Nearly 40 percent of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. As stated in a Times article from 2018, the statistic is about 39%. You never thought you would become part of that statistic when you said that fateful “I do,” but here you are. Divorce isn’t just emotionally difficult and sometimes legally complicated, but it can also be rather expensive. If you’re getting ready to file for divorce, you need to find a good divorce lawyer to have on your side. Keep reading to learn more about how you can find a great, affordable divorce lawyer in your area to guide you through the legal process.
What Is the Best Way to Find a Divorce Lawyer?
How do you find a divorce lawyer?
Many people obtain recommendations from friends and family. This can be a good path if your situation is similar to theirs. However, if your case and issues are not similar, then their positive recommendation may not be a good indicator that their lawyer is also a good fit for your case. You need to find the right lawyer for your needs. The truth is that there are a lot of good lawyers out there. Often it is a matter of finding the right divorce attorney for your needs.
How Contested is Your Case?
Some couples grow apart over a period of years and mutually decide that the “til death do us part” you once committed to was a bit of an overreach. Relatively amicable divorces are common. In fact, according to a 2022 article from Forbes, over 90% of divorces settle out of Court nationwide.
If you believe your divorce may follow that path, then you may want to look for an attorney who seems like they work well with others and is relatively prompt to respond. You don’t want your legal bill to run up unnecessarily just because your attorney is difficult to work with or especially slow to respond. Instead, you are looking for an attorney that knows the laws and will help you assert and protect your rights but also can work well with others to resolve your case without a big fight or unnecessary delays.
In truth, most divorcing couples aren’t out to screw their ex or make them suffer. They just want to make sure they get their fair share and move on. You want an attorney that fits those goals and can help keep both parties focused on the facts and the case moving forward in this often emotionally difficult process.
On the other hand, if you know that your spouse is likely going to be difficult or challenging at times, you may want to make sure that the attorney that you hire is not “too nice.” Sometimes the attorneys that judges and other attorneys like best are the ones that they’ve had the easiest experiences dealing with, which is sometimes because they may not have been as aggressive as they could have been at protecting their own client.
Further, when you are paying someone by the hour, you may not necessarily want the person that is overly chatty. The person that you would most want to be friends with isn’t necessarily the person you want as your attorney. However, if you’d like your case to be uncontested, you also need to find someone that can work well with others.
How Complex are the Issues?
If your divorce is especially uncomplicated, don’t be afraid to look for affordability. For example, on a short marriage with no children and no shared property, you can often retain an attorney for a reduced rate. A newer attorney with a lower hourly rate may be a good fit for this case.
Alternatively, a more experienced attorney may offer a lower retainer rate knowing that it is likely the case will settle and their standard retainer will not be spent. There’s still paperwork, and you may still decide it is best to hire a divorce lawyer, but it is also reasonable to expect a lower retainer if your case is less complicated than most. If the attorney is not willing to work with you for a lower retainer for a less complicated case, it may make sense to shop around to find an attorney that will.
On the other hand, some cases just tend to be more complex by their nature. A good example of this is a farm divorce. For example, if you own – or have part ownership – of a working farm, there are specific rules that apply to your case.
Do we value the crops as to their projected value at the time the divorce is filed or at the time the crops were sold? What if the other party was responsible for the care of the crops and arguably somewhat neglected them while the divorce was pending leading to a lower yield? But what if this alleged neglect was only due to the additional time and financial commitments that occurred due to the divorce, do we take that into consideration when valuing?
As you can see, some cases, like farm divorces, tend to be more complicated in nature and have their own special rules that apply. If you have a farm divorce or another case with special facts, you want an attorney that handles these types of cases all the time. You might have to pay a little more to hire an attorney that has this expertise, but you will save yourself in the long run, by having things done right.
It is also cheaper to hire an attorney that already knows the special rules than pay a less experienced attorney who will have to spend a lot more time because they aren’t up to speed. If you have something special about your case, try to find an attorney that has handled the same issues before. You will save yourself in the long run.
How Does the Attorney Communicate?
Although there are many ways to run a law firm, most attorneys have some sort of support staff. While it often isn’t a realistic expectation for every contact you have with your lawyer to be with your lawyer directly, your attorney should be the one advising you. When the ratio of staff to attorneys is high and it seems like you never communicate with your lawyer, you might start to wonder how much your attorney is actually the one advising you on your case. If it seems like the paralegal or assistant knows more about you and your case than your attorney does, it is probably true.
