How to Choose the Right Attorney for Your Case

 There are lots of listings online and in the yellow pages (if anyone even uses those anymore!) for divorce attorneys.  It can be daunting trying to figure out who will best represent your interests.  How to choose the right attorney for your case is a complicated decision that requires clear thinking.Contemplating divorce can be emotionally trying, and all that information can make your head swim.

Referrals Can Be Good – or Not!

Referrals can be one good source of information about the attorney or firm.  If your third cousin had an attorney that listened to their concerns, made productive suggestions, got a reasonable result in the divorce and (in their opinion) didn’t try to soak them for fees, you should consider that attorney or firm.

Often friends and family chime in with referrals and opinions about who you should or shouldn’t hire for your divorce matter.  The problem with this is that no two divorces are alike.  No two sets of issues are exactly alike.  What may have worked in another situation may not work well for your situation.  You need a solution tailored to your family’s needs.

What Type of Divorce Is It?

If the divorce is fairly civil and the adults are acting like adults, perhaps a firm that focuses on collaborative divorce or mediation is a good idea.  In this atmosphere the parties can come together to figure out how to proceed with the least amount of collateral damage to their assets and their children.

Sometimes, however, a divorce is open warfare where there are skirmishes over everything from who gets the major time-share with the children and who gets the house, who gets the pets and even who gets the $19.99 griddle that was a wedding present.   These contentious divorces of course take more time (and money!) than a divorce that is either uncontested or where there is not much conflict.

Lots of Information Out There

There is so much information available on the internet and through other media that it can be overwhelming.  Before choosing an attorney, make sure to protect yourself by gathering important financial documents. (see the full list here) When you are researching which attorney to use in your divorce, keep in mind that many offer a free initial consultation.  This may be a bit time consuming, but meeting a prospective attorney face to face gives you a very good idea about how they will approach your case.  Do they listen well or seem to barely hear you, because they have heard it all before?  That doesn’t bode well for your case, because you want to be sure your attorney is really hearing your issues and concerns.  Are they gruff or empathetic?  Do they ask you how you want to proceed, or do they attempt to dictate to you?  These considerations are important ones, because going forward, you want to be sure you have an open relationship with your attorney, that the two of you can truly communicate, because this saves time, money and hard feelings.

Alligator or Peacemaker?

          The type of attorney you choose really depends on your specific case and how you want to proceed.  In a highly contentious divorce, it may be that you need an “alligator” for an attorney – one who will symbolically clamp on and fight to the death to protect your financial, property and custodial rights.   Conversely, you may be in a position where you really just need someone to prepare the paperwork to be filed in court, because you and your soon- to- be ex have agreed on nearly everything.  In that case, you want a “peacemaker” who will make sure you are protected, but won’t create conflict where there was none.   If your children are your main concern, there are firms that definitely put the needs and emotional well-being of the children first.         

Florida Statutes Help

          Florida, along with many other states, has taken steps to attempt to reduce the amount of conflict in a divorce.  There is no longer a need for one party to be at fault.  There are statutory guidelines for property division and child support and custody issues.  However, there are still a number of issues that arise and which need to be addressed either by agreement or by court order.

Do Your Homework

          These days, you can find lots of information online.  Research the attorneys you think may be best for your situation.  Talk to people if it is a referral situation and find out what their experience was like.  Take special note of the words the attorney or firm uses on their website or in advertising – that will help you determine what type of approach they take.  Find out if they offer mediation or collaborative divorce as part of their practice.  A little research up front can help save time, trouble and fees.

Family Law Focus

Whichever type of attorney you decide you need, make sure it is an attorney or firm whose focus is family law, because this is a complex area of law, even with the statutory assistance.  There are so many factors to consider when going through a divorce that you need expert help.  You wouldn’t want an orthopedic surgeon doing open heart surgery – you don’t want a personal injury attorney doing your divorce!  You need to make sure that the attorney you choose is experienced, dedicated to the family law field, ethical and reliable.