
Having an experienced divorce lawyer on your side will bring you peace of mind and help you achieve more satisfactory outcomes, no matter how litigious, complex or high profile your case may be.
Would you explain your fee structure?
It is always good to have a clear idea about how much your divorce is going to cost you. Given that some divorce cases have the potential to draw out for years on end, determining your financial liability at the very outset can be a smart move. Here are some things that you can ask your lawyer –
- Will you charge you by the hour, or do you have a fixed fee?
- For hourly billing, would the billing include time spend communicating with you, putting out calls and emails, and meeting with paralegals?
- What would be the increment of time for the billing?
- Will you need a retainer agreement after hiring? If yes, what would be the retainer amount in your case?
- Is there any difference in your hourly rates for the time you spend in and out of court?
How do you plan to handle communication?
Communication between you and your divorce lawyer can be critical and you should have a concrete idea about how it is going to take place. Here are some questions you can ask to streamline your communication –
- How regularly are you going to contact me?
- Will the contact be direct or will the messages come through your team?
- What mode of communication (phone, email, or in-person meetings) do you normally use?
- What is your average turnaround time for a return call?
What philosophy or approach do you follow while on a case?
The mindset and philosophy of the lawyer in question need to resonate with your goals regarding the divorce. If you are anticipating an extremely contentious divorce, you would ideally want an aggressive attorney who would not be afraid to push back when needed. However, if you are hopeful of an amicable divorce, a lawyer who is overly aggressive may be counter-productive for your goals.
Are there alternative ways to solve my legal issues?
You should ask your lawyer about alternative ways to resolve your issue that might take relatively less time and money to accomplish your goals. The right lawyer would give you clear information about these possibilities, including out-of-court settlement, divorce mediation, or arbitration.
What divorce procedures are followed in my state?
Laws and procedures regarding divorce, custody, child support, alimony, and other issues of family law differ between states. Your divorce attorney should have authoritative knowledge of the divorce laws in California and how they are likely to play out in your case.
While reviewing relevant state laws, ask your attorney:
- How will I initiate divorce proceedings?
- How does California Family Law address child custody and visitation?
- How is child support calculated in California?
- Does the court decide alimony and divide assets between parties?
- How does the court segregate personal property and marital property?
- How long do I have to wait for the divorce to be finalized by the court?
What should I do to protect my financial interests?
It is important to ask your lawyer what protection measures you can employ about your finances before you initiate the divorce proceedings. Joint credit cards or bank accounts would need to be taken care of. You need to know what will be the fate of your property if you move out.
You might need measures to prevent your spouse from willfully spending money to reduce or waste marital assets, or a restraining order to prevent harassment. Each divorce has its own unique issues. Your divorce might be simple and straightforward, but it may also be long-drawn, complicated, and contested. In both cases, you need a clear idea about the many ways your lawyer can help to protect your rights.
Choose a Competent Divorce Lawyer in Orange County
While you ask these important questions to your lawyer, it is useful to remember that answers can vary and they are not a promise of guaranteed results in your favor. However, these questions can be the ideal starting point if you want to have the best divorce lawyer in Orange County on your side.