If there's one time you want the right person in your corner, it's during a divorce. Having the best attorney for your situation is critical.
Here's how to find one.
Start your search
Start by asking your friends, family and financial advisors for references for lawyers that specialize in family law. Then try professional organizations like the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and your state bar association. Create a list of several names and begin your research. You can check out the firm's website, pull up the attorney's bio and learn about their education and experience. It won't hurt either to Google him or her to see what information you can glean. Find out what you can about their track record in court.
Set up initial consultations with each attorney. Ideally, they won't charge you a fee for that first meeting, but some may. During that interview there is plenty that you should ask. You want to know how many and what kind of cases they've handled and their success rates.
While you certainly want to be sure your attorney has the education and the experience to take on your case, there's more to consider. Chemistry counts. You want an attorney who feel comfortable with. This is a highly emotional time, temperament matters. Do ask how you will communicate with each other. You want someone who is reasonably available.
Ask for an estimate of what you can expect to pay for the attorney's services, what's included, and what's extra. Find out if the agreement will be written or oral. Getting something in writing is best.
Find out if you're on the same page
Tell the attorney the basics of your story and tell them your goals, what matters most to you. What do you draw a line in the sand and what's negotiable. Ask them them what they think of your case, where they see potential problems and where there is strength. Inquire about how they would approach your case, what's their philosophy and strategy. Will they be open to pursuing your objectives? If you're not comfortable with what you hear, that may be the best clue that this attorney is not right for you.
Take your time
The last thing you want to do is rush your search for an attorney. Choose with the great care you would in selecting a doctor or any one else who will have a significant impact on your life.
While an attorney may offer a flat fee arrangement, realize that if your case winds up taking more time than they project, they may run out of enthusiasm and you won't get the top service you deserve.
Avoid the jack of all trades
Divorce is its own beast. You don't want an attorney who has six "specialties" and one of them is divorce. You want someone who lives and breathes family law.
Don't dismiss your instinct
Maybe the attorney has all the right credentials, but if something about him or her is bothering you that you can't put your finger on, trust your instinct and keep moving down your list.