The following are guidelines to consider when selecting a divorce attorney who is the right fit for your needs:
There is no guarantee that an experienced attorney will be better for you than one who has been practicing for a shorter time, but it is reasonable to start with the idea that the more experienced lawyer will have a better idea about what other local lawyers are like and what might happen if you take your case before a specific judge in your community. Experience in handling divorces is crucial, not just years of general legal experience. Divorce law is complex and complicated, so research who in your community has been representing clients in divorces for a number of years.
The Texas Board of Legal Specialization certifies lawyers as specialists in specific areas of law, including family law. Attorneys who are “board certified” in family law have concentrated their practice in family law, have demonstrated a specific level of experience in different kinds of cases, and have passed a rigorous examination.
Personality and Practice Style
People who are getting divorced often feel vulnerable and lost. Your family lawyer’s personality should reassure you while not giving you unrealistic expectations about the outcome of your case. The right lawyer for you will listen to how you feel your case should proceed, then build on that information using his or her expertise, skill and experience.
Think about how a lawyer makes you feel when you are in his or her office. Does it seem like people in the office are interested in your well being? Are they courteous and respectful? During your first visit with an attorney you will probably see the best he or she has to offer because the attorney and staff will want to make a good impression on potential clients.
It is essential that an attorney and client have a clear understanding about how the client will be charged and how the fees will be paid. Most family law attorneys in Texas will bill the client at an hourly rate (which will differ based on specific communities and the experience and skill of the attorney) and will require a retainer in order to begin work on your case.
While it is almost always difficult to discuss money transactions, it is a discussion that needs to occur. Attorneys usually have written fee agreements or employments contracts. Read these documents carefully. If you have a limited amount of money available to pay for a divorce, tell the lawyer this information at the beginning of the relationship. If the lawyer does not believe he or she can complete the case for that amount of money, it is probably best to look elsewhere for an attorney. Most attorneys have a list of less-expensive lawyers to whom they refer, so ask for names. The worst outcome is to get into the middle of a divorce or other family law matter then have insufficient funds to pay your lawyer or another lawyer to complete the process.
Ask an attorney you are interviewing how he or she will help you find ways to keep the costs of the divorce down. Make sure they know what your financial parameters are, and what expectations you have regarding costs.
It is helpful to ask for referrals from friends who have been through divorces, but remember that the facts of their case, their personalities, their estate, and their children are different from yours. Just because an attorney was a good fit for your neighbor does not mean that same lawyer will be right for you. Ask friends and acquaintances what about their lawyer they liked and did not like. Also ask about their spouse’s lawyer. What did that attorney do to help calm the waters or make matters worse? Information from friends and lawyers, though, is just a piece of information. Use that, along with the other information you gather to decide which lawyer will best meet your needs.
Choosing the right divorce attorney for you can be the factor that decides how easy or difficult your entire divorce process will be. The decision is too important to make lightly. Do not hesitate to interview more than one attorney so you can get a feel about what alternatives are available. At the end of the interview process, you have to assess your overall comfort level with an attorney before you decide if he or she is right for you given your circumstances at the time you begin the divorce process.