10 Questions for Choosing the Right Divorce Attorney
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
According to the Holmes and Rahe’s Stress Scale, divorce is second on the list of the 43 life changing events that affect your health. I remember myself as a young 29 year-old, having survived 10 years of a rocky marriage with two small children in tow. Divorce was not easy or wanted, but yet I found myself needing to make the decision to move out, find another place to live and start the long, challenging road to divorce.
As a legal secretary, I had access to the best attorneys, yet, looking back, I realize that I lacked appropriate emotional advice, effective financial guidance and I lived day to day feeling anxious and stressed. Under this stress, I needed to make life altering decisions related not only to my well-being, but the well-being of my children and our future. I didn’t know where to go or where to turn and felt like I was at the mercy of my ex and our attorneys.
Even though I had great attorneys, they could only respond to my directions and the Court’s decisions. Somehow, I had to figure it out on my own and make the best decisions I could with the information I had at the time.
For 30 years, I have worked in a law office as a paralegal and business manager. I am passionate about helping women take control over their emotional and financial futures, especially through a divorce. After going through this heart wrenching process alone, I realized we can be better, and we can do better. I now know how helpful it is to have a financial planner who understands the financial aspects of divorce and the legal process.
I realize the critical need of a therapist who is there when the days are dark and the emotions run high. And choosing the right attorney can have a lasting impact on the financial and emotional outcomes of a divorce.
Because of the need I saw among women going through this life transition, I co-founded My Divorce Solution, a company dedicated to helping women navigate the divorce process in a safe, protective and empowering way, while preserving the dignity and importance of the family unit as a whole. When you have a team of support behind you, life can be a little easier, a little less stressful and the process doesn’t seem so endless. And the best part of it all is, having a supportive team can save you money because every aspect is focused on you, your well-being, and your wallet.
The most common question my clients ask is, “How do I choose the right divorce attorney?” Oftentimes, worries and fears lead women to seek legal advice. How do you know this attorney will fend for you and your rights during the divorce process? At My Divorce Solution, we help our clients create a foundation of communication with their attorneys to ensure the divorce process offers them the best possible outcome.
You do have rights and choosing the right attorney is a critical part in determining the outcome of your divorce. The ability to defend your rights depends largely on the attorney you hire. Just because an attorney practices family law doesn’t necessarily mean that your rights will be protected or that your best interests will be the primary focus in dissolving your marriage.
Here are 10 questions to help you choose an attorney who will support your specific needs during the divorce process:
- How much do you charge, how frequently will you bill me and when will payment be due? How much retainer do you require initially and on an ongoing basis?
- What other fees, costs and expenses will I have to pay?
- Can you give me an approximate estimate of the total cost of the divorce?
- Are there less experienced attorneys or paralegals who can perform some of the work at a lower per hour rate?
- Will you provide me with a monthly progress report free of charge?
- Will the progress report provide an update on the progress of the projected budget as well?
- Will you personally handle my divorce negotiations?
- Are you more likely to tell me what to do, or offer options and expect me to make a decision?
- Will you be my day-to-day contact or will I mainly be working with another attorney on your staff?
- What is the best way to contact you, and how quickly should I expect to receive a response?
The answers to these questions determine the type and quality of communication you’ll have with your attorney during your divorce. While it can be very intimidating to sit face to face with an attorney, these questions are important to ask and will play a significant role in the longer term relationship between you and the attorney you choose.
If you feel uncomfortable asking these questions, have someone knowledgeable along with you to ask these questions for you.
A word of caution if you are consulting friends who’ve recently gotten divorced: Every situation is unique unto itself and what may have worked or not worked for your friend and/or family member may not be relevant to you and your family.
My Divorce Solution was created because we understand your concerns because we have been through the divorce process. We have helped many clients be “in the know” and “prepared and organized” so that their clients are assured of the opportunity to move ahead with confidence. We guide you to state specific resources. We help you gather the necessary paperwork and assist with pre-divorce budgeting so that you can be prepared as possible before seeking legal advice. We help you ask the tough questions of both yourself and the attorney role so that you can be prepared as possible in this journey. Taking these necessary steps goes a long way in creating your new life post-divorce.
We offer some helpful free resources, so no matter how you proceed during this life transition, be sure to access as much information as you can before making any binding decisions.
Karen Chellew is a legal liaison at My Divorce Solution who partners with Catherine Shanahan, CDFA. My Divorce Solution is committed to helping divorcing couples develop a transparent plan via a three-phase process to optimize the outcome of their divorce. Phase 1 is the development of the financial portrait.
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