Before hiring any attorney, the first question you must ask is whether
you need to hire a divorce attorney at all. In California, if you a short-term
marriage, with no children from the marriage, and little or no property
and/or debt, you may be able to resolve the divorce without attorney assistance.
However, if the marriage is not short term, there are children involved
and/or other issues, legal advice is probably the best way to handle a divorce.
Once you’ve determined that you need an attorney, the next issue
is finding the right attorney for your situation.
Although there are many different ways to find an attorney, most people
find their attorneys in one of three ways: through advertisements in phone
books, etc.; going online for local attorneys, or referrals from friends
or family. All of these methods are helpful, but more is needed to ensure
the best possible outcome: a just divorce. Before hiring any attorney,
do your own investigative work.
Schedule an appointment to meet with the attorney. At the meeting:
- Ask the attorney what his/her experience is with family law. How many years
has he/she been practicing family law? Is family law the focus of the
law firm, or is it just an adjunct? Is he or she a certified family law
specialist and/or does he/she specialize in the practice of family law?
How available will the attorney be to answer your questions? How does
the client get in touch with the attorney in case of an emergency? If
your divorce issues are unusual and/or complicated, is the attorney qualified
to help you with your issues? (Many issues, such as future pension distributions,
can be quite complicated.)
- Ask questions about costs and billing and communications procedures. How
much does the attorney charge per hour? What are the attorney’s
fees for his/her employees’ hours (such as paralegal hours)? Are
there any other additional charges? (For instance, expect to be charged
court filing fees, but be sure the attorney advises you of what those
costs are as well as any other expected-fees/costs.) Besides in-person
and telephone communications, does the attorney correspond via e-mail,
texting, or any other form of technological communications?
Check with the State Bar of California
www.calbar.org. This will ensure his/her attorney status and determine whether he/she
has a disciplinary record.
Finally, before hiring any attorney, be sure you feel comfortable with
him/her. This person is going to be involved in some of the most personal
aspects of your life and those of your family. Is this the person you
want to handle these matters?