Finding the best divorce attorney can be challenging. Between the emotional distress of processing a dissolution of marriage and knowledge of the financial implications of divorce, it can be very difficult to make a wise and smart decision. Many people end up with an attorney that they can’t afford, or someone not suited to manage the unique needs of their case because they went with the first lawyer they met with.
You need to be prepared to make a very big decision in what can sometimes be a very short amount of time. Whether you’ve been blindsided by a partner’s decision to file, or have seen a divorce coming for a very long time, you deserve to have the best representation possible. Here are our considerations for how to make a smart, facts-driven decision to find a lawyer that will represent you with skill and compassion.
Get the best divorce attorney you can afford
The first step is to consider your case and be realistic about the scope of your needs and what you can afford. Consider the details that are particular to your case and research lawyers in your area that fit your needs and budget. In Washington the average divorce costs between $10,500 and $12,000, and that number can fluctuate depending on how complex your divorce is and how specific your needs are.
Remember that your needs go beyond the bottom line and you should be considering the expertise required to handle the specifics of your case. For example, if you anticipate a complex division of real estate assets, look for lawyers that have experience litigating and negotiating complex division of real estate asset issues. When you are splitting a business, you’ll need a lawyer who has professional connections with business valuators.
If you are more concerned about the needs of your children and custodial rights, you should research lawyers skilled in family law. Taking your time in the beginning to research your best options will cut down on time later on as you move to schedule free consultations from your short list.
A free consultation is offered by most lawyers and designed to allow you to get to know them briefly, have them review your case, and decide if their expertise is the right fit for your needs. You can also use the Washington State Bar website to check their license, how long they’ve been practicing, and their disciplinary history if any, to get a sense of their standing within your legal community before you schedule a consultation.
Is the attorney a good fit?
Looking for the best divorce attorney isn’t always easy. When meeting with or speaking directly to each attorney, you can ask more detailed questions, such as their firsthand experience with cases similar to yours in Washington state, their retainer, hourly and court rates, any other pertinent legal fees and conditions of payment, the strategy they envision that will help resolve your case successfully, and their expectations of the time it will take to get to that resolution.
The best divorce attorney will take the time to explain the advantages of their proposed strategy, but also the disadvantages or compromises you may need to take to get to a satisfactory resolution. They can also explain the pros and cons of alternate options to help you understand all the choices at hand, in addition to sharing the resources that their firm has or access to experts outside the legal field that can help advance your case.
Keep your goal in mind
It’s also important to consider your ultimate goal, and for most people that is to get divorced with as little pain and financial repercussion as possible. Keeping your eye on that goal will help you avoid a snappy or emotion-driven decision.
It can be tempting to go with the first lawyer you think is the best divorce attorney; that’s only natural, you want to get the process started as soon as possible so that it can be over as soon as possible. But keeping the goal of a minimally damaging divorce at the forefront can help you be judicious in selecting who represents you. This in turn can keep you from inadvertently choosing someone inexperienced or ill-suited to your needs, which might make your case drag out longer and ultimately cost you more money.
Do you need a Pitbull or a shepherd?
It is also important to consider how contentious (or not!) you expect your divorce to be. This matters when it comes to how you and your former partner are handling the emotional and financial upheaval that comes with divorce. A divorce from a reasonable person that requires lawyers for practical reasons (such as a complex division of assets) requires a different type of lawyer than a contentious divorce where a former partner is paying top dollar for aggressive or prestigious representation in order to get the most they can from you.
Having a sense of who and what you are dealing with can help you make a wise decision as to who represents you in court. Even knowing who is representing your former partner can be information that helps you (and any lawyer you consult with) decide on how to best represent your needs in court.
What was your first impression?
And finally, first impressions matter. While the majority of this article is designed to help you make a decision based on facts, you need to acknowledge how you feel after each consultation. You can meet with the best divorce attorney in town, but if you walk away from that consultation feeling uncertain, confused, or dismissed, don’t ignore those feelings.
It takes more than a year to resolve the average divorce in Washington state, so remember that this is a professional relationship that will take priority for a significant length of time. It’s worth it to keep researching and reaching out to law firms until you find someone with the right combination of legal skills to address your case, a demeanor that makes you feel heard and respected, and someone who is confident that they can represent your best interest for the duration of your divorce and bring the case to a satisfactory resolution.
At Torrone Law, our lawyers will help you get your life back and restore your family while protecting your best interests. We work with skill and compassion to support your needs. Schedule a free consultation to learn more about how we can address the unique aspects of your divorce.