Going through a divorce can be nerve-wracking, which is why it’s a good idea to prepare some questions to ask a divorce lawyer beforehand.
The proceedings of a divorce will have a major impact on your life. You’ll want to hire the right divorce lawyer and ask the right questions to make the process seamless.
So, without further ado, let’s look at the most vital questions to ask a divorce lawyer.
Questions to Ask a Divorce Lawyer
Let’s browse each question separately, keeping the motives and consequences that will depend on each one in perspective.
1. Is Divorce Your Specialty? And How Much Experience Do You Have in Divorce Cases?
Every divorce case is different, and that’s why you need someone with sufficient experience in similar cases to yours.
You’ll need an attorney with family law experience if you have children. On the other hand, if you’re worried about spousal support, you should look for an attorney with relevant experience to ensure the best outcome.
Make sure to understand how familiar the lawyer is with divorce law and family law cases. It can also help to ask how many cases they’ve worked on and whether they settled them out of court.
2. Are There Going to Be References From Previous Clients?
You want the answer to this question to be a definite “yes.”
If your attorney fails to provide you with multiple references from previous clients, chances are they haven’t had much success.
Add to that, the former clients should have had cases similar to yours, as the kind of experience the attorney has is incredibly relevant.
3. How Many Cases Are You Working on Right Now?
This question gauges how much time your divorce attorney will have for you.
Don’t be shy to ask this question, and if the attorney is offended, it’s a sign that they or their firm won’t be able to handle an extra case.
High-end attorneys and firms don’t take on more cases than they can handle, so they should have a proper time-management schedule.
4. What Type of Divorce Case Do You Think This Is?
Determining with your divorce lawyer what your case is will help you decide on the best approach.
Are you confident that your case is a no-fault one, or is there a possibility of being at fault? How willing are you to try mediation or arbitration?
Would you rather opt for a collaborative divorce, with both attorneys working together to settle the issues amicably?
5. What Are the State Laws Regarding My Divorce Case?
Divorce laws change from one state to another, so make sure you ask your lawyer to fill you in on the issues that matter to you during the process. This includes alimony, child custody, and spousal support.
It’s also a good way to gauge how well-versed your attorney is with the laws since an experienced one shouldn’t have problems answering you. An attorney with extensive experience will also demonstrate the laws to you in code.
6. What Is Your Contact Information?
In the event that you haven’t settled with the divorce attorney you met, you might want to ask for their contact information. This helps you communicate with them regarding any inquiries or details down the line.
It’s best if you get their phone number or their business card to reach them through a work number or business email address.
7. What Temporary Orders Should I Seek? And How Do Their Processes Work?
Sometimes, you’ll need to work with some temporary orders until you finalize the divorce, and temporary orders don’t have to be the same as final ones.
Temporary orders include the following:
- Parenting time and temporary child custody orders.
- Child and spousal support orders.
- Requesting a contribution from your spouse while seeking an attorney, especially if there’s a considerable difference in either spouse’s income or access to money.
- Property control orders. Specifically, if there’s any property at risk of being destroyed or manipulated.
- Exclusive management, control, and use of a business. Especially in case the other party may endanger it with their behavior.
Should your lawyer inform you that you do need to seek temporary orders, make sure to understand the following:
- The documentation you’ll need to request the order.
- How the attorney is planning to file the request and serve it to the spouse or their attorney.
- How and when the court assigns a hearing date for the request.
- Who will be there at the hearing, and what will happen during the hearing.
8. How Will the Negotiations Work?
Your divorce attorney should have enough experience and a solid plan to reassure you about the upcoming negotiations.
They should be able to predict some scenarios regarding how your spouse might take the divorce process and what ideally happens during each of those scenarios.
An important aspect of this prediction also includes what the possible contested issues will be. Having a guess or two will help you navigate the resolution to something that works in your favor.
