This page is all about the many options you have when you’re trying to think through what legal advice you need for your divorce. The key is that you have lots of options.
If you’re like most people going through divorce, you have the advice of others ringing in your ears that “you better hire a lawyer – a really good one.” Well maybe so. There certainly are divorces where the parties have so lost control of their divorce that what they both need is the meanest, ugliest gladiator they can find. More often than not, though, people going through divorce can and should be more discriminating. That’s why this page is here.
Let’s take your options for legal assistance one at a time:
The first thing to remember about the attorney you hire for your divorce is that you don’t necessarily need one. I know that makes me a heretic these days, but it’s true. If the issues of your divorce are simple and straightforward, you may already know what terms you can and should agree to, and the extra expense of an attorney may be wasted. If you and your spouse haven’t been married long, don’t have children, and don’t have much property or debttogether, there’s probably not much going on that you don’t understand. You and your spouse could get an uncontested divorce, or you could order the forms and do it yourself. That way, you save the money you would otherwise pay to people like me. And that’s a win in anybody’s book. Let’s assume there are some things about your case, though, that you really don’t understand. That still doesn’t mean you need to hire a lawyer. You still have lots of options.
A while ago I was quite enamored of the prepaid legal plans, but my ardor has cooled. First, there have been several reports that the law firms the plans hire are not up to the tasks they’ve been assigned. Second, the unsavory selling tactics of some of the plans have attracted the attention of some state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission. I’m steering clear of recommending them, at least for the time being. Maybe one day soon, I’ll be able to speak in favor of them again.
Coaching is a new concept in some parts of the country, but it makes sense as a way you can buy just enough time with a lawyer to get the advice you need. There’s no retainer, no commitment to use that lawyer in the future. Simple. Clean. Efficient.
When an attorney and client enter into a collaborative law relationship, the attorney is pledging that he or she will represent his client zealously and will attempt to get the best possible deal he or she can for the client. At the same time, however, (and this is what makes collaborative law such a powerful idea), the attorney is pledging not to go to trial on the client’s behalf. This approach typically doesn’t work unless both spouses make this commitment. When they do, both parties know that they have a powerful incentive to settle their case and settle it early. They know they can go to trial but that if they do they will need to hire a new lawyer to do it.
If you’re searching for a lawyer to help you with your divorce, the best online resource I’ve found is Lawyers.com. You can search their comprehensive database of lawyers by specialty, and it’s all free.
When you make the decision to hire a divorce lawyer, resist the urge to take the word of the person you know who went through the divorce from hell. They may have gone through the divorce from hell partially because of the lawyer they chose. Ask around. Ask lots of people. When you talk to lawyers, there are some questions you should ask before you make the decision to hire.