How to Choose a Divorce Attorney in Los Angeles
Finding a divorce attorney that’s right for you
When it’s time to find a divorce attorney, let’s face it: it’s not a happy time in your life. There’s a lot going on that you have on your mind, and between problems in your personal life and maintaining a solid professional life at work, it can seem a bit overwhelming. And we know that “a bit overwhelming” might sound like the understatement of the year to you. So when we think about finding a divorce attorney, we have to do it in a way that actually results in a relatively smooth process that lands you in the offices of someone you trust this aspect of your life with. Having someone you can trust not only gives you an opportunity to outsource a lot of your worry, but simply gives you a stability that you probably need right now.
When it comes to finding a divorce attorney, you want to cut down on all of that worry and simply get in front of someone who can tell you that they’ll take things from here. But before you get to that point, a little bit of research and work can go a long way. Besides, it’s a good way to start to feel like you’re gaining a handle on the situation and that you’re ready to take charge of your life and handle things properly.
Although it can be a difficult time for anyone, finding a divorce attorney should be an absolute priority because the quality of your attorney and the service he provides will mean more to you than a lot of the things you could also choose to focus on right now. Once you’ve landed a good divorce attorney, it’s also important to consider that you’ve gotten this phase of the journey over and done with.
Let’s not forget the material gains that can be had from putting in the time to find a good divorce attorney. Securing the possessions and treatment you want in the divorce process or through a settlement can mean putting in a lot of work if you don’t already have a divorce attorney who is on top of things. That’s why it’s important for you to take a look at all of the available options you have in terms of divorce attorneys in your area and finally prepare yourself to make an ugly process go a lot smoother.
What will you learn in this guide? Let’s take a brief look:
• How to get a list of divorce lawyers in your area
• How to whittle down that list and set your own priorities
• How to interact with your divorce attorney throughout the entire process
If knowing all of the above sounds like a good idea, then it’s a good thing you picked this report out: it’s time to get learning.
“According to the CDC, in one recent year the amount of marriages – 6.8 per 1000 people – was met by a high divorce rate – 3.4 per 1000 people.”
Getting things settled
When a divorce comes, it can come in two ways generally: it’s either been something that you and your spouse have talked about or have at least thought about for some time, or it may come as a surprise for reasons like marital infidelity. No matter which way it happens, being served with divorce papers or applying for them yourself can be a big deal in your life and make things seem a little uncertain. That’s why it’s important to get things settled as soon as possible.
And what does that mean? Get things settled? To us, it means something simple: make your plans concrete. Starting out looking for a divorce lawyer doesn’t just happen all at once. You can’t flip open the Yellow Pages and expect to strike gold with the first number you dial. Getting your priorities straight and setting real, tangible goals that you can achieve is the name of the game. Getting things settled means taking action and putting these goals on paper.
Think about it. You’re getting a divorce and you need to know what to do. What are some immediate action steps you can take?
Well, you could:
• Gather all of your financial papers and documents to verify that what you believe to be yours is actually yours and in your name
• Start calling divorce attorneys or asking friends who have gotten divorced for advice
• Start to think about your new life when you’re divorced
• Start a computer document listing all of the possessions you want to maintain
• Think about the kids and where they’ll go
To be honest, these things can be important to think about. But it’s all overwhelming. You might as well try to consider your life plan for the next 50 years and accomplish it all in a single week. You’re never going to be able to do it if you attack things this way.
When we talk about getting things settled, this is exactly what we mean: being able to sift through your priorities in order to generate an action plan that you can put into use today. Sometimes this means that you won’t do a lot today. But the key is taking action. And we suggest you work on some of the littler stuff first before you start thinking about the big stuff – after all, before you talk to a credible divorce attorney, you can’t be sure about how all of the “big stuff” will be handled.
So where do you start?
Quite simple: start sitting down with a pencil and a piece of paper and write down some of your long-term goals. If you have to worry about the big stuff, worry about it on paper. Let it all out on paper so that you know what’s on your mind. Once you have this on paper, you’ll feel a little relieved, like you’re finally getting organized. That’s because you are!
Then, start focusing on your main goals and pick two or three. What do you want to have happen?
Under these goals, write down what you think it will take to achieve those goals. Somewhere along the line, we’re betting that “find a great divorce attorney” appears on your list. Congrats! Your mind is in the right place. But let’s break that down even more into further-definable action steps.
