Meeting with an attorney to discuss your divorce can be an intimidating experience. You may have a certain idea of what you want and how things will go, but it is important that you go into the meeting prepared, even for things you may not have expected. There may be parts of the divorce that you haven’t considered and may not understand what is important moving forward and what is not.
You want to make sure that you understand who your attorney is, their experience with cases like yours, as well as any information they can give you about the divorce process. Below is a list of questions that are helpful when meeting with an attorney. We also offer lists of questions to ask regarding the following situations as well:
–Questions About Child Support & Custody
–Questions About the Divorce Process & Options
My spouse and I have an agreement about how to end our marriage, can you help?
Seeking counsel of a lawyer to review this agreement is the best way to ensure that you are getting a good deal. While your lawyer is there to help you throughout the process with the courts, they are also able to spot good and bad parts within a potential agreement.
Can you represent both me and my spouse?
It is usually best for a lawyer to represent only one party, but there may be instances when a lawyer can serve a transactional role to facilitate an agreement.
Do you get emotionally involved with your cases?
You want an attorney who is both level headed in relation to the facts of your case, and you also want an attorney in believes in you and what you are fighting for. You want an attorney who will “go to bat” for you, as well as recognize the opportunities within the case that are best for you.
Do you believe that it is better to settle or go to trial?
Often times, the best divorce cases are the ones that are settled by agreement. This allows both parties to come to their own agreements about what will work best for them, rather than a judge making the ultimate decision. However, if there have been incidents involving domestic violence, trial is the best course of action. Going to trial should be a last resort, unless it is determined that your case requires litigation in front of a judge.
Do you know the judge that will be handling my case?
While it may feel good to know that your lawyer is familiar with the judge handling your case and their typical processes, it is not good if your lawyer claims to have a close relationship with the judge that could give you favor. You want to make sure that the parties involved in the decision making of your case remain impartial.
How do you handle aggressive opposing attorneys?
There are some lawyers who like to play hardball by racking up fees and taking an aggressive litigation approach that may not be appropriate. How does your lawyer approach situations like these?
Training & Experience
How many divorce cases have you followed all the way to conclusion? How many have you taken to trial?
Understanding the history of your attorney’s past experiences can give you a good idea of the process they tend to take. Some lawyers are not comfortable going to trial, and making sure you understand your representation should that happen is very important.
How do you know if a settlement is a good deal? How many cases have you settled?
You want to have an idea about how your lawyer will analyze agreements that will be best for your and your spouse’s particular needs. What is the framework that is used to determine what is good or not? This will give you an idea of how organized your lawyer is as well as how structured their processes are.
Do most of your cases that settle happen in mediation or right before Court?
This will give you an idea of the way that your lawyer approaches settlement. Do they threaten litigation to get a settlement agreement or do they move through mediation in a formal manner? This will help you to understand your lawyer’s processes and the approach they use and assist in determining if they are the right fit for you.
Do you have mediation training? Do you have mediators that you work with?
It is helpful to have an attorney who is experienced in mediation settings where collaborative efforts are required to meet an agreement that both parties are comfortable with.
What if there is no way that an agreement can be reached through mediation?
If it is clear from the outset that there is no way to come to an agreement through mediation, often times a lawyer will not even suggest this route. Your lawyer should be able to guide you in the right direction if mediation will not be productive.
What is your experience practicing law?
You want to learn about your attorney and their overall experience. Have they always been a divorce attorney? Have they worked within other areas, or do they focus specifically on divorces?
How long have you been practicing in South Florida?
Understanding your attorney’s presence within the community will give you an idea about their knowledge within this particular jurisdiction.
What is your current caseload? Do you have time for my case?
Do you get the impression that your lawyer will be able to really help you with your case, or that you will get buried under other cases? All practices are different so there is no right or wrong answer, but it is important that you feel that your lawyer has the resources to be able to help you.
What is the best way to contact you?
It will most often be the case that you will be reaching out to your attorney more than they will be reaching out to you. Things may happen between you and your spouse and it is important that you can reach your lawyer to discuss issues as they arise. Can you expect communication through phone calls, text, emails, or all of the above? It is important to find a lawyer that communicates well with you.
How often do you talk to a client within any given month?
Some lawyers talk to their clients weekly, some only talk to them when they are contacted. Some lawyers also schedule calls to follow up about developments and important things to stay on track with.
Will I be working directly with you, your secretary, or paralegal?
This speaks more about the structure of the law firm that you are working with. Getting a clear idea of who you will be working directly with on a regular basis will help you to make the determination if this lawyer is right for you.
What if there is an emergency and I need to contact you right away?
Lawyers are only in their offices for certain hours of the day. They may be in court, mediation, or handling other legal matters. What is the policy if there is any emergency?
Developing a Game Plan
My spouse does not care about the rules. What do we do if they do not cooperate?
What if my spouse does not provide documents as they are needed or meet other deadlines? What is your proposed course of action to compel compliance?
How do you determine settlement goals?
How do we get to an appropriate settlement? Creating a settlement that benefits both parties takes into consideration needs and wants and often times, more than just money.
What is your fee structure? Do you charge a fixed rate or by the hour?
Each lawyer is different and may offer an hourly model or a fixed fee option. Most lawyers take a retainer in advance and then bill against that retainer.
Are there any additional fees such as filing fees or process server fees?
There are often a mix of additional services that must be paid for during the divorce process.
Can we discuss my budget and unanticipated fees in advance?
Discussing the budget that you have for divorce, and requesting communication when that budget has been reached is a good way to ensure that you are able to stay on track financially throughout the divorce process.
What do you anticipate the total cost of my divorce will be?
Based on the information about your case, an experienced lawyer should be able to provide you with an estimate of each phase of the case. If your lawyer works under an hourly model, it will be impossible to give you an exact quote, but they should be able to provide you with an estimated range.
Will be spouse be required to pay my fees?
If your spouse makes considerably more than you, they can be expected to contribute to your fees.
How do I pay for your services?
Be open in the beginning with your lawyer about the best way to cover the costs of your case.
Meeting with your attorney for the first time can be an overwhelming experience as it is the first step in moving towards divorce. Making sure that you understand your rights, as well as the way that the divorce process will unfold with a particular attorney can be very comforting and help you to see the coming events more clearly.
If you are considering prepared to file for divorce and have questions about the process and how it will affect your family, Seff & Capizzi Law Group has the ability to assist with your situation. At Seff & Capizzi Law Group, we regularly assist clients and provide valuable information for those that need assistance in understanding how to approach this particular situation in their own lives.
If you need assistance with your divorce or child custody case, please call us at (954) 920-9220. We have over 40 years of experience and offer a free consultation. Click here for more information about our family law practice and how Seff & Capizzi can help.