Before hiring a divorce attorney you need to gather information about his/her experience, how your case will be handled and what attorney fees you will pay. Below is a list of questions to ask before contracting with an attorney.
Questions about experience:
- How many divorce cases have you handled?
- How many of those cases were you able to settle out of court?
- Do you practice Collaborative Divorce?
- Do you know my spouse?
- Do you know my spouse’s attorney?
- Are you familiar with local Family Court Judges and how they rule?
- Do you believe it is better to mediate and negotiate than go to trial?
- Do you have experience negotiating child support, spousal support, large financial settlements or business valuation? Be specific about issues you feel will come up during your divorce.
Questions about how your case will be handled:
- Will you or another attorney in the firm be handling my case?
- Can I meet anyone else who will be involved in handling my case?
- What experience does he/she have?
- Are you available via phone or email?
- Do you have a heavy caseload? Will you have time to devote to my case?
- If I need to reach you, what is the best time of day?
- Will I receive copies of documents filed with the court, all communication with my spouse’s attorney and any other documents related to my case?
- Will I be kept informed of all developments in my case?
- Will you ask my opinion before planning strategy?
- What are your personal feelings about spousal support?
- What are your personal feelings about joint custody versus sole custody?
Questions about fees:
- What is your retainer fee?
- What is your hourly billing rate?
- Do any fees I pay include the services of any associates who work on my case?
- If my case goes to divorce court with there be extra fees?
- Will I sign a contract outlining the fee arrangement?
- Will I be sent itemized bills?
- Will I be kept updated about how the retainer fee is used and when it is used up?
- Will you petition the court for my spouse to pay my attorney fees?
- How much do you charge for letters and phone calls to my spouse’s attorney or me?
- How much will you charge for copies of all relevant documents?
- Will there be other costs such as court filing fees, process server fees or other extraordinary fees? Are these costs included in your fees or do I pay them separately?
- Will I be billed for communication via phone or email? If so what is your billing structure? Find out exactly how much the attorney feels his time is worth and how he bills for his time.
Once you have interviewed and decided which attorney you want to hire have that attorney draw up a fee contract. Do not give the attorney a retainer fee until a contract is written and signed by both you and the attorney. If the attorney refuses to do this, find another attorney.