Starting small: how to go about finding divorce lawyers…period
Before you find that great divorce lawyer – excellent goal you’ve set, by the way – you’ll need an answer to this question: how do you find a divorce lawyer, period?
Well, there are a number of ways. In fact, there are so many divorce attorneys around that it will be hard not to be advertised to or targeted in some way. What this says about our society is another thing entirely: we’re focused on your problem right now.
Finding divorce attorneys can be a matter of simple, intuitive action steps. You could:
• Open the Yellow Pages
• Search online
• Browse lawyer indexes online like Lawyers.com
• E-mail old friends who’ve gotten divorces and ask them for recommendations
• Ask for a referral from a lawyer you’ve previously worked with
Those are five suggestions right there that can give you plenty to do tonight. But we don’t suggest that you tackle this search all in one night: that would be a bit too cumbersome, particularly as you’re trying to handle other aspects of your life like maintaining your standards of quality at work and taking care of your children, if you have any.
Where do you start? Well, you just start taking action. Be willing to throw a lot of things at the wall to see what sticks. Eventually, as you sift through more and more lawyers and speak to more on the phone, you’ll start to tell what makes one divorce attorney appear more competent and experienced versus the others. You can also compare issues like rates, location, and availability.
Again, we recommend that you try having a lot of this set down on a piece of paper somewhere so that you can keep track of things. When you write something down on paper, it’s almost as if you shift the worry to that piece of paper so that it’s off of your mind. After all, your thoughts are recorded somewhere – you don’t need to keep thinking them so you don’t get lost.
As you enter a search for a good divorce lawyer, take advantage of all the ways you can find any divorce attorney, period. It’s only after you start this process that you begin to whittle down the candidates and lean to a particular attorney or two who actually strike you as knowing what they’re doing and being interested in really helping you out.
So what comes next? How can you tell if a divorce lawyer is good? Let’s take a look at what you might expect a divorce lawyer to do during normal divorce proceedings.
What you’ll be getting from a good divorce attorney
If you could handle divorces yourself, you wouldn’t need a divorce attorney. So it goes without saying that a divorce attorney should have skills and qualifications that you don’t have. Here, we’ll not only look at what divorce attorneys do, but what gives them the qualifications to do that.
Qualification or Service Description
When you see a lawyer advertise himself as having a “J.D.,” this is what they’re talking about: lawyers are essentially doctors of law and have had to go to school for a considerable amount of time to accomplish that. What you’ll want to be aware of, however, is that a J.D. does not guarantee a lawyer’s proficiency in a specific area of law – they are, simply, doctors of law in general. They might have had classes that dealt with divorces specifically, but it really depends on the individual school they attended and whether they pursued this interest at that school. Really, a Jurisdoctorate is practically below the bare minimum of what you should expect from your lawyer; to decide on a good one you’ll need more information than their education history. However, more prestigious law schools can be a sign that your lawyer has a strong educational background.
Like a medical license, a lawyer needs a license to practice in the state in which he’s, well, practicing law. Many lawyers will take the bar exams in a variety of states to ensure that they can take on clients from a range of areas. You need to work with lawyers who are in good standing with the state bar and who are fully licensed to work with you – a simple glance at a diploma when you’re visiting a lawyer’s office is really all you need.
Filing and commencement
Depending on which party you are, the filling of the actual divorce papers could be handled by your lawyer – and if you are on the receiving end of these kinds of notices, then your lawyer should be able to take care of legal paperwork so you don’t have to. This alone can sometimes be worth the price of admission, but of course a divorce attorney’s work goes far deeper than that.
Contested vs. noncontested divorces
When it comes to divorces, there are generally two different types: divorces that are contested and divorces that are uncontested. Naturally, the divorces that are contested can be a little trickier to manage, and this is where your divorce attorney comes in. Handling a contested divorce can mean a lot of paperwork, communication, and hagling with other attorneys: that’s the kind of stuff you don’t want to handle yourself. It’s also up to your lawyer in a contested divorce to relate to you all that’s going on and what’s at stake in the contesting of the divorces. In an uncontested divorce, there are still issues to settle, and divorce attorneys essentially serve as objective mediators.
If both parties are ready to agree to a settlement, it’s up to the divorce attorneys to draw up the paperwork and ensure that it’s all taken care of. When there are settlement issues getting in the way, your divorce attorney should be able to advise you on what they believe are the best courses of action going forward. If a settlement has been reached, it’s up to the divorce attorneys to ensure that the paperwork reflects said settlement and ensures a quick divorce for both of you.
