Five Things You MUST Know Before You Hire a Divorce Lawyer
Divorce can be one of the most stressful events in your life. Dealing with divorce for the first time can seem extremely overwhelming and stressful. If you are going through a divorce usually you feel uncertain about the future because you don’t have any experience with divorce or how it works. The internet is available to most people, so you can research divorce until you realize that you are in way over their head, and that you need some help. Let’s face it, divorce requires knowledge about child support, physical custody, legal custody, retirement plans, real estate, finance, tax law, and child safety laws, which lawyers spend years studying in law school. But how do you know which attorney to choose from? Here are five things you must know before you hire a divorce lawyer:
Many people go into hiring a divorce attorney with the misconception that they need a very aggressive, angry attorney in order to get the best deal in their divorce. These attorneys are sometimes known as “Bull Dog” attorneys. You should not hire a “Bull Dog” attorney for your case for two very good reasons: First, you have to work with this attorney. Your divorce is going to last at least three months, most likely it will go on for four to six months if not longer depending on whether you can reach an agreement or not. If you hire a “Bull Dog” you will have to deal with a “Bull Dog.” A lot of times this results in less communication from your attorney, less information about your options, less involvement in the strategy of your case, and less satisfaction with the result at the end.
Second, attorneys are all trained to negotiate and advocate. Family law is extremely broad and allows for a tremendous amount of flexibility to negotiate and settle your case, which in turn saves you money. When an attorney is too aggressive at the outset of the divorce case, it results in more arguing, more legal work, more hearings, and ultimately much higher fees. In the end, the result is the same as if you had just gone to mediation and resolved the matter there. Most attorneys are happy to go to court for you and advocate extremely well for you, but you also want an attorney who can negotiate a great settlement for you for the least amount of fees possible so you can move forward with your life.
Attorneys usually bill their time in six (6) minute pieces. This is pretty common among all attorneys. What varies is their hourly billing rate and their initial retainer. These amounts are very important because they can have a huge effect on your case. A retainer in Utah means a deposit. The attorney takes this money up front, and then earns it over time. For example, if Attorney A bills $250.00/hour for his/her work and requires a $2,000.00 retainer, the attorney would need to work eight (8) hours to earn the full retainer. Because the retainer is more of a deposit, how much an attorney requires is not really that important.
What you need to know is that if you hire an attorney for $250.00 per hour, and your case takes 20 hour to complete, you will have paid $5,000.00 for your divorce. But, if you hire an attorney that bills $225.00 per hour, and your case takes 20 hours to complete, then you will only pay $4,000.00 for your case. That is a difference of $500.00. Keep in mind that the attorneys who charge you a higher hourly rate are not necessarily better attorneys or more experienced. They simply charge more for the same, or sometimes worse, service.
Experience is extremely important in a divorce case. Divorce law changes frequently, and because it is based mostly on fairness, the only way to know how a certain commissioner or judge will rule in a given case is to have argued in front of those commissioners and judges in the past. Many attorneys who are just starting out practice divorce law and many firms that claim to handle divorce law take the cases only because they need the income, not because they specialize in divorce cases. When you are interviewing attorneys, make sure to find out how much of their practice deals with family law, specifically divorces. An attorney who has practiced for thirty (30) years but only handles a couple divorces a year will be less qualified than an attorney who has practiced for five (5) years but has spent their entire career handling divorce cases. For example, at Ammon Nelson Law, PLLC, family law is all we do, and divorces make up a large percentage of our case load.
Free Informational Guide
When you are interviewing attorneys for your divorce case, make sure to ask them for their free informational guide. Don’t take their word for it that they know what they are talking about. It is easy to fake it for a thirty (30) minute consultation. If they know what they are doing, they will have a free guide that they can give you that reviews what you have discussed in the consultation or gives you additional information about divorce. Don’t take their word for it, get their informational guide.
Divorce lawyers handle their offices differently. Some do not have secretaries and handle all of the work themselves keeping them so busy they are unable to keep in touch with their existing clients. Other lawyers have paralegals that end up handling most of your divorce case, while the attorney plays golf. Other lawyers are so busy practicing different areas of law, they forget all about your divorce case. Look for an attorney who handles all of his/her cases without the assistance of a paralegal, but who manages a smaller case load so that they will be accessible to you. You do not want a paralegal doing all of your legal work; otherwise you wouldn’t have hired an attorney. You don’t want an over-loaded attorney, because you want your case to get the attention it deserves. You don’t want an attorney who is busy handling cases other than divorce cases because you want to be a priority. It is better to get a voice mail once in awhile when you call your attorney with a return call from your actual attorney, then to have a paralegal answer your call every time just to tell you they can’t give you legal advice.
Remember these five tips when you are interviewing your divorce lawyer so that you hire the right attorney for you and for your case.