Divorce is an emotionally, legally, and financially complicated process, and experiencing some degree of frustration with it is normal. After all, choosing to get a divorce will likely be one of the most difficult decisions you will ever make in your life. But, as experienced family law attorney Tim Moynahan recommends, “One way to tell you should speak to a lawyer about divorce is when you seriously consider this option to have a better life.”
Many people who are going through a divorce have a difficult time distinguishing good legal services from bad. They may feel as though their lawyer is not doing “enough” when in reality, they are thoroughly working through a long and complex legal process. Knowing what to expect from your lawyer before you initiate divorce proceedings is therefore essential to ensuring that the relationship between you and your lawyer is a productive one. Review the guide below for a general overview of what a “good” lawyer does and doesn’t do. A good lawyer:
You can expect your lawyer to communicate often—within reason, of course. He or she may not be able to answer your every call right away owing to the demands of his or her job, but you can generally expect to hear back from your lawyer within 24 hours on business days.
What’s most important when it comes to communication, however, is clarity. Your lawyer should give you an idea of what kind of problems you can expect to experience during your case, how they should be handled, and a basic timeline for what will happen and when. He or she should also keep you fully informed as your divorce case progresses and prepare you for your deposition and trial.
Adheres To Ethical Standards
Lawyers are held accountable if they violate ethical codes, so if you feel your lawyer has done something truly erroneous, you should take action and file a malpractice suit. Lawyers should comply with all of the following ethical rules:
• They should demonstrate complete loyalty to you, the client.
• They should keep all of your information confidential.
• They should complete necessary legal tasks in a timely manner (i.e., not neglect them to the point where deadlines are missed).
• They should remain within the bounds of the law when representing you.
• They should put your interests first, ahead of their own.
Is Clear About Fees
Legal fees are the most common area of contention between lawyers and their clients. Clients sometimes receive bills that are higher than what they felt they had agreed to, or they receive very vague bills that do not state which services are being covered by which fees. To prevent these issues, you should make sure that you get a fee agreement in writing when you hire a lawyer.
Ideally, however, your lawyer should volunteer any and all necessary information about fees. He or she should explain how often you will be billed and the exact services you are being billed for. If your lawyer is working on contingency (that is, he or she only collects full payment if you win), he or she should openly discuss who will pay for any costs that arise while your case is in progress. If you’re operating on a limited budget, a good lawyer will proactively suggest money-saving legal strategies that you can take.
How Do You Know If Your Expectations Are Reasonable?
Even an excellent lawyer cannot work miracles without your full cooperation. Your lawyer cannot proceed in a timely manner and represent you competently if you do not follow through on what you need to do.
You will need to give your lawyer information (in writing) about the events that led up to your divorce and you will need to be as honest and thorough as possible—don’t leave details out or edit history to make yourself look better. You should also keep your lawyer “in the loop” about any new developments that may affect your case. (This includes letting him or her know if you’ll be unavailable for a period of time.) The more you help your lawyer with doing research and completing necessary tasks, the faster your case will proceed. Don’t expect your lawyer to do everything single-handedly.
Finally, remember that your lawyer cannot take the place of a therapist. It’s natural that you’ll want to talk about the emotional aspects of your divorce with someone, but doing so with your lawyer will only slow the legal process down. For best results, stick to the facts.