How to Find a Divorce Lawyer?

Where You Need a Lawyer:

(This may not be the same place you live)

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 What Do Divorce Lawyers Do?

A family lawyer – that is, a divorce lawyer – is a legal practitioner with experience in any matters concerning the family unit. They can provide counsel on not only divorce but also on marriage annulment, legal separation, child custody arrangements, economic support, and property division.

Family lawyers have experience bringing marriages to a legal end. With some states now legalizing civil unions and domestic partnerships, the right family lawyer will also have knowledge in how to dissolve those relationships.

When choosing the right lawyer for your divorce, finding one who practices locally is especially important. This will ensure that they are familiar with your family law courts and local legal procedures.

If you find the right divorce attorney, they will represent your interests vigorously and can serve when tensions run high between the parties, as they often do in divorces.

A skilled attorney will:

  • Provide you with the correct forms to complete to initiate your divorce proceeding
  • Make you aware of court deadlines
  • Negotiate with the other side concerning all of the many questions and issues that arise in a divorce regarding alimony, child support, property division, and much more
  • Argue on your behalf in court.

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 in your state can have different financial implications for you. Check with a lawyer who knows how the property laws are applied in your jurisdiction.

How Do I Find a Divorce Attorney?

Deciding to file for divorce can be a heavy decision fraught with emotion. You must 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.

There are many places you can search:

  • LegalMatch website: These people bring you the information you are reading now. Use the links at the bottom of this article to help you find a nearby lawyer practicing in family law, including divorces.
  • Local bar associations and state court websites: Each state has a bar association with local chapters. Their website will likely link to lawyers in your area who provide divorce services. Some courts will even have a list of attorneys registered to practice on their websites. This is a good way to check on an attorney you are interested in to ensure there aren’t any red flags. You can search the internet for contact information for your local bar association and court websites.
  • Law school clinics: 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 school-run 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.
  • Legal aid centers: Due to the support of state, federal, and private funding, community legal aid centers often provide free civil legal services to low-income and elderly community residents.
  • Lawyer referral services: Finally, if you choose to use a lawyer referral service, use one that is free. These 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 ones to handle your case. Ask your potential attorney:

  • Do they offer a free initial consultation?
  • Is the attorney willing to use alternative dispute resolution options, such as mediation, instead of fighting it out in court?
  • What types of clients do they typically represent? (some attorneys focus on representing wives, and others on representing husbands – if that matters to you, make sure the attorney will meet your needs)

Ask yourself:

  • 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 clearly understood their rates and what additional expenses you are likely to incur based on the nature of your case?
  • Do they make you feel that your case is important? Divorces can be a slow process, but the attorney should be responsive to your phone calls and emails.

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

How Do I Know If I Need a Divorce Attorney?

Some people have successfully filed for divorce on their own. This works when the marriage has been short, the parties are amicable, there are no children, and there is very little property involved.

However, there are divorces where it is important to have a divorce lawyer. These include more complicated situations. For example,

  • You and your spouse do not have a good history of deciding things mutually
  • There are issues of domestic abuse
  • There is disagreement concerning child and/or spousal support
  • You and your spouse have differences of opinion concerning child custody
  • There is significant valuable property to distribute
  • There are arguments about who gets what property, whether because it is valuable or because it has a sentimental meaning
  • You have property in multiple states or property that is located internationally
  • There is a prenuptial agreement. This contract will significantly affect the way the questions in the divorce will be resolved

Lawyers and No-Fault or Fault-Based Divorce

All states allow people to get divorced as “no-fault” divorces. This means that it is not necessary to prove that the divorce is someone’s fault – instead, people just have to say that the marriage has broken down due to “irreconcilable differences” and that it cannot be repaired.

However, some states still allow for “fault” divorces. In those, one party will assert that their spouse engaged in misconduct that led to the breakdown of the marriage. The most common fault grounds include adultery, abandonment, abuse, and addiction to alcohol or drugs. Fault cases are complicated because you have to provide admissible evidence that your spouse has engaged in marital misconduct and that it caused the breakup of the marriage. Fault cases typically take longer to resolve.

You should speak to an experienced family law attorney in your area before you file for a fault-based divorce to find out if you meet the requirements, can prove your case, and whether there is any advantage to pursuing a fault divorce that may outweigh the added legal fees, court costs, stress, and conflict with your ex. There can be very good reasons to file for a fault-based divorce, but you should talk to a lawyer who will help you weigh your options.

Has Your Spouse Already Initiated a Divorce?

An additional concern: If you’ve already been served with divorce paperwork, you should consult with a divorce lawyer as soon as possible. Divorce and family law rules vary from state to state, and unless you already know your state laws and local rules, you’ll have a lot to learn to get up to speed. A simple mistake on your paperwork can have life-long ramifications. Because the stakes are so high, it’s best not to try on your own to take on your spouse’s experienced family law attorney.

Once your spouse has gotten a lawyer, you need to hire an experienced attorney who can explain your rights and responsibilities, advocate and negotiate on your behalf, and obtain the best possible result for you and your family.


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