Question 1: Do you specialize in divorce and how much experience do you have with family law?
You should be diligent in your search for a divorce attorney. It is important to conduct research and ask your lawyer about his/her experience handling divorce and family law cases. Attorneys have the duty to abide by their state’s ethics rules, which include having the competence necessary to undertake representation of a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation. A lawyer also has the duty to act with commitment and dedication to the interests of a client and with zeal in advocacy upon the client’s behalf. This means that when you are conducting research on the attorney, you should consider their level of competence. The more competent an attorney is with divorce and family law, the more efficient your representation will be.
Look at the attorney’s client ratings and reviews on platforms such as:
Last, ask the attorney how many cases they have been able to settle out of court. When a case is settled out of court, the parties are able to reach a compromise, which helps to speed up the divorce process. If an attorney has been able to settle many cases out of court, that is an indicator that they are highly experienced with divorce and family law.
Many divorce cases go to trial. If that’s the case, the lawyer will have to:
- Conduct the necessary research for your case.
- Prepare legal arguments and legal theories.
- Conduct cross and direct examinations.
- Present evidence to the court.
- Make objections to evidence.
- Prepare legal arguments.
- File motions and prepare for hearings.
Question 2: What is your fee structure? How much will it cost for you to represent me?
Divorce proceedings can be very costly and may take years to resolve. Therefore, it is worth finding out not only how much time your case is likely to take, but also what you should expect the final price to be. The more complex your case is, the harder it would be to predict both the timeline and the expenses. If you and your spouse potentially reach an agreement regarding your divorce case out of court, with or without attorneys, you will definitely be able to end your marriage faster and spend less during the process.
Note that a lawyer is bound by ethical rules to charge their client reasonable fees. Factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of a fee include:
- The amount of work and time that will be spent on your case.
- The complexity of your case and research required for it.
- The likelihood that the lawyer will not be able to accept other cases after taking yours.
- The experience and reputation of a lawyer.
Further, ask the attorney whether the fee will be fixed or by the hour:
- A fixed fee arrangement will normally be paid by you up front and will cover all of the work the attorney will have to perform.
- With an hourly fee arrangement, the attorney may charge for things like calls, emails, and meetings, so it is crucial that you understand what you will be paying for.
You need to know when and how often you will be billed, whether you will be given a description of services you are going to be billed for, and what retainer fee you will have to pay if any.
Question 3: How can I communicate with you? What should I inform you about?
Ask the attorney what is the best way that you can reach them. Sometimes, urgent matters come up during the process and you may need to speak with the lawyer between your scheduled appointments. Some attorneys prefer email, instant messaging platforms, or phone calls. In certain cases, you will have to communicate with lawyer’s staff and it is necessary to know how and when it is better to contact them as well. Therefore, you may ask to meet them and ask the attorney to explain how those people will be involved in your case.
Additionally, ask what updates, life changes, or situations you will have to inform your lawyer about. Certain events such as a loss of a job, a DUI charge, or your spouse’s threats may significantly influence your case, especially if you have children, and this is something you have to share. However, when you do not understand what specifics an attorney expects you to tell them about, you may unintentionally withhold information that could have potentially changed the outcome of your divorce.
Question 4: What is your experience with financial support negotiations? Will you petition the court for my spouse to pay for my attorney fees?
If you and your spouse jointly own property, shares, financial accounts, or businesses, you would want your lawyer to have experience in negotiations that involve a division of assets and property of such kind.
Moreover, you might want to request alimony or child support and it is necessary to know whether you can do it, how much you can expect to receive, and whether your attorney is competent enough to help you with it.
In some states, your attorney can petition the court for your spouse to pay for his or her services. The judge may order for your spouse to pay your attorney’s fees if he or she makes significantly more money than you and you are financially dependent on him or her.
Question 5: What communication should I have with my spouse? What issues should I discuss with them?
Once you hire an attorney, you have attorney-client privilege. The privilege is not absolute and can be waived in certain circumstances, like if you disclose privileged information to your spouse or third parties.
It will be common for you to discuss the divorce with your spouse. However, you should refrain from discussing confidential information or communications that you have with your attorney.
You may ask specifically which topics you should avoid, how it would be best to behave with your spouse, and what things you should discuss with your lawyer before agreeing to them with your ex.
Question 6: Will I have access to my file and how can I get it?
You have the right to view your file. The way you gain access to your file will depend on your attorney and the structure of the firm. The lawyer will normally explain how you can access your file. Note that the requests should be reasonable, and you should give your attorney enough time to provide the file to you. Upon request, the lawyer should provide you with physical copies, a secured electronic copy, or schedule a date and time for you to visit the office and access it.
Question 7: How does the court usually rule on issues like those in my divorce? What kind of difficulties should I expect?
An attorney will not be able to guarantee you a particular result. But a competent and experienced professional will be able to tell you what the outcome of cases like yours typically look like. If the facts of your case are straightforward, it will be easier for the attorney to tell you the potential outcome.
The more complex your case is, the more likely it is that you might face certain difficulties. A lawyer will have to carefully analyze your situation to predict potential pitfalls and determine how to manage them adequately. While they will not be able to tell you about every difficulty prior to doing research, there are some that an experienced attorney should know are typical for situations similar to yours.
Question 8: What should I do about my living arrangements?
A divorce will typically impact your and your spouse’s living arrangements. While the decision to remain or move out of the marital home is a personal one, your lawyer may be able to point you to the right direction. Sometimes, you may have grounds to remove your spouse from the marital home and you should ask the attorney whether you have a legal basis to do it.
Question 9: What can I do about child custody and time sharing?
If you and your spouse have children together, you should ask your attorney questions about child custody and time sharing. The attorney should answer questions about whether you will have joint or sole custody, and what parenting plans will be available to you. Additionally, they should provide you with advice on what kind of childcare arrangements you can make with your spouse at the moment in order to ensure the wellbeing of your kids.
The lawyer should ask you questions about your living conditions, your and your spouse’s relationships with children, how siblings interact, what your work schedules are, if your kids are at risk of abuse when with your spouse or some of your relatives, etc. Such information will help them understand what would be in the best interest of your children and, thus, what advice to give you.