There is no definitive answer to this question. The trust is that there are a multitude of experienced and seasoned divorce attorneys in each county who can properly handle your divorce case. The best advice I can give is to adhere to the following steps:
- Consult more than one attorney. You are not bound to retain the first attorney you meet, no matter what kind of promises he or she makes. It is more advisable to consult with several attorneys before choosing which one is the right for you and your case.
- Make sure that you hire an attorney who has experience handling divorce cases. More often than not, attorneys specialize in certain fields, so be sure that the attorney you are hiring specializes in family law or at least has handled divorce cases in the past. You may also want to consider finding an attorney who specializes in any specific issue that you will need to deal with in your case (e.g. grandparental rights, fathers’ parental rights, custody, etc.).
- Don’t be afraid to ask the attorney questions about his or her experience, billing practices or about any other issue that you need clarification on. The consultation is the best time to address these concerns, not after you have already retained your attorney and are knee deep in the litigation.
- It is advisable to hire an attorney who is familiar with the Supreme Court located in your county. This does not necessarily mean that you should hire an attorney who is located in the same county that you reside in, but they should be familiar with the rules of the Supreme Court where your case will be filed. Each county has its own idiosyncrasies, so it is better to have someone who is familiar with court personnel and/or how the court works, rather than have the attorney learn the ins and outs of the court while handling your case.
- Supplement any consultations with online research about the attorney, a call to the local bar association or even a call to the grievance committee to determine whether or not the attorney you are considering hiring has any adverse history.
- Ask friends and family members if they know of any divorce attorneys who have gained positive results for them in the past. A good attorney will always be referred by past clients when he or she does a good job for the client.
- Take your time and do not rush choosing an attorney. You should also be certain to hire an attorney whom you can communicate with comfortably. Some litigants prefer a male attorney while others prefer a female attorney. The sex of your attorney will not likely make a difference when you appear in court, but it may make a difference in your comfort level, so decide upon what works for you.
- When it is time to choose and after weeding out any attorneys who had ref flags after you completed your investigation, it is advisable to make sure you choose someone whom you are comfortable with. Let your instincts guide you in this regard. If you meet one attorney who makes you feel at ease when you see and speak to him, this is probably the one for the job.
- The age of the attorney is not determinative of their ability. You can get good legal counsel from a young attorney or an older attorney.
- A good attorney will not always “yes” you about issues relating to your case. He or she will confront you or set you straight when necessary if your actions or inactions are damaging your case. Be mindful of this fact and if necessary, consult a different attorney about any specific issue if you sense that your attorney is not giving you the best advice.
- If your attorney does not immediately respond to your calls or emails, be patient and give him a day or two to respond. However, if you never get a call/email back from your attorney, and the only time you hear from him is when you see him in court for court appearances, it may be advisable to consider finding a new attorney.
- You can discharge your attorney anytime you want. You are not bound to stick with one attorney throughout the litigation. It is not uncommon for litigants to change attorneys once or twice during litigation, but be careful not to switch too many times because a litigant could potentially be considered as being defiant toward his attorney’s advice if he switches attorneys more often than that.
In sum, choosing an attorney to represent you in a divorce case is not a perfect science, nor is there any specific formula that you can use to determine whether or not you are choosing the right attorney for your case. Please use the guidelines set forth above and don’t be afraid to consult a different attorney if you believe for any reason that your attorney is not the right attorney for your case.