There are many important considerations when planning for divorce, and one of the most important decisions you can make is the attorney you select to represent you. Three of the most common initial questions I hear may not surprise you, but perhaps the answers will.
1. How much is this going to cost?
Anytime you ask an attorney this question, the response should be, “it depends.” While some attorneys do offer a flat-rate fee to draft the Property Settlement Agreement for a no-contest divorce, it is rare that a divorcing couple agrees on everything from the division of marital assets to support, custody and visitation. Depending on the contested issues and the level of acrimony between the couple, a divorce can cost from a few thousand dollars to a five-figure one and above. It depends on the specific circumstances of each case.
2. How long is this going to take?
Again, it depends. Are there minor children born of the marriage, jointly adopted by the parties of the marriage or born of one party and adopted by the other? Is the case proceeding on no-fault grounds or is either party alleging abuse, desertion or any of the other fault-based grounds for divorce? Are experts going to be needed to evaluate property or business value, mental health or parental capacity? Have the parties been living separately, or is the separation recent? One must also consider the discovery process by which attorneys/parties request information and documents from the opposing side. Discovery is time consuming, but it is the best method for gathering evidence. What we cannot account for is the opposing side’s willingness to comply and cooperate in a timely manner.
3. How many cases have you won?
I find myself questioning the very existence of a popular family law-related television show. That being said, I would be hard pressed to find a domestic law attorney who kept case statistics like the lawyers on various popular prime-time shows. If you have asked an attorney this question and he or she responds with pro-athlete style stats, it may interest you to know the vast majority of these cases are settled without litigation. Some cases settle on multiple issues and litigate the remaining contested issues.
In divorce, the goal is to prioritize what is important to you, so your attorney can zealously advocate for the desired results. Divorce is difficult and painful, but understanding some of the nuances can help reduce the surprises.