Divorce is a significant step. The way your divorce is handled can have a lasting impact on the rest of your life, including implications for your personal finances, your relationship with your children, and more.
For those who have never been divorced before, the process can seem especially daunting. The right divorce attorney can help you navigate the legal proceedings and ensure you get the best outcome from your situation.
As such, choosing the right divorce lawyer is critical. Before you choose a firm, make sure you interview candidates thoroughly, asking all the right questions to find a lawyer who instills you with confidence.
Key Questions to Ask Your Divorce Lawyer
Here are a few of the most illuminating questions you will want to ask.
1) How many divorce cases have you handled?
Getting a divorce can be stressful. One of the best things you can do to preserve your own emotional stability is to select a divorce attorney who can lead and guide you with confidence, carefully considering all the long-term legal and financial repercussions on your behalf.
2) How often do you reach an out-of-court divorce settlement agreement?
Sometimes, you just cannot avoid your divorce proceedings going to court. When this happens, though, it usually means your divorce case is going to last longer and probably prove more expensive.
Reaching a divorce settlement agreement out of court is preferable. This basically means you and your ex are able to arrive at a compromise without the need for prolonged litigation.
If you can find a divorce attorney with a great track record for reaching divorce settlement agreements out of court, that is typically a good sign.
3) What is your take on collaborative divorce?
With collaborative divorce, the two exes work together as partners rather than adversaries, seeking the best solution to their problems while trying to maintain amicable relationships with one another.
The collaborative approach may not be best in every single situation, but if you want to stay on friendly terms with your ex, it is worth discussing it with your divorce attorney.
4) Do you know my spouse or my spouse’s attorney?
Generally speaking, you want your divorce lawyer to be someone who will serve your interests without any bias toward your ex.
Make sure you verify that the attorney you hire does not have any significant connection with the other parties involved.
5) How well do you know the local family court judges?
Try to find a divorce lawyer who has ample experience working in local family court and, specifically, a divorce lawyer who has a good feel for how local judges tend to rule. This can really be advantageous for your case. For example, if your attorney knows from experience that a particular judge is more stringent on custody rulings, that can impact the way your case is formulated.
6) What is your experience with LGBTQ divorce cases?
This may not be relevant for everyone, but if you are not in a straight or straight-passing marriage, you will probably want to find an attorney who has some experience handling same-sex divorces. And, for the sake of your own emotional fortitude, you may be better off actively seeking an attorney who is known for being an LGBTQ ally. The partners at Clagett & Barnett are both proud to support LGBTQ individuals however they can, whether through upholding their marriage rights or guiding them through divorce proceedings.
7) Do you generally prefer to mediate and negotiate or go to trial?
As we noted above, going to trial is usually going to mean prolonged proceedings. The main thing for you to confirm is that you and your divorce attorney are on the same page. If you really want to try mediation and negotiation, but your divorce lawyer seems bent on going to trial, then you are probably going to clash and work at cross purposes. It may be better to find an attorney whose approach better aligns with your own wishes.
8) What kind of experience do you have handling financial settlements?
Money is bound to come up in virtually any divorce, whether in the form of a business valuation or child support payments. To ensure you get an optimal outcome, you will want to make sure your divorce lawyer has ample experience handling these matters.
9) Will you be handling my case personally or passing it off to someone else at your firm?
You may meet a divorce attorney whose personality and style you really like. You may “click” with this person and look forward to working with them through your divorce proceedings.
So, what happens when you find that you are not actually going to work directly with this attorney, but rather with a junior partner from their firm? This can naturally be frustrating. To avoid this, we recommend simply verifying that the attorney you speak with is the one who will be doing the bulk of the work on your case, and that they are the person with whom you will be directly communicating throughout the process.
10) How can I contact you?
During your divorce proceedings, you are naturally going to have questions or concerns that arise. You may even have a moment where your emotions spike, and you just need someone to talk to.
As such, it is only reasonable to ask how your attorney can be reached. Will they answer their phone when you call? Will they reply to texts? How long will it take them to return your emails?
