Without question, making the decision to divorce is probably one of the most difficult decisions you’ll ever have to make. The truth, though, is that deciding to divorce is only the first of many decisions you’ll have to make throughout this process. One of the biggest and most important choices you’ll have to make is finding an attorney to represent you as you go through your divorce – it can make all the difference between a smooth and successful process, or one that this full of stress and anxiety. The question is – how do you choose a divorce attorney? It’s an important question to ask, and one that will require you to consider a variety of factors.
As you search for an attorney who can best represent you during your divorce, taking the following steps can be helpful:
- Ask for an Initial Consultation: Having an initial meeting with an attorney should be one of the first steps you take when seeking a divorce. Many divorce attorneys will offer a free initial consultation, and this can be a great time to simply get to know more about the attorney, to see if his or her personality is a good fit for yours, and to ask that attorney about his or her billing practices, fees, and qualifications. During this initial meeting, you should be able to get a feel for the attorney’s work ethic and personality. Your goal should be to find someone who will act in your best interest, and in whom you feel comfortable resting your confidence. Your attorney should be engaged during your meeting, attentive to your questions and concerns, and organized. Remember that divorce is a highly personal and sensitive matter – choosing the right attorney will be important, and spending the necessary time to make the right choice is well worth it.
- Consider Costs: As you consider potential divorce attorneys, one factor that should certainly be considered is what sort of billing and collection policies the attorney utilizes. Find out if there is a flat rate or an hourly fee. Ask if you need to pay in advance or if fees are due upon completion of services. Does the attorney charge an initial retainer fee? You are entitled to know how you will be charged for the work done for you, what other fees might be assessed for your case, and how you are expected to pay your bill. No lawyer is likely to know exactly how much your case will cost, but every lawyer should be willing to tell you as much as he or she can about fees.
- Look for Specific Qualifications: One specific thing to look for during your research is the attorney’s level of training in the area of law that might be pertinent to your case. For example – do you think you’ll want to resolve your divorce by using mediation or collaborative law techniques instead of traditional courtroom litigation? If so, an attorney who has experience with those methods of resolving a divorce will be important. Or perhaps you have some particularly complex financial issues, and you need an attorney who has specialized knowledge in that regard. Maybe you want an attorney who has a strong record of handling child custody and child support matters. Whatever you’re looking for, be sure to ask a potential attorney about his or her qualifications concerning that particular aspect of divorce.
- Talk with Friends and Family: The value of getting recommendations from friends and family who have been through the divorce process before can’t be overstated. There is no recommendation like a good experience – and asking people you trust about who they recommend can be tremendously helpful, and can give you valuable insight into the experience and how the attorney handled their case. If you aren’t comfortable speaking with friends, family, or members of the community, the North Carolina State Bar Association also offers a referral list of attorneys that will help you find lawyers who work specifically with family law matters. You can read about the attorneys online, including reviews others have posted about their experiences.
Without question, that attorney that you choose to represent you for your separation and divorce will make a big difference not only in the outcome of your case but also with respect to how you feel throughout the process. Having an attorney who is truly dedicated to helping you achieve your goals and listens to you will help to reduce your fears and lessen your concerns.
Certainly, some people consider all of these factors and the possibility of hiring an attorney, and think to themselves – do I really need one? Sometimes, if a marriage was short, or if the couple has no children and a minimal amount of property to divide, they wonder if they should spend the money to hire an attorney at all. It’s a valid question. If you find yourself asking this question, there are a few things you should consider:
- Hidden Costs: Often, people decide to represent themselves because they assume that they’ll save money. While this is understandable reasoning, it’s often simply not true. When you represent yourself, the truth is that it’s easy to make a mistake. There are plenty of legal nuances out there that may apply to your circumstances, and if you make a mistake, or overlook something important you were supposed to do, you may have to hire an attorney anyway to help you fix the problem. This is not to mention the fact that by representing yourself, you may not have a thorough understanding of the rights you have when it comes to matters like property division, alimony, and child support. You may end up giving away far more from a monetary standpoint than what the law actually requires – far more than you would have spent on an attorney in the first place.
- Protecting Your Rights: The truth of the matter is that in a divorce, you can’t always depend on your spouse to be completely transparent about what you are entitled to, or that they have your best interest at heart in terms of spousal support, dividing property, or even child custody and support. If your spouse has retained an attorney and you haven’t, you may be forfeiting important rights under the law.
- Extra Time: By choosing to represent yourself, you may actually make the divorce process longer than it otherwise would be. The skill and expertise that an attorney offers will help to expedite the divorce process in any number of ways – when you represent yourself, you’ll need to spend extra time researching, drafting, and filing. Depending on the complexity of your case, that can be quite a lot of time, and it may not ultimately be worth it in the long run.
- More Stress: The amount of stress that representing yourself might cause is one factor that certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. Divorce is stressful enough as it is – the stress of having to handle the entire process yourself, along with the worry that at any time you may overlook something important that could have a significant negative effect on the outcome of your case simply may not be a risk you want to take.
If you’ve considered these factors and you still plan to represent yourself, it’s important to realize that if you do, you’ll be held to the same standards as those parties who do have attorneys. Divorce can be complex, even when it seems simple in theory, so it’s worth thoroughly considering the pros and cons of representing yourself before you decide to do so.
If you’re ready to move forward with the divorce process and you’re eager to find an attorney who has the knowledge and experience you need to address the issues ahead of you with confidence and skill, at The Law Office of Dustin McCrary, we’re here for you. Dustin McCrary has built his practice and his reputation on successfully representing countless clients in the community just like you. Dustin knows that his clients are facing one of the most difficult and emotional experiences in their lives – and he is proud to be able to help them through this process and onto a happy, healthy new chapter ahead, with optimism for the future. He would love to help you too. If you’re ready to take the next steps, call us any time. We look forward to helping you soon.