A family lawyer is a legal practitioner who has expertise in any matters concerning the family unit and can provide counsel on things such as annulment, separation, divorce, child custody arrangements, economic support, and property division.

With some states now legalizing civil unions and domestic partnerships, the right family lawyer will have expertise in how to dissolve those legal relationships as well.

When choosing the right lawyer for your divorce, it is especially important to find one who practices in your state and can advise you accordingly. If you find the right divorce attorney, they will represent your interest vigorously and can serve objectively when tensions run high between the parties, as they often do in divorces.

An attorney will provide you with the correct forms to complete to initiate your divorce proceeding, make you aware of court deadlines, argue on your behalf in court or represent you in negotiating other aspects of your divorce, such as child/spousal support and custody.

A knowledgeable attorney can be particularly helpful in explaining the varying state laws concerning the division of property during the divorce. For example, if you live in a state with community property (joint ownership) rules versus a state with separate property (individually acquired) rules, the laws there can have different financial implications for you.

How Do I Find a Divorce Attorney?

Deciding to file for divorce can be a heavy decision fraught with emotion. It is important that you take a step back and begin your search for an attorney with some guidelines in mind. No one should simply pick up the phone book and pick the first attorney they find. You can always start by searching the resources from your local bar associations and court websites, law school clinics, legal aid centers, or lawyer referral services.

Each state has a bar association and local chapters and some courts will even have right on their websites a list of attorneys who are registered to practice in their states. It is a good way to check on an attorney to make sure there aren’t any red flags. You can look on the internet to find contact information for your local bar association and court website.

Law schools have different legal practice clinics. You should check your local law schools to identify if they have a family clinic. You might find that a family law clinic is surprisingly robust in the range of issues it will tackle, including divorce, child custody, division of property, adoption, paternity and child and spousal support.

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Community legal aid centers provide free civil legal services to low-income and elderly residents of the community. These centers are able to provide this much needed free service to residents due to the support of state, federal and private funding.

Finally, if you choose to use a lawyer referral services, use one that is free. These types of services will list lawyers by state and city and according to practice areas.

If these methods seem too detached for you, you can always ask for a personal recommendation from the people in your life. Whatever option you choose, consider interviewing two or three attorneys. Conduct your internet research to see if there are any red flags for the attorney you select.

When you meet with the attorney, continue to assess whether they are the right one to handle your case. Divorces can be a slow process but your attorney should be responsive to your phone calls and emails.

Also ask your attorney what types of clients they typically represent? Do they offer a free initial consultation? Is the attorney willing to engage in alternative dispute resolution options, such as mediation, instead of fighting it out in court? Are they hurried in their initial phone call with you or during their first meeting? Are they distracted by other papers on their desks or by phone calls, or are they giving you their undivided attention? Have they provided a clear understanding of their rates and what additional expenses you are likely to incur based on the nature of your case?

Divorces are highly stressful so you want to find an attorney with whom you are comfortable and in whom you have confidence that they will handle your divorce with the respect and attention you think it deserves.

How Do I Know If I Need a Divorce Attorney?

A divorce is one of those legal operations that individuals have successfully filed for on their own, especially when the parties are amicable and there is very little property involved. The parties can also choose to mediate their divorce.

However, if the matter is more complicated (highly contentious parties, issues of domestic abuse, child and spousal support, expensive and significant properties to distribute, property in multiple states or internationally, prenuptial agreements), it might in your best interest to get together with a local divorce lawyer for your next step.