9. Who Will Be Working on My Case?
The attorney you speak with isn’t necessarily the one or the only one who will be handling your case. Ask if there will be any other attorneys working on the case and what services they will provide.
If the attorney works at a law firm, consider whether or not other people in the firm will handle the case with them, such as paralegals.
Don’t forget to ask if they’re going to attend the court appearances or if there’s another attorney designated for the case’s court appearances.
Be sure to know how much the attorney will handle personally and how much they won’t. This also helps you understand the overall cost of the divorce.
10. Is There Going to Be a Settlement Agreement Offers Review?
This is another question whose answer should be “yes.”
Your attorney should explain the process of settlement offer preparation and how you will be collaborating with the law office.
They should also let you review your settlement agreement offers before proceeding with them.
11. What Is Your Prediction of the Judge’s Ruling?
For the sake of being prepared for the worst, ask your attorney what they think a judge’s ruling would be in your case should the matter go to trial.
They should reassure you about vital matters like child support, child custody, spousal support, and division of property.
12. What Is Your Hourly Rate?
On average, a divorce lawyer’s hourly rate is between $175 and $500. You should understand how much your divorce attorney will charge and what services they’ll be charging you for.
13. How Much Will the Total Cost of the Divorce Be?
There are plenty of costs involved with a divorce, including filing fees, which can start at $230 and reach $800 or more, depending on the state.
Some attorneys charge a fee for merely starting on your case, and some of those fees can range from $3000 up to $5000!
Before you get involved and retain a divorce lawyer, make sure that you can keep up with the expenses they charge.
14. What Is the Billing Schedule for the Divorce Process?
You should find the frequency of billing in detail in the attorney’s retainer contract. Still, you should ask your attorney about this to understand how the process works, what types of payments are available (credit cards, checks, etc.), and at what point in the process you will have to pay.
15. Do I Need to Hire a Forensic Accountant to Determine Alimony and Child Support?
In some cases, you might need to hire a forensic accountant to help your divorce attorney determine sufficient cash flow to support the child or the spouse filing the divorce.
16. How Do I Minimize the Divorce Cost?
This question serves a double purpose. Firstly, it’ll help you understand your attorney’s experience and knowledge regarding divorce law and processes.
Secondly, it’ll help you mitigate the costs of the divorce, which can accumulate and blow out of proportion.
Your attorney should reassure you by giving you detailed information regarding how you can keep the costs of the process down.
You can help them by providing as much relevant information about your case as possible.
17. What Channel of Communication Will We Rely on?
You must know how and when you’ll contact your divorce attorney. Means of communication include emails, in-person meetings, video conferences, and phone calls.
With an hourly rate in mind, you should agree on a communication plan that best serves the case but doesn’t break the bank when discussing the details.
Still, it’s important to be willing to invest in the discussions about the case, as it might save you a lot of money down the line on spousal support or property distribution.
18. How Are We Going to Keep My File Secure? And How Will I Access It?
Your attorney or firm should have a solid system in place for keeping client files secure. Typically, these documents have your bank account numbers, social security number, and other private information.
If they don’t provide reassurance regarding how they’re going to keep your information safe, you should question their ethics and effort.
Moreover, you should know how you’re going to access your file upon reasonable request. This also includes having physical copies of the documents or having them securely transferred electronically.
19. Are There Any Portions of My File That I Won’t Have Access to?
Generally, you should have access to your divorce files whenever you need to. However, in some cases, such as private child custody evaluation reports, this may not be the case.
There could be a matter of court order or law that prevents you from having a specific portion of the file. Still, some states allow you to view the report without having a copy.
20. What Parenting Plan and Child Custody Works for My Case?
If you have children, ask your attorney about the possible parenting plans for your case.
They should tell you about the various custody and parenting plans available and discuss the best approach for you.
Not to mention, if your county has any parenting guidelines, they should present you with that information.
Kern, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Orange County are some of the counties with specific parenting guidelines, for example.
