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How Do I Find a Divorce Attorney?

Learn the three keys to finding the right divorce attorney

Finding an attorney is easy. Finding the right attorney is the trick. If you look in your local yellow pages, you will see that attorneys can have many types of specializations and there is often no shortage of them.

Before you look for legal representation, spend some time researching the various ways you can get divorced. There is self-representation, mediation, collaborative and litigation. Decide which modality you want to start with and then look for an attorney who practices that modality. If you start by looking for the attorney first, you will end up with the modality your attorney practices, which may not be right for your case.

Asking trusted friends of neighbors whom they consulted in their divorces is a fine strategy, but most people fail to ask important questions about their friend's attorney.

You will want to ask your friends what their main issues were (custody; support; asset allocation; and special circumstances such as move away issues, addiction, and mental health problems) and how the attorney handled those issues.

You can also directly ask attorneys what they specialize in and get a sense of their personal styles. If you need a hand holder but get someone who is gruff, your emotional needs won't likely be met, and you may wind up feeling beaten up by your lawyer in the process. If you need an aggressive lawyer but go with someone kinder and gentler, you will likely feel that your legal needs weren't met.

In addition to meeting your needs, your attorney should have a legal style that matches that of your spouse's attorney. If your spouse gets an aggressive attorney, you will need an equally aggressive one. One man I counseled was frustrated that he would have to hire a "shark," as he put it. He wanted to handle the divorce in a more amicable climate, but since his wife didn't share those sentiments, he had no choice if he wanted to be on the same par with her.

I recommend shopping around for an attorney. Call a number of different people who have been recommended to you and see who you think is the best fit for you. Make sure you feel absolutely comfortable with whomever you hire, and remember, your attorney works for you. If he or she does something that makes you feel bad or misrepresented, then you have the right to say so.

If your attorney can't accommodarte your needs or makes you feel bad for speaking up, then you can let this one go and find someone better suited for you. It's never ideal to have to start over with someone new and bring this new person up to speed, but the alternative of staying with an attorney who disregards your needs is a worse scenario.

Remember these three things when looking for your divorce attorney:

1) Trust your instincts. If someone feels like a good match, they probably are; if something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.

2) It's okay to make mistakes - you may misjudge the type of divorce you want or need, or you may not pick the best attorney the first time around - let go of the bad as soon as you can and move on with choosing a new lawyer or a preferred divorce modality (mediation, collaborative, litigation).

3) Don't people please! The decision of which attorney to choose to represent you in what may be the biggest lawsuit you will ever be involved in is not the time to worry about hurting someone's feelings. Choose the person you truly believe is best for you and don't worry about your ex or anyone else who may get upset by your choice.

Taken from Chapter Seven of Contemplating Divorce, A Step-by-Step Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go

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