Thinking about hiring a divorce attorney can come with a lot of emotions and might even feel overwhelming. We get it—if you’re not sure what the process looks like, it can be hard to envision what the future holds.
We tell clients this: Try to take things step by step, especially at the beginning of the process. If you try to imagine exactly what your life will look like afterward or make a plan for the entire process at once, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Instead, we recommend beginning at—you guessed it!—the beginning. And the first step? Having a conversation with a divorce attorney.
Make a list of what’s important to you
When you go to the grocery store with a list, it makes the whole process much more straightforward: you get everything you need, you feel less stressed, and you make it through the store more efficiently.
The same goes for preparing to hire a divorce attorney. Making a list of your priorities helps you feel more confident and prepared—and it may help you identify underlying concerns, questions, and needs you can bring up with an attorney.
Here are a few key questions to ask yourself:
- What’s important to you in your divorce?
- What kind of support would you like to have?
- What do you define as the “best” outcome for your family?
- What kind of relationship do you want with your attorney?
- How do you best receive communication? (Gently, bluntly, in writing, verbally, etc.)
- What level of experience would you like your attorney to have?
- Do you need help with specialized issues like divorce within multi-parent families or relocating with a child during the divorce?
Research divorce attorneys in your area
Once you have your list, research divorce attorneys in your area. Get a sense of what working with them would be like by reading through the content on their website. Is it informative and helpful? Watch any recorded videos and see if their communication style comes through.
The goal? Finding a divorce attorney who aligns with your needs and your personality.
If you have friends and family you trust, you can also reach out to them for referrals. While you may feel understandably hesitant to ask for suggestions on divorce attorneys, personal recommendations from someone you trust can be incredibly helpful.
Choose a lawyer from the list
Once you’ve done some research, you should have a good start identifying the right divorce attorney for YOU.
Remember, while background and credentials are important, your relationship with your divorce attorney is important.
As you reach out to lawyers, pay attention to your experience with their office.
- Do they respond quickly?
- Is their staff friendly and supportive?
- Do they provide clear instructions for the next steps?
- Do they make you feel welcomed and paid attention to before you even talk with an attorney?
Set up a consultation
The consultation with your divorce attorney is essential—you’re going to be having some significant discussions with them, after all. During your consultation, you’ll decide if they’re the right fit for you or whether you need to keep looking.
Helpful tip: Before your consultation, try to gather key financial documents to give the attorney a more detailed understanding of your life, family, and marriage. A great way to know if you’re immediately getting value is whether or not your prospective attorney reviews the documents in advance. If so, this can make your discussion more tailored to your needs and concerns and therefore more productive.
(But if you’re having a hard time putting it all together, don’t worry too much. If you decide to work with the attorney, they should guide you through the necessary documentation later.)
Ask the right questions during the consultation
You may also want to prepare a list of questions to ask the attorney. It’s easy to forget questions in the middle of that first conversation, especially when the attorney asks you questions of their own. Having notes on hand can help you get more out of the consultation.
You’ll want to ask questions that are personally relevant to your situation, but you should also consider asking about the lawyer’s experience and how they approach divorce cases.
- Are you experienced in helping clients with situations like mine?
- What’s your preferred approach to client communication?
- Do you believe it is better to mediate and negotiate than go to trial?
- What is your experience negotiating spousal support or settlements?
Once you’re in the consultation, pay attention to whether or not the divorce attorney listens to what you ask and whether they answer your questions in a way that’s easy to understand. The way they communicate with you during the first consultation probably reflects how they’ll communicate in the future.
You should also note whether or not they seem to care about the unique details of your case. No two divorce proceedings are precisely the same, and you want to hire a lawyer who looks for creative and individualized solutions.
What are the costs associated with divorce?
Talking about divorce can be challenging. So can talking about money. And one question that’s likely already on your mind along with how much you are going to get from your spouse or pay to your spouse is: how much is your divorce going to cost?
Every divorce case is different, and there’s no way to perfectly estimate the cost of your divorce upfront. Generally speaking, more complex cases—ones with more assets, complex family structures, and higher levels of conflict—often come with greater expenses.
That being said, the approach you take for your divorce can significantly impact the final cost. Divorces that use alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods such as mediation tend to be faster, less expensive, and less combative than a litigated divorce.
While it’s important to hire a lawyer who can litigate for you if needed, it’s equally important to work with someone who understands the benefits of ADR and can help you explore your options. You’ll ultimately end up with a divorce that better reflects your needs and concerns.
What will the divorce process be like?
Although your divorce attorney can’t predict the future, they can help you understand what the proceedings might look like and what you might expect.
Some parts of the divorce process can be predictable. For example, it’s common to discuss equitable division of assets, child custody, and spousal support. An attorney who has your needs in mind will walk you through the process step by step so you feel comfortable.
Each divorce has unique variables, though, and these variables can impact the timeline, costs, and the emotional experience of the divorce.
If you have concerns about certain aspects of the process, make sure to call them out as early on in the process as possible. The more your attorney knows about what’s on your mind, the better they can support you and advocate for your needs.
How long will the divorce process take?
Once again, the answer to this question will depend on your specific circumstances.
That said, the divorce process can take a year or longer. If you and your attorney think you may be eligible for spousal support, ask them about temporary spousal support to see you through.
An experienced attorney will also tell you that ADR is typically faster than a court divorce. That said, in some challenging cases, ADR may not be an option. Don’t try to force a square peg into a round hole.
Looking for a divorce attorney in New Jersey? We can help!
If you’re looking for a divorce attorney in New Jersey, the attorneys at our family law firm can help you.
With decades of combined experience to draw on, we take pride in finding creative and individualized solutions to divorce cases. Our goal is to reduce your stress and help you lay the foundation for the kind of life you want after divorce.
If you need a communicative and experienced lawyer for your divorce, contact us to schedule a strategic planning session.