21. How Much Can I Get for Child or Spousal Support?
Being able to support yourself and your children financially could be a dilemma when deciding to file for divorce. If you worry about that, ask your attorney about how much you can get for child and spousal support.
The numbers may change from one situation to another and from one state to another. Yet, your attorney should be able to give you at least a ballpark figure with the information you provide them.
What Are the Types of Divorce Cases?
There are plenty of divorce case types, and it’s crucial to understand what yours entails. There are also alternatives to divorce, such as legal separation, trial separation, or an annulment.
An uncontested divorce is a case in which both parties agree on the divorce. They typically find common ground and concede to the issues relevant to their case.
This includes custody, child and spousal support, and property division. Not only that, but it also includes ownership of residence and the allocation of debt.
A contested divorce includes a party that disagrees with the spouse initiating the divorce or a case in which both parties fail to reach a middle ground.
In contested divorce cases, both parties hire a divorce attorney, and the court settles the contested issues.
Due to the legal procedures involved, including hiring attorneys, contested divorces are much costlier and can take longer to settle.
Not to mention, there’s an element of stress as the spouses may have to be called into court to testify or even bring friends or family members as witnesses.
Mediation involves a third party that comes into the picture to help the spouses navigate their issues without resorting to court.
However, mediation is a confidential agreement, which means nobody can use the information later in court should the mediator fail to help the spouses reach an agreement.
Sometimes, people resort to co-mediation, which involves two mediators instead of relying only on one.
Arbitration is somewhere between trial and mediation. An arbitrator’s decision is final and binding, similar to a judge’s, unlike a mediator, who only recommends an action plan.
Arbitration is a cheaper and quicker alternative to trial, but it’s not available in all states. So, if you’re considering arbitration, learn about the state laws in which you reside first.
What Is the Difference Between Legal Custody and Physical Custody?
Legal custody refers to a parent’s agency to make important decisions affecting the child’s life, while physical custody refers to where the child resides.
Legal custody involves making decisions regarding the following matters:
- Religious instruction and activities.
- Education and schooling.
- Health care and medical issues, including vaccinations and therapy.
- Participating in extracurricular activities, such as music lessons, joining a school band, or participating in team sports.
Types of Legal Custody
There are two types of legal custody: shared or joint and sole custody. Most of the time, judges tend to keep the decision over the children’s lives in the hands of both parents, as would be the case if the parents never got separated.
However, sometimes judges will rule for sole custody if that would be the optimal situation for the children. This is when the following applies to one parent:
- They aren’t involved in the child’s day-to-day routine.
- They have a mental illness or struggle with substance abuse, which obstructs their decision-making abilities.
- They have a history of child neglect or domestic abuse, whether it’s toward the other parent or the child.
Physical custody used to entail that the child or children lived with one parent while the other got visitation time. However, this setup isn’t as common as it used to be.
It can still be applied in the following cases:
- The parents don’t live nearby, making it hard for the child or children to move back and forth frequently.
- A parent can’t provide the child or children with thorough care due to mental health issues, substance abuse, or housing instability.
What Is the Difference Between Community Property and Separate Property?
There’s usually a conflict between the assets belonging to one spouse and those that are jointly owned during a divorce. Separate property is what belongs to one spouse, and community property is what belongs to both spouses.
To define the difference, we’ll start with what’s clearer: separate property.
Separate properties typically apply to the following conditions:
- Any property they owned before they got married.
- Any property they have received through descent, devise, bequest, or gift.
- The profits, issues, or rents received through any of the above.
Everything that’s not separate property is liable to be community property, depending on how and when the spouse acquired said asset.
Since the definitions could be elusive, you should ask your divorce lawyer about the assets that would be considered separate property in your case and the community ones you can acquire.
Divorces can be rocky and overwhelming. Asking your lawyer the above-discussed questions can help smoothen the process by ensuring you have the right divorce lawyer by your side.