How Do I Find The Right Divorce Attorney?

Many people struggle with this when their marriage is breaking up and it causes a lot of stress and sleepless nights.

Do you really need an attorney?

If you are reading this, you are probably considering hiring an attorney. Some people appreciate the comfort and security of knowing they are not alone if they have to go to court; that someone will be sitting beside them when they have to face a judge or their ex-spouse.

Some people need an attorney because their divorce and family law issues are complicated and they don’t want to make a mistake or leave money on the table.

Some fear their ex-spouse or partner and cannot imagine they will get a fair deal without help.

How do you find the right divorce attorney?

What are you trying to accomplish? Some people want to mediate, others know this is not the right approach, based upon their spouse or partner. If you just want to hire an attorney and don’t want to consider mediation, that’s OK.

Each attorney will have their own experience and approach. Some attorneys are more aggressive than others.

When interviewing attorneys you should take this into consideration. If you pick an attorney who does not match your personal style and goals, this may lead to greater tension and stress for you during your divorce.

Are you being reasonable?

Going through a divorce is (hopefully) a once in a lifetime experience and your emotions are raw. You may surprise yourself, behaving in odd and unpredictable ways.

You must be able to rely on your attorney and his or her advice.

Some clients “just want to get it over with” . This may not be the best move and is likely a result of your increased stress and fear of uncertainty. Consider your attorney’s demeanor when you hire them. Some attorneys are more willing to go along with a client’s demand to settle a case quick, others will counsel the client to pause and take more time to consider their settlement.
Which attorney are you more comfortable with?

How much money are you willing to pay an attorney? What is your budget?

The more experienced attorneys will be more expensive. When you meet with potential attorneys, consider their experience and hourly rate. Is your case simple or do you have multiple unresolved issues? Clients who feel that they will need to engage in lengthy courtroom battles should be prepared to spend considerably more than a client who has already worked out an agreement with their spouse and merely needs an attorney to write up a marital settlement agreement.

Have you considered your future beyond divorce?

It is helpful to map out your divorce strategy and goals, just like you would plan your investments or retirement accounts, with an end goal in mind.

Make sure your attorney shares your goals. Discuss this in your initial interview and consider this when making your final decision to hire an attorney.

Consider hiring a certified specialist in family law.

What is a certified specialist ? The State Bar of California certifies attorneys as Family Law Specialists who have demonstrated proficiency in the specialized field of family law.

What does the State Bar require to certify an attorney as a specialist? A Certified Specialist is more than an attorney who specializes in a particular area of law. Technically, an attorney cannot refer to themself as a specialist unless they are certified by the State Bar.

A California attorney who is certified by the State Bar as a Family Law Specialist must have (pursuant to the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization): Taken and passed a written examination in Family Law; demonstrated a high level of experience in Family Law; fulfilled ongoing education requirements; and, been favorably evaluated by other attorneys and judges familiar with her or his work.

If you want to speak with a California attorney, certified by the State Bar as a Family Law Specialist, go to:

Calling It Quits – Divorce After 50


Is this you?

Older clients seeking divorce after a long term marriage may have lots of unresolved disputes in their marriage. Many are making this decision after years of unhappiness. Some breakups involve extra-marital relationships, but most are just people who are tired of having a marriage in name only, while they feel they are living alone. Their children are older and may all be over 18 – some of these folks are just waiting for their children to graduate from high school so they can move on.

You may need help dividing your pension or other retirement accounts, real property, bank accounts and other assets. Your primary earning years may be behind you. Make sure you secure your future.

Contact an experienced family law attorney to help you step into a future beyond divorce.

Read more in this recent NY Times article.

Is My Divorce Final?



Do you have a judgment?

Many people in California believe there is some automatic process that ends their marriage six months after they file for divorce. This is not true, but I continue to speak with clients, as well as business colleagues, year after year, who believe this. Some of these people have entered into new marriages, while they were still married to their former spouses.

Imagine their shock when they discover that their new marriage is not valid and they may have committed the crime of bigamy. See California Penal Code §281.

Don’t make this mistake. Make sure your marriage has ended before you marry again.

Your marriage ends in California when one of the following happens:

(1) The death of one of the parties;
(2) A judgment of dissolution of marriage; or
(3) A judgment of nullity of marriage.

In California there are several specific judicial council forms that must be completed and filed with the court before the court clerk will enter a judgment dissolving your marriage.

This can be a complicated and confusing process. Some people become frustrated and do nothing, relying on their belief that their marriage has ended because it has been six months since they filed their petition to dissolve their marriage at the court house. This creates additional risks, including the possibility that the court will dismiss your divorce action, for failure to bring the matter to trial within five years of filing your petition. See California Code of Civil Procedure §583.310.

Do you have a judgment?

Contact a certified specialist in family law to verify that you are really divorced.