Before hiring a divorce attorney, establish some basic expectations for communication.
11) What is your caseload like?
This one is tricky. On the one hand, if your divorce attorney is currently juggling 30 different cases, they may not be able to provide you with the personal attention you would like.
On the other hand, if your attorney does not have any other clients, that may be a bit of a red flag.
Look for a divorce lawyer who will be honest with you about their current caseload, and who can make reasonable commitments to be accessible to you even as they balance their other clients’ needs.
12) How will you keep me informed?
Some clients really want to be in the loop for every last detail of their case. Others just want to be brought up to speed on the major developments. Talk with your divorce lawyer about how and when they will provide updates. Again, the most important thing here is to set proper expectations upfront.
13) What are your feelings regarding sole custody versus joint custody?
The decision to pursue sole custody or joint custody will not only have a seismic impact on your case, but on the rest of your and your child’s life.
It can be challenging to know which path you wish to pursue. You may want to know the personal feelings of your lawyer. Ask where they stand on the issue both as a legal professional, but also as a parent.
14) How much will you charge me?
Of course, it is important to discuss financial matters before you sign on the dotted line. Specifically, ask your divorce lawyer how much they will charge for their retainer fee and hourly billing rate. Finally, clarify whether you are going to be charged a fee for any associates who your attorney enlists to help them develop your case.
(Note: A lot of lawyers will volunteer this information, ensuring you can actually afford them before they spend too much time advising you but just in case they do not mention it, be prepared to bring it up yourself.)
15) What about extra fees?
While you are discussing money, ask your attorney whether you will be charged any extra fees should your case wind up in court. It is fairly common for lawyers to charge additional fees before they are willing to argue your case in court. (Note that this is another reason why you may want to find a lawyer who will help you push for an out-of-court divorce settlement agreement.)
16) Will you petition the court for my spouse to pay my attorney’s fees?
Are you financially dependent on your (soon-to-be-ex) spouse? If so, then you may wish to find an attorney who is willing to petition for the court to have your spouse pay all attorney’s fees.
Also, make sure you ask your divorce lawyer about the implications of this on your case as a whole. For instance, if your spouse pays all attorney’s fees, that may make it more likely that your divorce lawyer will urge you toward a collaborative divorce.
17) What is your experience with high conflict divorces?
This is not relevant to everyone, but in some cases, you might rightly assume that your divorce will be particularly contentious.
These cases require a specialized skillset, so make sure you find a divorce attorney who has the necessary level of experience.
18) What is your strategy for my case?
Of course, during an initial consultation, your divorce attorney will not have a fully formed strategy. However, they can probably provide you with some basic insights, simply based on the preliminary details of your case. It may be helpful for you to hear your divorce lawyer discuss strategy, even if it is just in general terms.
Additionally, ask whether you will be given the opportunity to weigh in on the strategy or to grant your approval before the strategy is pursued.
19) How long will it take to resolve my case?
Most attorneys will be willing to offer an estimated date range, helping you to set the correct expectations and better understand the divorce process. More than anything, asking this question can help you assess your attorney’s ability to speak candidly with you, as opposed to beating around the bush.
20) What is your life like outside of your legal practice?
When you choose a divorce lawyer, you are ultimately choosing someone with whom you are going to share an intimate bond over the course of several months. It is natural to want to partner with a person who encourages you to speak freely and with whom you can relate.
For example, many clients feel more comfortable with Cassie & Margo because they know our attorneys are both mothers and wives who are committed to their own families, and that they live rich and balanced lives even outside of their legal work.
Finding the Right Divorce Lawyer in Kentucky
Getting a divorce is a big step in your life, and it is not one you should make all on your own. Instead, make sure you find a skilled and qualified divorce lawyer who will advocate for your interests, answer your questions, and invest in your emotional wellbeing.
For those who are pursuing divorce in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, the attorneys at Clagett & Barnett boast a sterling reputation. To speak with one of our lawyers about the details of your case, reach out to our firm at any time.