You may have had experience with a business attorney or a real estate attorney, but as a person thinking about divorce, this is likely the first time you have contemplated retaining counsel for a highly personal matter. Whether you are the one who is initiating the separation or divorce, or the one who does not want the divorce, it is important for you to have a clear idea about what you should be able to expect from your attorney.
Here are five things to expect from your divorce attorney:
- Regular meetings. There is no substitute for face-to-face meetings. Sometimes the most effective and efficient way to come up with a plan of action is to sit down in a conference room with your attorney. In addition to better communication, meetings are the setting in which strategy is developed and difficult decisions are made. You should feel free to ask your attorney to meet with you frequently and to continue each meeting for as long as you need in order to feel comfortable and confident.
- Being informed. You are entitled to be kept informed of all of the key aspects of your matter, including:
- Its status,
- Approaching deadlines, such as exchanging information with the other side,
- Do’s and don’ts of appropriate behavior, and
- Upcoming responsibilities, such as attending parenting classes if custody is at issue in your case.
- Forthrightness and Setting Realistic Expectations. It is critical that your attorney be realistic, honest, and up-front with you with regard to every aspect of your case, including what a realistic outcome might be for you if you take your matter to trial. Although you would probably prefer that your counsel tell you what you want to hear, you will not be well served by such an approach.
- Your physical and emotional well-being. Getting divorced is extremely stressful. Your attorney should be attuned to every aspect of your well-being, including your physical and mental health and should provide you with advice and resources to help you through this difficult time.
- Your advocate. Although you need your attorney to help you develop realistic expectations, you also have a right to expect him or her to be on your side, to listen, and to advocate strongly and forcefully for your positions and interests and those of your children.
Divorce is a significant life event — how you divorce and who you choose for your divorce lawyer can make a difference. As you look for a divorce attorney to represent you, plan to interview more than one. It is important to find someone that you are comfortable with, whose skills and experience are a good fit for you given your unique situation and goals, and who is someone you trust.