Did you know that, as of 2022, the United States is home to over 1.32 million active lawyers? Many of these licensed legal professionals, in turn, specialize in divorce.
However, contrary to popular belief, the U.S. isn’t the world’s divorce capital. It’s true, though, that the country has among the highest divorce rates worldwide, at 2.7 per 1,000 people. And of all U.S. states, Nevada has the highest divorce rate, at a staggering 14%.
That said, if you’re filing for a divorce yourself, it pays to hire the best attorney to help with your case.
But how do you even find, let alone choose, the best legal counsel?
The guide below details the most crucial steps to help you make the right choice, so please read on.
Create a List of Prospects First
The first step to hiring the best lawyer for your divorce case is to look for family lawyers. These legal professionals handle family-related issues, including divorce, child abuse, and support arrangements.
To start your search (and comparison), look up “family and divorce attorney near me” online. You can also ask family members or friends who’ve had a divorce for referrals.
Your initial prospect list should have at least 3 to 5 names.
Confirm Your Prospects Handle Cases Like Yours
Once you have a prospect list, visit each attorney’s website to check the cases they handle.
A crucial step is to confirm the lawyer’s previous cases are similar to yours. The more similar cases they handled, the better, as it indicates their depth of experience. This is especially crucial if you believe your divorce may have to end in court.
In that case, hire a lawyer with significant experience in contested divorces. Such a divorce occurs when both parties can’t agree on matters or resolve disputes. These arguments often involve child custody and support, property division, and alimony.
Another example is when there’s a need for business valuation in divorce cases. A business is often contested, especially if both spouses can’t agree on its fair division.
Just as vital is for you to hire an attorney experienced in domestic violence if your spouse has such a history. It is also imperative for cases involving child, sexual, or substance abuse. A lawyer can prevent power imbalances that can make fair negotiation impossible.
Verify the Attorney Has Good Bar Standing
In the U.S., all attorneys must be State Bar members to practice law in their state legally. And before they can become Bar members, they must first get a license from the State’s Supreme Court.
State Bars play many roles, including regulating and disciplining attorneys. For example, they process complaints and investigate complainees for the guilt of malpractice. When they find guilty members, they reprimand, suspend, or disbar the complainees.
That said, one of the qualities of the best lawyer for your divorce is good Bar standing. You can confirm this by visiting your State Bar’s website or phoning them. They can then tell you about your prospective attorneys standing and status with the Bar.
Likewise, your State Bar can inform you about your prospects’ disciplinary history. They can even tell you the types of disciplinary actions each complainee has faced.
Check Each Lawyer’s Independent Reviews
Online platforms like Avvo and Martindale-Hubbell provide client and peer reviews of lawyers. That makes them an excellent source for independent ratings and reviews of attorneys. They even allow you to check the disciplinary records of both lawyers and law firms.
Some of the review criteria used by such platforms include:
- Communication ability
- Quality of service
- Value for money
Reviewers can also leave comments about their interactions with the lawyers they review. For instance, they can answer a section asking whether they’d recommend an attorney or a law firm. They can then write an explanation about why they would or would not.
It’s free to check and read lawyer reviews on those online platforms. So, please use them to help you gauge each of your prospects.
Call Each Lawyer
Some divorce attorneys offer a free phone consultation, usually for 15 minutes. Use this to determine your prospects’ responsiveness and communication ability. If they don’t even answer the call, that may indicate they’re too busy to handle your case.
If they answer, tell them about your situation and ask them if you need a lawyer.
If you don’t have kids or significant assets, a reputable attorney will likely tell you it’s okay not to have one. Likewise, they may suggest the same if you and your spouse don’t have disputes. Such cases are less complex and fit the uncontested divorce bill.
On the other hand, a less reliable lawyer will likely push you to hire them even in such cases. This is a red flag, so it’s wise to cross their name off your prospect list.
Schedule an In-Person Consultation
Suppose your case is complex, such as if you’re filing for a contested divorce. In this case, consider investing in a paid in-person consultation.
Consultations are often billable by the hour, although some lawyers may charge a flat fee. The cost varies from state to state, with the typical range being $200 to $300+ hourly.
Use this time to gauge the lawyer’s professionalism and personality. Remember: You’re already paying them, so they must be on time for the consultation. If they’re already late and they brush it off, take that as a red flag.
The best attorney will listen to your story without speaking over you. Then, they will ask relevant questions, such as how you wish to handle your case, once you finish talking.
The best lawyer will also help you reduce costs if you tell them you need to in the first place. For instance, they may suggest you handle simple tasks, such as filling out forms. Don’t worry; a reliable attorney will still advise you on which documents you must fill out.
Hire the Best Attorney for Your Divorce
The best attorney for your divorce is the one with the most experience handling cases like yours. They also have excellent bar standing and client and peer reviews and don’t push you to hire them. Lastly, they’ll make you feel the most comfortable during the consultation.
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