Look for an attorney that fits you. Even a great attorney may not be a good fit for your case if you don’t feel comfortable discussing your case openly with them. Especially if you feel that there is something you feel is embarrassing about your case, you need an attorney that you can be honest with.
Everyone has their own communication style. Some people feel more comfortable discussing face-to-face whereas others prefer the convenience of using phone or electronic communication for most of their communication. You can often get things done more quickly using the phone or electronic communication but sometimes people prefer the face-to-face despite the extra expense and time that may come with setting an in-person appointment. Find an attorney that matches your preferences.
You also need the right amount of communication. Some parts of divorce law are complicated. If your attorney has a hard time breaking things down in a way you understand, you might not really understand what is going on no matter how many times you talk with your attorney.
On the other hand, some attorneys maybe spend too much time (and thus increase your attorney fees unnecessarily) on communication. You may not have really cared that it took their staff three calls to the Court to get a new hearing date if they charged you $50 extra to contact you and tell you the status after each time they tried to contact the Court.
Look for an attorney that has enough knowledge to tell you what will likely happen in your case and also be able to tell you the parts that are harder to predict. Although every case is unique, most divorce cases have the same trajectory. Especially if your case is assigned to a judge who tends to be consistent, your attorney might be able to tell you how they think your case will progress with a fairly high degree of confidence. You are looking for an attorney that can give you the information you need so that YOU can make an informed decision. If you don’t feel your attorney is giving you that communication, then you may want to find someone else.
Although online reviews are helpful, be wary of too many perfect reviews. There are paid services that can be used to help remove negative reviews. Firms that have high marketing budgets may be using these services to look like they have a higher number of stars.
Also, keep in mind that you probably want an attorney that tells it to you straight. Especially if the review is due to being unhappy from just a consult, the review may be based on not liking the bad news they received and not really on the quality of the attorney’s work or advice.
Finally, keep in mind that more experienced attorneys tend to take on tougher or more complicated cases, which have lower rates of predictability just by their nature. Read reviews, but read them with a grain of salt.
How Much Advertising?
How much advertising is the firm doing? Some of the top attorneys do little to no advertising as they are already referred to more cases than they can handle by word of mouth or other sources. Most good law firms have some type of advertising budget. However, if every search term you enter comes up with the same law firm as the top result, then you know the firm has a large advertising budget and you know those expenses are ultimately coming from more in attorney fees.
Sometimes, but not always, these firms are really focused on quantity. They may be more interested in bringing in a high number of clients and less interested in the actual quality of work their attorneys and often their large staff produce. There may be a reason why the firm has to pay a lot in advertising to keep the clients coming in the door.
So How Do I Find the Best Attorney for My Case?
Spend some time finding an attorney. Talk to friends or family that may have a recommendation. If you have a friend or acquittance that is a lawyer, ask them for a recommendation as they may have a good recommendation even if it is not their area of practice. Read reviews online. Call and set up a couple of appointments. Most divorce lawyers offer either a free phone consultation or a paid consultation for a relatively low fee. Don’t just use this meeting as an opportunity to get free legal advice, however. Make this time work for you!
Before hiring an attorney, you should be able to answer these questions after a productive consultation:
- What would be the general process and timeline for your case?
- To have stated your general goals in the case and received some general advice as to whether those expectations are realistic or not.
- What parts of your case might be the more difficult or harder to predict the result. What suggestions the attorney has for options or strategies that might increase your odds of success.
- General information about your attorney as relevant to your case: How many years in practice, how much experience they have with cases like yours, what is their experience with the judge and the opposing party’s attorney, if applicable.
- Personality: Your divorce lawyer should have plenty of experience with cases just like yours, but beyond that, you also have to trust your gut. Use your initial consult to form an impression of the lawyer’s style as well as his or her professional expertise. You don’t have to like your divorce lawyer, but you absolutely must be able to work together effectively and trust their advice. If you feel your attorney was a wealth of information, then you may have found the right attorney for you. If you feel you still have a lot of unanswered questions or that the attorney didn’t understand your case or needs, then you may want to seek someone that is a better fit. It is important to find the right fit for you!
Law Office of Julie Fowler, PC, LLO | Divorce Lawyers Omaha
Child Custody | Child Support | Divorce Lawyers Omaha
If you are looking for an attorney in a child support case or divorce in Omaha, Nebraska, or the surrounding areas (including Papillion, Bellevue, Gretna, Elkhorn, Lincoln, Nebraska City, Sarpy, and Lancaster), contact our office to set up a consultation.