Lawyer Selection FAQs

1. Should I be represented by a lawyer?

Litigation can be complex. Real estate law, debt refinancing, insurance, pension, other retirement asset division, child custody and support, taxes and business ownership division can pose unique problems to any particular case. Your lawyer can help you determine which of your assets are marital property and which are separate property. Your lawyer can advise you as to how the court might divide that property in the event of a trial. Additionally, your lawyer can advise you on how much money, if any, you should accept or offer for maintenance or child support. There is no such thing as a "standard" case. Many of those who obtain a divorce or defend a case without a lawyer end up regretting it.

2. How can I prepare for meeting with a lawyer?

Make a list of questions that concern you most for the initial consultation. At your initial interview you can expect to learn things you need to know in addition to what you want to know. It may also be helpful for you to gather certain documents in preparation for your first meeting with your attorney. Locate and copy your important documents, including:

  1. Financial statements
  2. Income tax returns
  3. Bank statements (business and personal)
  4. Canceled checks
  5. Brokerage or retirement account statements
  6. Employment contracts, particularly if related to a business interest

At the end of your first meeting, you will be provided with a list of other documents to copy and bring for the next meeting, as well as receive forms to fill out regarding assets, debts, income and expenses.

3. How do I find a qualified lawyer?

If you know lawyers who practice in another area of law, ask them for a referral. Also, speak to friends and family. Some local bar associations make referrals. Do not rely on one person. Feel free to interview several lawyers. Generally, the attorney will agree to meet with you for a consultation and you will pay a fee for just the meeting. Choosing the lawyer who will help you through your divorce is a crucial decision. You want to make sure that you feel a rapport with the individual you choose to become your lawyer.

4. What factors are most important in your choice of lawyer?

Your confidence in the lawyer, experience, accessibility, responsiveness, compatibility, style, negotiating skills, reputation and fees. Also, learn whether the lawyer practices only family law or practices in other areas as well. Family law is as much a specialty as any other. Ask the lawyer whether he or she is a member of the local, state and American bar associations' family law sections. Family law changes and evolves, often dramatically each year. Membership in outside organizations demonstrates the lawyer's commitment to continuing education and staying abreast of the changes and development in family law.