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What to Look For in a Divorce Lawyer – How to Choose Wisely

With the adjustments in family law over the last 30 years, including the adoption of equitable distribution in place of the old common-law rules, the adoption of laws protecting military spouses, as well as the adoption of support guidelines as well as various local rules promulgated within the various circuits, the area of separation as well as divorce has become much too complicated as well as specialized for someone who does not regularly handle these types of cases. the idea distresses us when clients come to us with poorly drafted separation agreements, as well as/or decrees which additional inexperienced attorneys have handled. Just as the idea is usually better to win at trial than to have a great appeal issue, the idea is usually much better to contain the right attorney, one who will get the idea right the 1st time, than to have to pay someone to fix problems stemming coming from errors made within the first place. Sometimes the errors are very costly as well as cannot be fixed as shown within the series of articles I wrote for The Family Law News, a peer review publication of the Virginia State Bar, Section of Family Law, entitled “Costly Errors in Multi-State Military Divorce; Or a Military Wife’s Tale of Woe,” which are published within the Fall 2007 as well as Spring 2008 issues of the publication.

The series of articles outlines the legal authorities, strategy as well as procedural points we used to successfully defend a military retiree, who was a veteran of the Vietnam War. His ex-wife was attempting to obtain half of his military retired pay as well as spousal support here in Virginia, despite having divorced him six years earlier in Hawaii. While we are always happy to achieve a successful outcome for our clients, we felt sorry for the ex-wife, who had received poor legal advice coming from hr attorney within the original divorce action in Hawaii, advice in which lead to poor decisions which the Virginia Court found to bind her permanently. In ruling for us within the case, the judge told the ex-wife in which instead of suing her ex-husband, show should go after the attorney in Hawaii who represented her within the divorce.

So, how do you go about finding a not bad divorce lawyer? Here are a few suggestions:

Suggestion #1-Ask a Lawyer

If you know a lawyer, ask him/her for a referral to a not bad divorce lawyer. He or she will probably know someone or several someones who devote a significant portion of the practice of law to separation as well as divorce as well as related issues. For example, I have been handling separation as well as divorce for 30 years as well as have an excellent reputation among the local legal community. Any divorce attorney worth his/her salt should have established a reputation among additional lawyers. Lawyers generally know who is usually not bad for a particular type of case; they certainly know who they could see, if they were facing separation as well as divorce.

Suggestion #2-Yellow Pages/Internet

While not a great source of information, the Yellow Pages as well as internet can be a beginning source of attorney names. Lawyers who do not mention separation, divorce, military divorce, as well as related areas like custody as well as support or property division, are not seeking cases in those areas as well as certainly don’t devote a significant portion of the practice to those areas. Be leery of ads in which include a laundry list of everything under the sun. Remember the old saying, “a jack of all trades as well as master of none”? Wouldn’t you rather have someone who takes the time to focus at least a significant amount of time to family law, than someone who maybe devotes 3% of his/her practice to family law issues? Remember not everyone advertises within the Yellow Pages or haw a website or internet presence.. For example, there are more telephone listings than there are attorney ads within the Yellow Pages.


The Virginia Lawyer Referral Service is usually operated by the Virginia State Bar. Lawyers must ask to get on the list as well as must agree to a fixed fee for an initial consultation. A lawyer can be listed under any category he/she asks for. The names are on a rotating list as well as given to consumers who contact the service. Again, not all attorneys are listed. We are not listed with the referral service. in which resource can provide the name of an attorney who is usually seeking family law cases. in which does not mean in which the attorney is usually an expert in these types of cases or in which he/she is usually experienced. All the idea means is usually in which he or she is usually seeking divorce cases. Be sure to take the questions I talk about here to the attorney interview.

Suggestion #4-Talk to More Than One Attorney

In fact, interview several attorneys. Ask each attorney who else handles separation as well as divorce within the area. If they won’t give you names, leave the office, when you see names showing up on various lists of recommendations, the odds are probably not bad in which the attorney is usually doing these cases on a regular basis.

Suggestion #5 – Use a Checklist

I have outlined factors in which you should consider when selecting a divorce lawyer.

A. Experience. The longer you have been practicing a particular area of the law, the more you know. There is usually an old adage in which says a not bad lawyer knows the law as well as a great lawyer knows the judge! What is usually the difference between a not bad lawyer as well as a great lawyer? Experience.

