Finding the best divorce lawyer for you and your circumstances can be one of the most difficult things you will need to do when going through a divorce or separation.
It is not uncommon to reach out to family, friends, or anyone you know who may give you some guidance or recommendation.
In this article, I will share my top 5 tips for finding the best divorce lawyer!
On a personal note, when my 18-year marriage ended– I too was stuck in the same dilemma that you may be finding yourself in today. It took me several months and three divorce lawyers later, to settle on one and finalise my divorce. To be honest, even the divorce lawyer I settled on was ‘settling’. This divorce lawyer was okay – but in the end, I ended up taking matters into my own hands and finalising the divorce with my ex-husband. In case, you are curious, at that time I was not practicing as a divorce lawyer, nor did I have any clue about how divorce and the law worked.
- Know what outcome you want.
- Stay focused on the big picture
- Seek out only specialist family lawyers
- Listen and realistically consider the advice you are given
- Pay attention to red flags
1. Know what outcome you want.
Although, you may be thinking “I don’t know what I want- so how can I be clear on what I want to achieve”. The truth is, that we do have some understanding of what is in our best interests, or our children’s best interests.
Spend some time asking yourself the following questions:
What parenting arrangements would best suit me and my children?
You will need to think about the ages of your children, their relationship with both you and the other parent and the practical distance between your home and the other parent’s home.
What do we own and what do we owe?
Create a list of all the assets that in both names or sole names as well as any mortgages, loans or any money that is owed.
Assets include your home, any investment properties, any business, shares, superannuation or motor vehicles.
How much do you spend each week on day-to-day living costs?
Although for most of us this can be an uncomfortable task, when going through a divorce it is critical because it will help you work out whether you need any financial support or whether you can afford to keep the home or any other assets.
If you are struggling with this task, then I suggest that you speak to an accountant or financial planner or jump onto a credible website such as MoneySmart.Gov – for assistance.
What are your assets worth?
This is another important financial question you will be asked by your divorce lawyer. Too often the response from most people is “ I have no idea”.
To get a ballpark estimate of what your assets are worth, then contact the local agent and get a ‘kerbside’ appraisal. This is an informal and non-obligatory estimate of your home or car or any other significant asset you or your ex-partner own.
Don’t forget to get an updated valuation or your superannuation, as well as our ex-partner’s superannuation entitlements. You have a right to know what the value of all their assets is as well.
What do I want to do after my divorce is finalised?
Some soul-searching is beneficial, especially during separation or divorce. I always say that divorce is a temporary obstacle, which creates long-lasting opportunities if you can spend some time taking stock.
So here you are wondering what is next for you and perhaps feeling alone, frightened and uncertain of the future – not the best place to be, yet if you can trust the process of growth and learning, you will find that miracles will happen in this space.
The only thing you need to do is ‘dream’ – and create the biggest and boldest dream you can imagine – perhaps you dream of:
starting fresh somewhere new in the world.
leaving your dead-end job and looking for work that aligns with your values.
Finding healthy intimacy and love again
Re-connecting with long lost family and friends.
Or doing what I did…dreaming of becoming a divorce lawyer and running my own legal firm!
Anything you can think of is possible if you give yourself permission to ‘dream’!
“divorce is an opportunity to create a new and exciting life”
2. Stay focused on the big picture in your life.
Now that you have allowed yourself to dream and have begun to see some possible opportunities or new beginnings – keep your eye on that prize.
If you can’t see it right now – trust me in time you will.
What you will discover is the privilege of a second (third or beyond) chance at finding love, happiness and fun.
You get to discover how empowering it is to find out what is right for you, instead of wasting your precious time with petty arguments and wanting to “be right” because you have no vision or big picture to focus on.
3. Seek out specialist divorce lawyers.
I cannot stress this one enough. Like all things in this modern, complex, and busy life, there is no such thing as one lawyer who can do it all. As lawyers, we all must choose our speciality. For some, it may be criminal law or environmental law, and for others like myself, it is family and divorce law.
Please do not waste your time or money on lawyers who don’t specialise in divorce law. This area of the law is complicated, and it is fraught with many ‘grey’ areas – this is not an easy, simple or even ‘one-size’ fits all area of practice.
The best way to find a divorce lawyer is:
- Search for divorce lawyers who write on topics you are interested in
- Call the Law Society in your State for a list of specialist divorce lawyers.
- Speak to your trusted advisors, such as accountant, financial planner or counsellor.
4. Listen and realistically consider the advice you are given.
Most people who are going through a divorce or a break-up, have listened to well-meaning friends and family about their experience with lawyers or divorce. Too often, there are misconceptions and information that is general or simply incorrect. When you seek out the advice of a specialist divorce lawyer, have an attitude of being willing to hear another point of view or perspective, one which is sound in law.
Your divorce lawyer may give you advice and legal information that you have not heard before or have not considered- therefore it is in your best interests to listen openly and without judgment and to always take time to consider the advice given to you.
Of course, there will be times, when the legal advice although theoretically correct, for your circumstances and from your experience, it may not be meaningful or suitable to you. That’s okay – the point is that you have listened and carefully considered the legal advice and options available to you.
I recall when I went through my own divorce, one of the divorce lawyers I saw advised that I urgently file at court. Although the legal advice was correct, I was focused on my big picture and had no time to go to Court.
5. Watch out for red flags when it comes to choosing a divorce lawyer.
The best divorce lawyers will conduct themselves in a professional, timely and respectful manner. You have just come out of a marriage or relationship and even if you wanted the separation or divorce, you may still be overcome with emotions of grief, sadness, anger, or disappointment. You certainly don’t want your professional relationship with your divorce lawyer to be difficult, disrespectful or cause you upset or frustration.
Here are some red flags to look out for:
Divorce lawyers who send letters that are rude, aggressive, or inflammatory to your ex-partner or their lawyers.
These types of letters or emails are inappropriate and will often end up making matters worse for all. Not only will you be left with hefty legal bills, but you will also be in a worse position if you are parents of children.
Divorce lawyers who don’t communicate in a timely manner.
This is a bright red flag. If you are feeling frustrated that your divorce lawyer is not returning your calls or emails or is taking days or even weeks to communicate with you, then take action before the situation becomes untenable and you end up disgruntled and having to ‘divorce’ your divorce lawyer.
The best way to move forward is to talk with your divorce lawyer and let them know that timely (within 24 hours) communication is what you expect and without it, you may need to move on.
Any divorce lawyer who values you- will understand your needs and will do their best to accommodate them.
Divorce lawyers who don’t accept your instruction.
If your instructions are sound, legal, clear, and proper – then your divorce lawyer must accept your instructions. If your divorce lawyer argues with you or makes you feel uncomfortable, then cut your losses and move on.
Divorce lawyers who are not transparent about their fees.
If you are left wondering what the legal costs will be and you have not been provided with a cost agreement (a document which provides you with an estimate of costs). All lawyers have a legal requirement to make sure that you understand their fee structure and how much your matter will cost.
Divorce lawyers who treat you as just another client and really don’t care about you.
You always know when someone goes the extra mile and has you top of mind. It’s not so much what they say, but how you felt after the experience. If you feel unheard, frustrated, or disappointed by your divorce lawyer- time to move on.
How to find the Best divorce Lawyer is written by the Founder and Principal of Cominos Family Lawyers, Pamela Cominos. If you wish to find out more, email [email protected] or call on 02 8999 1800.