Choosing an attorney to represent you in a divorce proceeding at first may sound fairly straightforward. Too often I see this critical step not being given the attention it deserves. Sometimes it is simply a friend, relative or co-worker who refers someone who they felt or heard was good. While everyone means well, I suggest they probably don’t know what your goals and interests are for your divorce. They don’t know if a particular attorney is a good fit for you.
Sometimes a client will find the first attorney who tells them what they want to hear. This often is a big red flag. Ultimately, only you will be able to decide who the best fit may be for your circumstances. I hope this three part series of posts on the importance of choosing an attorney, issues to consider when choosing an attorney, and finally some questions to ask a divorce attorney, will provide you with some valuable insights.
I believe choosing an attorney is the third most important decision you will make on your journey to get unmarried. Remember in The first post of “Getting Unmarried”
the most important decision is deciding to get unmarried in the first place. In Part II, I wrote the second most important decision is to research and decide “How to get unmarried;”
essentially deciding on the divorce process that you feel–and hopefully your spouse feels–will accomplish the goals you both want to achieve.
The third most important decision I’ll cover in this first of a three part series will be on the importance of choosing an attorney for yourself and equally as important if not more important is who your spouse decides to hire as an attorney. But let’s put first things first. In my way of thinking, you can’t begin to choose an attorney until you first, decide to get unmarried and, secondly, decide what type of divorce process you and your spouse want to use.
Provided you have made these first two decisions, let’s make an assumption that both you and your spouse will want an attorney. If you have children from your marriage and or have significant assets and/or liabilities to ultimately allocate between you and your spouse in a property settlement, I strongly encourage everyone with these circumstances to be represented by an attorney. Let me disclose here, I am not an attorney. Too many do it yourself divorce packages often result in repeated appearances in court and end up being significantly more costly to the clients down the road. Leaving it to guesswork or not giving your property settlement the attention it deserves can be costly. Remember your marriage may not last forever but your property settlement will.
If you have children let me share this quote by Neil Postman, an American writer and professor, with you. “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” When children are involved they will be watching closely for the messages you and your spouse send to them about your divorce. They will live and carry those messages throughout their lifetime.
For these reasons, give careful and thoughtful consideration to the process you choose for your divorce and the attorneys both you and your spouse end up hiring. In the second part of this series
, I outline important issues to consider when choosing an attorney.
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