Picking a Divorce Attorney

Most people, when they’re going through a divorce either are determined to keep attorneys out of the process or feel that hiring an attorney is their first move.  A divorce is a legal process, so going through without so much as a consultation from an attorney is probably not a good move.  Attorneys each have different styles, though, and finding an attorney who will approach the divorce in a way you can life with.


There are lots of ways to find attorneys.  Referrals are probably one of the best ways to find an attorney.  Ask friends who they’ve heard is good, then ask about what the attorney did well.  If someone tells you that their attorney slaughtered their ex-spouse think seriously about whether or not if that’s a direction you want to go.  You don’t want to lose your shirt in a divorce, but you also don’t want to lose your self respect.  Everyone will have their own definition of a good divorce attorney.  My definition of a good attorney is one who assumes that a settlement can be negotiated outside of court that works for both spouses and any children they have, but who isn’t afraid to go to court if it’s necessary to get a fair deal. 


Even if you think the first attorney you talk to is perfect, it’s probably a good idea to interview at least three.  Ask them about their experience and philosophy on the issues in your family.  Ask about:


         Experience and outlook on parenting if you have children.  If you and your spouse agree on the way you want to approach your co-parenting, be careful that you don’t end up putting your kids in the middle of a fight you didn’t pick. 

         Whether the attorney promotes only litigation, or if negotiation, mediation, or collaborative divorce are part of the attorney’s practice.  If you aren’t told about anything other than litigation, you may be talking to a gladiator who sees every divorce as a battle to the death. 

         Retainers and hourly fees.  Don’t make a decision based just on fees, but in talking to several attorneys, you’ll get a sense what you’re willing to pay and what you’ll get for that. 

         Other issues specific to your family – a family owned business, a pension, a special needs child, an inheritance.  Some experience in issues that apply to your situation is advisable.


An attorney might not be the first professional you need to hire.  We’ll look at some other experts who might help you in the next posting. 



Do It Yourself Divorce

I get folks all the time that come to me wanting to do their divorce without attorneys.  They’d like to save money – keep the attorneys from getting it all – but they have a few financial answers they want that they’re willing to pay a little money for.  Divorce is an area where no one should be penny wise and pound foolish.  There are few things in life more final than the final legal orders in a divorce.  “Gee, I didn’t realize it worked that way” or “No one at the court house told me I should look into that” just won’t hack it if you get a bad divorce settlement because you didn’t get professional help.  The next few postings are going to deal with some of the professionals you can have help you through the divorce process, how to know a good professional when you see one, and what they can bring to the table. 

Navigating Stormy Financial Waters after Divorce

In a divorce, there can be countless issues to deal with.  Parenting after the divorce, where to live, what friends side with which spouse, emotional turmoil with blame, guilt, fear and a sense of loss.  And, of course, there’s the financial change.  How each person deals with this is individual.  And one of the first financial steps to take is to assume you’ll be all right.  That might not sound like very sound or complex financial advice.  But as a financial planner who deals with a lot of people during and after divorce, I can tell you that the people who assume they’ll make things work financially are right.  The ones who assume things will only get worse after the divorce are right, too.  Pretty early in many of the professional relationships I have I can tell which one of these mindsets the client is likely to fall into.  I can help them get out of the “I got the shaft here!” frame of mind, but I can’t do it for them.  They have to change their outlook and do something about bettering their situation.  So decide right now if someone else is going to control your financial destiny or if you’re going to take control.  You’re entitled to it!  Just think what a wonderful lesson you’ll teach your children.  You and they will be better for it.