Child care and custody issues
Understanding child care and custody laws can be very difficult, which is why it’s essential to work with a divorce lawyer who’s handled these cases before. Children can sometimes be at the heart of a divorce contesting and as such, it will require a good bit of navigation to ensure that things end in a peaceful way. Lawyers can’t handle all of your decisions for you – you’ll have to read up and make sure you’re ready to take charge with decisions – but they should be able to provide you with the context and arguments that will surround the entire case.
Should your divorce go to trial because the two sides can’t reach an agreement, your divorce attorney will represent you in the trial. Needless to say, having representation at a trial is so crucial that the government will provide you with lawyers if you’re unable to secure one of your own in certain cases. When it comes to trial representation, your divorce lawyer should be both experienced and knowledgeable and should understand how judges react to certain arguments. If your divorce lawyer is able to give you plenty of information to understand what’s going on, be glad you have a lawyer who can communicate with you.
Taking one look at the list above can be exhausting – heck, if the divorce sounds rough on you, imagine working as a divorce attorney who handles these things all day! But really, these are just the baseline services a divorce attorney will be expected to provide for you. Once you have a grasp on all these services, you start to imagine what a good lawyer will look like, which will benefit you when you start your search for a quality divorce attorney in earnest.
So what happens next?
It’s time to whittle down the list you gathered earlier on and find out which divorce attorneys have really separated themselves as the people you’ll want to work with.
Choosing one divorce attorney over the others
Unless you hire the first divorce attorney you talk to, you’re really making a decision to select one divorce attorney over the others. In some cases, having a good divorce lawyer doesn’t require a lot of work – if someone trustworthy gives you a referral, for example, you may find that you end up in good hands. But for many of us without any real knowledge about divorce lawyers or any inside access to the world of divorce attorneys, it can be a little bit more difficult to reach a final decision.
That’s why we recommend these criteria to use as you get closer to making your final decision.
Find a divorce attorney with experience. Experience is not just a resume. You can’t know that you’re working with a good divorce attorney simply because they tell you how long they’ve been practicing law. What if you’re getting a lawyer who just started out in the world of divorce law? That’s not exactly the kind of person you’ll want on your team. Instead, you need to concentrate on relevant experience – and that’s partially why referrals from others can be so helpful. If you have a friend who went through a divorce but had a great divorce attorney, you know that said attorney has direct experience in what you’re looking for. It’s not all about experience: it’s about the right kind of experience.
Find a divorce attorney who’s personable. A passive personality doesn’t always make a great lawyer. If your divorce attorney is personable on the phone and in person, you have a good idea of how they’ll behave in situations that call for hard negotiation and haggling with other lawyers. You want someone who doesn’t lose their cool and is willing to be bold without losing any of their professionalism in the process. This can admittedly be a bit of a “gut” decision rather than a formal, paper decision, but sometimes it pays to listen to your gut.
Cross off the list: divorce attorneys who don’t seem interested in your individual case. Admittedly, there are probably some divorce attorneys out there who can do a good job on your divorce without ever batting an eye. But relying on your lawyer to do this is not a good idea. You want an attorney who can actually listen to your situation and your concerns, talk to you about the kind of knowledge you’ll need to have, teach you about the process, and generally make you feel comfortable that you’ve hired someone who understands the situation you’re in. It’s not necessary to find a divorce attorney who’s been divorced, but someone who has worked with a lot of divorced people before. Their direct, relevant experience (remember that?) will play a key role in determining the quality of service they can render to you.
Once you use those criteria to start crossing lawyers off your list, you should feel like you’ve got a much better handle on things. If it still comes down to two or three lawyers and you’re not sure about who to hire, imagine if you were to toss a coin that predicted the result. Note: don’t actually let the results hinge on a coin toss! We’re making a point here.
When you toss the coin in the air, you might find out what you’re hoping for – heads or tails. When you know which lawyer you’re rooting for, you probably know which divorce attorney is right for you.
http://www.ehow.com/about_5091288_divorce-attorney.html – Learning about Divorce attorneys
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/divorce.htm – Statistics on divorce
Lawyers.com – A directory of lawyers
http://www.divorcemag.com/statistics/statsUS.shtml – Statistics on divorce