Your Divorce Attorney: What to Look For, How to Manage

gray divorce, divorced over 50

For many of us, our Divorce Over 50 is the first time we’ve ever had to deal with an attorney.  Yep, just one more thing about it that really sucks.

So at a terrible time in your life, with all sorts of stress and emotion and pressure, you have to navigate that new, confusing, scary, and expensive world of Divorce lawyers.

How do you even go about trying to find an attorney? The first step is to ask for help. Have any of your friends, family, or co-workers gone through a Divorce? Would they recommend their attorney? Might they recommend the opposing attorney? You might also consider seeking referrals from other professionals you use, like your accountant or insurance agent. They’re often in networking groups with attorneys, and may have a sense of who you should at least interview.

Here’s an article from DivorceNet which addresses interviewing a Divorce lawyer. Asking these questions will  help you get a sense of the attorney’s qualifications, strategy, philosophy, and a projection of the costs you’ll face. In addition to using DivorceNet’s guide as a cheat-sheet for questioning potential attorneys, the site will also help you find qualified lawyers in your area (that’s not an endorsement, just provided informationally).

Then, once you’ve hired an attorney, it’s important to continue monitoring his or her performance to ensure it’s what you want. In this blog post, family law attorney Cheryl Stein says she’s often taken over cases for  clients who had come to distrust their previous lawyer. Many times, these clients felt their attorney was more interested in their relationship with the opposing counsel than with them.

Stein says clients need to insist on transparency with their attorney, meaning open, clear, and honest communications. Clients should be getting regular updates on the progress of their case, and be copied on all written communications. She adds that clients should expect their attorney to be a zealous advocate for them, but also hold realistic goals and accept their advice about the likelihood of achieving those outcomes.

Finally, here’s a fun, tongue-in-cheek article from John Morrison, a Divorce mediator. Morrison offers “advice” on how to make your Divorce as expensive as possible. His 15 tips include:

  • Don’t tell your spouse you’re filing, then have him or her served at a time and place that’s sure to make them angry — that’ll get the fire started.
  • Don’t try to work out a settlement — he or she needs to pay and be punished.
  • Hire a “mad dog” attorney who will fight to get you all you deserve.
  • Find reasons to hire top-dollar outside experts, such as forensic accountants, psychologists, and valuation specialists.

Morrison has found a clever way to make the point that Divorce mediation, his specialty, is a better (and cheaper) way to go. Check it out — if nothing else, his “tips” make a nice list of things NOT to do when getting Divorced.