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Going through the divorce process can be a very stressful experience.  The right attorney can help answer your questions, provide a solid legal strategy, and give you some peace of mind.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when hiring a divorce attorney.

Does the attorney market themselves as aggressive?

Beware of any lawyer that focuses on aggression as their primary selling point.  While it’s true that you want someone that will advocate for you, an aggressive attorney may cause your divorce to drag on and end up costing you a lot more.

Some inexperienced attorneys use aggression to compensate for their lack of knowledge.  They can try to bury the opposing party with a high volume of unnecessary court filings or take unrealistic stances on various aspects of your case.

Judges have a good sense of what your state laws determine as an equitable distribution, and generally don’t appreciate attorneys that advocate for unreasonable results that have poor legal arguments to support them.

According to an article by a family law firm Long Okura, the best divorce attorney is one that focuses on being effective over being aggressive.  That means that they balance advocating for what you really want while also managing your expectations of what is possible.  An effective divorce lawyer will help you understand when you are reaching a good settlement with the help of a divorce mediator, rather than stubbornly refusing all offers and making you pay more in legal fees through continued litigation. Good attorneys are generally respected by Judges and other legal professionals in the community more than those who have a reputation as being aggressive.

What is the attorney’s billing policy?

It is important to understand how you will be billed for the work the lawyer will do on your case.  In traditional full-representation cases, a retainer of several thousand dollars is normally required for an attorney to begin working on your case.  After the retainer is depleted, if there is still ongoing litigation your attorney may require you to replenish your retainer or may switch to billing you monthly.

Stay away from any lawyer who offers a flat rate fee.  It is very difficult to predict how much litigation will be involved, how opposing party will react, and how the courts might rule.  A simple divorce may quickly have both sides agreeing and be able to wrap everything up in a matter of hours.  However most divorce cases are unpredictable.

If your attorney is working on a flat rate, it is in their best interest to spend as little time as possible working on your case.  There have been reports of people attending mediation and watching their attorney try multitask and work on other client cases instead of focusing on them.

Does the lawyer work alone or are they part of a law firm?

Many attorneys work on their own and do a good job.  However, there are some advantages of hiring an attorney that works in a law firm that specializes in divorce and family law.

First, they have an infrastructure where secretaries can make copies, and paralegals can draft documents and schedule appointments with the court.  Paralegals are billed out at a lower rate than attorneys, so if your attorney has no employees you are getting billed for tasks that don’t necessarily require an attorney do to them.

Second, legislation and case law can change and a law firm with multiple attorneys share knowledge, results, and opinions with each other.  It is not uncommon for sole practitioners to struggle with keeping up on current issues, especially if they don’t have support staff to help them out and are too busy to participate in a lot of ongoing training.