Divorce is a traumatic life transition. It's also a legal process and should be taken seriously. While some people use online forms and take a do-it-yourself approach to divorce, getting a good attorney to advise you is wise.
One definition of a good attorney is one who intends to finalize your divorce through negotiation, but isn't afraid to go to trial if you're not getting a fair settlement through cooperation with your spouse.
Attorney Lisa Dailey of Dailey Law points out several ways to find attorneys. These can include:
- Asking for a referral from friends or other professionals such as financial advisers, CPAs and therapists.
- Do a search with the local bar association - in Colorado Springs that's the El Paso County Bar - or with Martindale-Hubbell, a national service.
Experience with and a focus on divorce in an attorney's law practice is important, said John Cyboron, an attorney with Alpern, Myers, Stuart. He also recommends you work with an attorney that has experience specific to your case, such as a child with special needs, domestic violence, or if drugs have been an issue in the marriage.
Carl Graham of Black & Graham, who has served in the military and has extensive experience with divorce involving military benefits, agrees expertise that's pertinent to your situation is important. He stresses that a combination of competence and integrity are key. He warns against working with an attorney that promises you a specific outcome and who doesn't tell you the potential downside.
Donalea Warren of the Law Firm of Donalea M. Warren agrees and warns against an attorney who tells you definitively what a judge will do in your divorce, since that is not always predictable. She also recommends getting a clear understanding from your chosen attorney of the process in the divorce and in that attorney's office. Get an explanation of the fees involved. A good attorney won't give you false promises about the cost involved, which aren't certain at the beginning, but you might be able to get a range of costs. Don't be reluctant to pay for good advice.
All these attorneys agree that your lawyer should be attentive to you and engaged with you. You should feel you can trust them. It's worthwhile to interview two or three attorneys to get a sense of who might be the best fit for you.
There are some things you can do to make your divorce cost effective. When your attorney asks for information and documentation, respond quickly and with everything requested. Use professionals in the area of their expertise. In other words, don't use your attorney for therapy, don't ask your therapist for legal and financial advice, and be willing to get outside experts for finances and parenting if your attorney recommends it. Lastly, don't turn your divorce into a vindictive war. That's not how good attorneys want to earn their living.