B. Experience Trying Cases. Has he/she achieved any trial successes for his/her clients? Can the lawyer point to case results or client testimonial reflecting his/her abilities?

C. Are they willing to settle when appropriate to do so? Trial attorneys sometimes suffer coming from a hired gun mentality. They like the thrill of trying cases as well as may not consider additional options, such as mediation or arbitration to achieve a resolution. Most not bad divorce attorneys do not adopt in which approach, however see trial as a last resort, when additional options have failed to precipitate a fair resolution of the issues. Unlike additional areas of the law, family law often entails ongoing relationships as well as consequently requires a different perspective. I recently read an article by a personal injury attorney, who was writing on how to choose a personal injury lawyer. He said not to choose a lawyer who settles a lot of cases. When the idea comes to separation as well as divorce, I believe the idea is usually important to try to reach an agreement, if you can.

Going to court about family law unless you have to is usually like using a sledge hammer on a flea problem; you may kill a few fleas, however you wreak a lot of damage to the structure of the house, too. When individuals settle their own cases outside of court, they can be a lot more creative than the court could be in fashioning a remedy in which is usually fair to both parties. Sometimes, agreement is usually just not possible. When in which is usually the case, you want an experienced able divorce attorney who can advocate for your position in court as well as incorporates a proven track record of success.

D. Respect within the legal community. What are additional lawyers saying about in which lawyer? Has the lawyer lectured or taught? Has he/she taught additional lawyers?

E. Publications. Has he/she written anything in which has been accepted for publication in legal journals? in which is usually another sign of respect for the lawyer as well as for his/her skills as well as experience. Has he/she written or published anything designed to educate the public as to their rights duties as well as responsibilities under the law?

F. Affiliations as well as memberships. What professional affiliations does the attorney have? is usually he/she a member of the Family Law Section of the Virginia State Bar Association? A member of the Virginia Trial Lawyers? A fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys?

G. Does the attorney limit the number of cases he/she undertakes? We don’t take every case in which calls in or walks through the door. We limit the number of cases in which we undertake to handle at a given point in time to ensure we an focus on doing the best job for those clients.

H. Relationship issues.

1. How was the telephone answered when you called for an appointment?

2. How were you greeted when you entered the office? Were you offered refreshments?

3. Did the attorney as well as staff listen to you? Are you sure? Could you tell they were listening?

4. Were you interrupted during your time with the lawyer?

5. Does the attorney use written agreements setting out the parameters of the representation as well as the financial arrangements?

6. One of the most important aspects of choosing a lawyer is usually the relationship aspect: you need to be able to work effectively as well as comfortably with your lawyer. The relationship requires intimacy as well as trust. Do you feel comfortable with the attorney?

7. Were you introduced to staff?

8. How long does the attorney retain files on closed cases? What happens to the closed file? How is usually the idea disposed of? What steps does the attorney take to safeguard your confidential information?

I. Why does he/she practice divorce law? Friends as well as colleagues think I’m crazy to devote so much time to separation as well as divorce law. They may be right, I just may be a little crazy. however like the song says, “the idea just may be a lunatic you’re looking for.” When interviewing a potential divorce lawyer be sure to ask him/her why they choose to practice family law. Does the lawyer have a life experience in which allows him/her to advocate for divorce clients with genuine passion? is usually in which passion something in which is usually reflected in client testimonials?

J. Cost. Unlike personal injury practice, the best divorce lawyers do not offer “free” consultations. You will notice in which cost is usually last on the list. In our experience, the best divorce lawyers are generally not the cheapest. within the long run, what is usually the idea worth to you to retain or acquire your fair share of the assets in which have been accumulated over the course of your married life? What is usually the idea worth to you to insure in which you retain your fair share of time with your children? Some things are worth fighting for as well as worth the cost in which you have to pay.

If your attorney does not devote a significant portion of his/her practice to family law issues, has never tried a contested divorce, has never tried a contested custody case or who has never tried an equitable distribution case, or drafted a qualified domestic relations order dividing a pension, or who has no experience in military divorce as well as has never drafted a military retired pay order, you may want to choose another lawyer for your separation as well as divorce.

Source by Virginia Perry

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