You probably never intended to need a divorce lawyer. So when you find yourself needing one, how do you know what to look for? The following tips can guide you toward finding an attorney that can help you.
You want an attorney that knows what they are doing. You can look an attorney up on the Texas Bar website to find out how many years they have been licensed. You can also see what areas of law that lawyer purports to practice. If a lawyer lists every area of practice, they may or may not have much family law experience. You know the saying: A jack of all trades is a master of none.
The Texas Board of Legal Specialization certifies lawyers in certain practice areas, including family law and child welfare. This certification ensures that the attorney has met a minimum standard of practice in that area including the number of years of practice, certain benchmark combinations of hearings and trials, peer review and a test for minimum competency.
Having an attorney with experience means that they are more likely to have encountered similar situations as the situation you are going through. They are more likely to know what resources are available to you. They are more likely to know what to do when something out of the norm arises. They’ve been there and done that, so to speak.
Location, Location, Location
Finding an attorney that regularly practices in the county and courts in which your divorce will be filed can save considerable frustration and expense. It is often said that a good lawyer knows the law and a great lawyer knows the judge. While this can sound nefarious, it can be taken to mean that a great lawyer knows the procedures of the court as well as how the judge tends to rule on particular matters or which arguments are more likely to be received favorably by the judge. Knowing how things are done in a particular court can keep things moving in the right direction without wasting time.
The physical location of an attorney’s office can also impact the expense of a divorce. While many activities in handling a case can be done remotely or via email, in-person hearings are often necessary. Paying travel time to an attorney that is within the same county as your divorce is more cost-effective than paying travel time for an attorney across the state. There are attorneys that are worth the travel time to have their experience and expertise on a specialized matter.
More than likely, you know someone that has gone through a divorce. People are usually more than willing to share their experiences with their attorney and whether they would recommend them or not. They can tell you whether they felt respected by their attorney, whether their attorney was communicative and whether they felt like their attorney was prepared. The highest compliment an attorney in family law can receive is when the opposing party recommends them to a friend.
If you know a lawyer that doesn’t practice family law, he or she may have insider information on who is good to hire for your particular family law needs. Lawyers know each other or at least know by reputation.
You may have circumstances in your life or case that needs an attorney with special skills or a knowledge base. If you are more comfortable communicating in a language other than English, it may be easier to have an attorney that speaks the same language. If you or your spouse has a military connection, it may be beneficial to have an attorney that is familiar with military benefits. If you have a child with special needs, you will want an attorney that has experience addressing issues that are unique to a special needs child like protecting government benefits, support past the age of eighteen and possession schedules that may be more appropriate given the child’s needs.
One area that often requires a family law attorney with special competence is when a family has a large number of valuable assets or high net worth in the estate to be divided in divorce. If one spouse owns a business, valuing the business and knowing how to handle division issues can be extremely complex and involved. If you are in this situation, you will want an attorney who has extensive experience in business issues to handle the divorce.
Good Vibes Only
Ultimately, you want an attorney that you can trust. Set a consultation with the attorney and get a feel for their personality and knowledge about your type of case. Do they listen to you, or do they speak over you? Do you feel comfortable telling this person private information regarding your life, your marriage and your finances? Do they have answers to your questions? Are they able to give you a general idea of how things work and what to expect? Be wary of any attorney that gives you absolutes or makes guarantees. You are hiring someone to represent you in your divorce. They should be able to advise you on the different options and the risks and benefits of the different courses of action. On the other hand, be wary of a lawyer who just tells you what you want to hear or commiserates with you emotionally. A lawyer advising on your divorce matter will need to have emotional detachment and an independent perspective to give you the best guidance.