A lot of people wonder “what should I look for in a divorce attorney?” It’s not an easy question. While being comfortable with your attorney is critical, there are some specific things you should focus on when considering a divorce or family law attorney.

#1 – Good communication between you and your divorce attorney – The first part of communication is that you feel that you are able to talk to this person when you’re getting a divorce, you’re going to be exploring very personal parts of your life. And in order to represent you, you’re going to need to be able to tell your divorce lawyer things that are embarrassing or maybe things that are uncomfortable to talk to such as problems with a child, mental health issues, alcoholism abuse. In short, you need somebody that you feel like you can talk to about this without being judged.

You need to have a divorce attorney who’s going to listen to you and hear your perspective. So someone that you’re comfortable with, you also need to be able to listen to the person who you are picking as your attorney.

Some people are hard to listen to other people talk more your language. You need a divorce attorney who you can listen and understand; someone who can you can approach, debate, question, and explore various topics. Communication is probably singularly the most important quality in your attorney, client relationship.

#2 – Confidence in Your divorce attorney– The next thing you need to have is confidence in your lawyer. attorney. Listening to you and understanding you is one thing, but you want to make sure that that attorney is knowledgeable. If you’re looking for a divorce and your concern is primarily child custody – then in your very first meeting with your attorney, talk about child custody. Try to understand how experienced your attorney is, what the attorney thinks the probable or possible outcomes in your case are. And it sounds right, but an attorney who sounds confident in what they’re saying. Saying “I don’t know”, may be as knowledgeable as giving an answer depending on the circumstances.

So it’s important that you have confidence in that attorney. You need to be able to pay attention when you talk about a particular issue in your case and see how the attorney responds. If the attorney responds in such a way that they understand what you’re saying and may propose a plan for how you would go about obtaining your goal and so forth. That’s a very important part of your first interview with the lawyer.

Clients come into our offices with all different situations. Maybe they have already been served with divorce papers and they’re reacting to that. Or they may be looking to just initiate the divorce process, all the scenarios, all different, but the way you approach the divorce is, is something that’s personal to you. Some people are going to be more aggressive. They’re going to want to go straight to court and not have a conversation.

Depending on your circumstances, mediation might be a great way to go or starting with the settlement proposal. You need to be comfortable with how you approach that you can’t be railroaded by your attorney in to taking a particular approach. It should be more of a team-approach to a working relationship. So you may not have an idea. And you may say, I don’t know how to go about this and what your attorneys should do then is explore the different alternatives, how you can approach it, how you go about it. And in that conversation, you should be able to discernwhat the attorney would prefer to do.

Or the attorney wants me to do “x” and decide whether you’re comfortable with it, perhaps after exploring four or five different approaches, you may lock in on one. Talk about that with the attorney and see if that attorney is going to say “Yes, I think that that sounds right for you”, or “No, this is why it’s not right for you”. If you can get that kind of dialogue and understand what the approach is going to be, that will give you a better attorney client experience.

#3 – Experience in the types of matter that you have– You can have an attorney who’s practicing 30 years, but if they just started practicing family law in the last year or two. In that example, their 30 years of experience is not that meaningful to you because they don’t have the experience in family law that you may need. So you need to ask “how much family law do you do?”. or“what percentage of family law work do you do?”, etc. If your particular issue is alimony or child custody, you need to ask about that specifically. Questions like:

“How often have you gotten custody rights for a dad?”

“How often have you successfully defended against an alimony claim?”

These questions should be insightful or particular to your case. Figure them out ahead of time, but make sure your family law attorney has experience with the issues that are going to be relevant in your divorce.

#4 – An attorney that knows the judges and the courthouse – An experienced attorney who’s practicing a long time is going to know the judges in the courthouse. They’re going to have an idea of what will happen in front of one judge versus another. They will know the processes. You should be able to ask your attorney things like “how do we stop?” Or “what should I expect?” or “How long will this take?” An experienced family law attorney is going to be able to prepare you for that.

#5 – An attorney that is realistic – A divorce can take a long time. Going through the divorce clients, most people have the similar questions. Being able to ask your divorce lawyer questions such as: “What do I expect in this process?” and “Will I actually have to participate in a trial?” If your divorce is contentious, you more likely than not, will have to participate in a trial. And if you’re going to participate in a trial, that’s another consideration. Do you think this attorney can represent you in a trial?

You need to make sure your divorce attorney is talking candidly to you and is not going to sugar-coat something. Because an attorney should want you to really understand what your strengths are, what your faults are and needs to tell you like it is – so you don’t have false expectations. You need to look for an attorney who’s realistic and who’s going to speak frankly to you. And, in return, you need to be able to accept that kind of conversation from your attorney to have a productive relationship.

And you might want to talk about the reasonable parameters of the various issues that are at play in your case, like child custody or alimony, maybe division of retirement assets, or what’s going to happen with the family home. These, these questions are important. You should write them down and they should be part of your first interview with the attorney.

Conclusion – In many cases, it’s good idea to talk to two or three attorneys – even if you’re paying for one hour consultation for each one of them. This is not the time to have a 5-minute chat about prices and make a decision.  One of the things we do for potential clients is a free 15-minute consultation or a full 1-hour meeting at a special price of only $199 for the full hour.

And it’s our approach to bring in some of these aspects when we talk with a potential new client. We want to hit on the issues and try to give an idea of what approaches we would take or prefer to take in a case. The reason we are doing that is to give you a chance to evaluate us and decide you feel comfortable. Going through a divorce, child custody, alimony situation….all of these things can be stressful. Your attorney’s job is to be there to help you through the process and provide legal guidance for you.

At Paré & Associates, LLC (formerly the Law Office of Alice Paré), we have been helping clients in Germantown, Gaithersburg, throughout Montgomery County, and all of Maryland for more than thirty (30) years.

Our attorneys are available to meet with you in person, over the phone, or online – however, you prefer. If you are ready to consult with an attorney, or just need some questions answered, contact us here, go online to schedule an appointment, or call us at 301-515-1190 to set up an initial consultation.