After a lot of soul searching, you’ve decided it’s time to file for divorce. Now you have another big decision on your hands, choosing the right divorce attorney. This decision will likely be one of the most important in your life. Therefore, you need an effective plan to follow in order to select the right attorney who will look after your interests and protect your rights.
To help you, here are 5 critical steps to finding the ideal divorce lawyer for your case:
Here are a few questions you’ll want to ask potential law firms during your initial consultation.
You’ll find there are many law firms who do take on divorce cases but do not specialize in family law. Divorce law, especially in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a complex area with new developments and constant changes. The laws are regularly revised by the legislature or even overturned by the courts. A family law attorney will be up to date on the law, and understand what the changes may mean to your case. You want a legal team with in-depth knowledge of divorce law. An attorney with a superficial understanding is not what you’re looking for.
Talk with your attorney about his/her experience. As we mentioned earlier, family law is a complex area, with many moving parts, including things like distribution of property, custody, child support, alimony, visitation, protective orders, and you want an attorney who has knowledge and expertise working with family law cases. Experience means that he/she is more likely to keep up with changes to the law, know the local courts, judges and how the law is interpreted not only in Virginia, but in your local jurisdiction.
Divorce can be expensive and no one likes to be charged more than they expect. Finding the right divorce attorney requires due diligence on your part. You may be tempted to skip over asking about fees when you find a lawyer with whom you feel comfortable. However, it’s important to get all the information you can about their services and what is included in their fee.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the law firm’s pricing structure. You’re looking for someone who is comfortable and transparent about talking about fees, retainers, payment schedules, what’s included and what is not. An attorney who is hesitant to disclose this information is most probably not your best choice.
Ask whether the lawyer charges an hourly or flat rate and what the payment terms or plans look like. Ask for an estimate as to how much a divorce like yours might cost. Be sure to ask if you’ll need to pay for time spent on the telephone and with other members of their practice including administrative people and paralegals.
Estimate costs for other professionals such as psychologists, business valuators, accountants, and forensic experts if applicable to your case. While obtaining this information requires more effort, it also means you’ll have a clear understanding of what to expect as far as fees and will avoid unwelcome surprises.
No two divorce cases are exactly the same. It stands to reason that divorce cases are as unique as the individuals involved. However, there is some common overlap between cases.
You want an attorney who has experience with cases like yours. They should be familiar working with the major issues of your case and know how to navigate complicated matters like property division, jointly owned businesses and custody issues.
Be upfront and honest with your attorney about the ins and outs of your case and possible special circumstances. There’s no reason to be embarrassed. An attorney can’t help you if they don’t understand the intricacies of your specific situation. The last thing you want is a lawyer who has never dealt with situations like your own. Your divorce is not the time to be someone’s guinea pig.
Which would you prefer: a lawyer who’s just getting to know the local courts and judges, or one who is deeply familiar with local family courts? Obviously, just about everyone would prefer an attorney who has local knowledge and experience. You’ll want to ask how well they know any judges who may be involved with your case. The right divorce lawyer will be able to develop their strategy in a way that both suits your case and aligns with the local court system.
Melone Hatley is a general practice law firm based in Reston and serves the Northern Virginia area. Our practice areas include Family Law, Divorce and Special Needs Children, Traffic Ticket Defense, DUI/DWI Defense, and Trust and Estate Law. Our philosophy is to provide all of our clients with the highest quality legal representation, innovative legal solutions, and unsurpassed dedication to customer service. Through our high standards, we strive to be a trusted resource to our clients.
We know from experience that a successful attorney-client relationship depends on our ability to understand your needs and objectives. For more information about our divorce attorneys and family law practice, contact our office today at 703.995.9900 or visit our website: www.MeloneLawPC.com.