In a potential divorce, the first spouse’s choice of which attorney to hire can set the tone for everything that follows. Considering divorce can take anywhere from six months to six years, or longer, one of the most crucial aspects of ensuring you’re able to move forward to the next stage of your life after divorce is selecting an attorney that will be a good fit for your situation. Your ideal attorney has both the professional skills to be effective and is someone you enjoy working with.
Hire the Right Fit – Don’t Rush
Ensuring that your attorney is a good fit for your situation and personality is best done through asking questions of the attorney prior to hiring them. It’s particularly important that you feel comfortable sharing with your attorney as you’ll need to provide many details of your personal life. When interviewing a potential attorney, you should get the sense that person “gets” you, showing genuine care for your concerns and goals.
Many people find an attorney through a referral, either from a friend or other professional. You may have received a glowing recommendation from a friend who went through a divorce. The attorney may have done an outstanding job for your friend.
While certainly a good sign for the professionalism of that attorney, this doesn’t necessarily mean that attorney is automatically a great fit for your family’s unique issues – i.e. financial assets, income, and parenting challenges.
It May Pay to Pay
Often, it can be worthwhile to pay for an initial consultation with an attorney you’re considering hiring. Bring copies of your financials – tax return, list of property, debts, and income – as well as a list of questions to ask. The goal is to understand how the prospective attorney typically will help:
- Do they focus exclusively in divorce or work in other areas as well?
- How do they feel about the different divorce processes: Mediation? Litigation? Collaborative Law Process?
- Is the attorney familiar with the attorney your spouse is using?
- Have they worked with, or against, him/her before?
- Your spouse’s choice of attorney will influence your decision as well. You’ll want to know the attorney you hire is competent in the same style of divorce process as the other attorney – you don’t want to pay for your attorneys NOT to get along.
The above are just a few examples of what to ask any attorney you’re considering. See our Questions to Ask Your Divorce Attorney guide for a more complete list.
Working Together – Be Proactive to Minimize Time and Cost
Your role in the process doesn’t end when you’ve hired an attorney. Managing your relationship is critical. Without purposeful interaction on your part, it’s easy to lose time – and run up extra costs – pursuing things that aren’t necessary.
Prepare for each contact with your attorney to maximize your time together. Have specific goals of what to accomplish. Whether an email, call, or meeting, write down your intention for the interaction. Prepare questions ahead of time to ensure they’re all addressed. Take notes during meetings and afterwards summarize what was discussed along with decisions made and next steps.
Navigating the divorce process is stressful. Taking the steps above will help you reduce the money, time, and energy spent on your divorce. Watch our webinar for a roadmap to reach a financially responsible divorce and create a full life afterwards.
If you’d like a second opinion of an attorney you’re considering, or insights into how well a prospective attorney may work with your spouse’s attorney, email Heather Locus, leader of BDF’s Divorce Practice Group.
Mark Durrenberger, CFP®, ChFC®, EA is a Senior Advisor at BDF. Mark has been in the financial industry since 2010 and received both his Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from Northwestern University.