Choosing the Right Legal Help for Your Divorce
- Decide whether you really need an attorney
- Find a good fit
- Trust your instincts
- Alternatives to lawyering up
- More helpful resources
Here's our best advice on how to choose the right legal help for your divorce.
Decide whether you really need an attorney
Before you hire an attorney and lay down a hefty retainer fee, know that you may not need a divorce lawyer at all. If your divorce is uncontested, it's possible for you to handle the paperwork yourself or with the help of a service like Hello Divorce. Most states allow for pro se divorce, meaning individuals can represent themselves in their divorce.
If your divorce is contested – meaning you and your spouse do not agree on all issues related to property division, spousal support/alimony, child support, child custody, or other matters – you might still be able to get divorced without a lawyer's help. How? You could engage the services of a mediator, a professional negotiator who can foster communication and compromise between you and your soon-to-be ex. This could keep your costs down (mediation costs a lot less than litigation) and quite possibly keep your divorce out of court altogether.
Or, you could work with a legal coach who could help you draft documents, provide legal guidance, implement a legal strategy, and negotiate your divorce terms.
Not sure if mediation will work for you?
Our free download can help.
Make sure your attorney is a good fit
If you decide to "lawyer up" the old-fashioned way, first things first: Interview several potential family law attorneys before hiring one. Many lawyers offer a free initial consultation to see if it's a good match. Don't be afraid to take them up on this. It's important for you to find the best person for the job.
We offer the following tips for making sure the divorce attorney you choose is the right fit.
Check up on their tech
To get the best outcome for your divorce, you must be an active participant in the process.
As you interview attorneys, ask if their office uses technology like Clio, MyCase, or other case management software. With this kind of program, you can log in to message your attorney, review your filed documents, and track the status of your divorce case.
Get a handle on communication preferences
If you're an email junkie and detest interaction by phone (or vice versa), make that clear. If you want regular face-to-face meetings to discuss your case, video conferencing, or messaging through a platform that is extra-secure, make that clear.
Lay out your expectations for communication upfront. If the legal help you're interviewing pushes back or refuses to set the type of communication schedule you want, you can always walk out the door and find someone else who is on the same page ... or is willing to get on it.
Remember: This is your divorce. You get to be picky about who helps you through it and how often you check in with your legal help.
Find out if your lawyer has staff (preferably a trained paralegal). You can cut down significantly on attorney fees by forming a relationship with team members who bill at a lower hourly rate.
Understand their plan to get you to the finish line (before you sign the dotted line)
After you walk a potential attorney through your case, they should be able to provide you with at least a rough plan for how they could get you the divorce outcome you seek.
If they don't bring up strategy, you should. Some lawyers run to court for every little thing in a divorce. If that does or doesn't feel right to you, ask how often they typically find themselves in court during the divorce process.
Are you anticipating a heated child custody battle? Ask your lawyer how they've helped clients reach an acceptable outcome when they've worked in similar situations in the past.
Your divorce strategy might change, and that's okay. But if your lawyer is known for only one type of practice (e.g., "most aggressive lawyer in town"), they may be good in court, but that doesn't necessarily make for cost-effective, strategic representation.
Trust your instincts
If everything about an attorney sounds good but still doesn't feel right, keep looking.
You have to trust your gut.
Remember, this process is a marathon, not a sprint. You're going to be sharing more of yourself with your lawyer – emotions, finances, ambitions – than you probably have with anyone in a long time.
You don't need to be best buds with your attorney, but you are going to be spending a lot of time together, and you will be putting an incredible amount of trust in them. So, you need to like them. A rushed decision could cost you in more ways than just your pocketbook. Take your time, and choose carefully.
Alternatives to "lawyering up"
As mentioned above, you might not need a divorce lawyer at all.
Since one of the primary goals of divorce is to create a divorce settlement agreement that satisfies everyone, it may be possible for you to get divorced through a combination of DIY methods, mediation, legal coaching, and other services offered by Hello Divorce.
For example, if you and your soon-to-be former spouse need help deciding who gets to keep certain pieces of marital property, like the marital home or other real estate, a mediator could help with that. If you need an expert to help you figure out how to split your credit card debt, joint account assets, retirement account benefits, and so forth, a Hello Divorce financial planner (certified divorce financial analyst, or CDFA) could help you with that.
The professional services we offer cost far less than a divorce attorney’s fees. You select what you need from our menu of plans and services (ask an account coordinator for help doing this if you need more information). When you do, you know exactly how much you’ll pay for your divorce proceedings before they even start.
We provide emotional support, too
We founded Hello Divorce because we realized the current legal system wasn’t cutting it. People going through divorce need more than the system provides. For example, they might need information about how to find a post-divorce health insurance policy. They might need assistance searching for a job or finding a place to live after divorce. They might need help setting up a post-divorce budget or improving their credit score. We provide all of this information and a lot more in our many online articles, downloadable guides, and checklists.
More helpful resources
To learn more about what we offer, you can schedule a free 15-minute call with one of our account coordinators. We also suggest the following reading:
- Divorce Coach: Providing Support through a Divorce
- A Beginner's Guide to Divorce Mediation
- Everything You Need to Know about Divorce Judgment Processing