When you get married to someone you believe is just right for you, it may never cross your mind that at some time your marriage may come to end. When it does, life can become complicated. Divorce is a legal as well as an emotional journey. While you are experiencing the sadness, anger, frustration, and disappointment of separation, you are also thinking about how property and assets should be divided, how your children’s lives will be impacted, and whether you will be okay financially without your spouse.
At the beginning of the process, it is often very difficult to have rational discussions with your spouse. In an effort to get along and be amicable, one spouse may agree to something he or she really doesn’t want to agree to, or on the other hand, want to punish the other spouse and leave them with nothing. This is why it is important to consult a divorce lawyer who not only understands what you are going through, but has the experience to resolve important matters with a minimum of disruption to you and your children.
Choosing the Right Divorce Lawyer
There are certain qualities you should look for before deciding on the best divorce lawyer for you:
You should feel comfortable in the attorney’s presence
Settling a divorce is not quite like buying your first home, as you need to be able to communicate about certain areas of your life that would normally be confined to your family unit, such as your income and expenses, spending habits, the relationships between both spouses and each of the children, agreements about employment, saving, and investing, etc.
And, depending on the facts of your case, you may have to disclose sensitive information that you normally would not discuss with anyone except your closest friend, if ever. You should be able to disclose this information without feeling pitied or judged. Your attorney should be approachable; meaning, you feel comfortable discussing the aspects of your marriage and family your attorney needs to know in order to represent you and protect your interests.
You should be able to communicate easily
You should be able to discuss things from your point of view and feel like you are being heard. You and your attorney should be ‘on the same page’ when it comes to the issues that matter most to you.
At your first meeting, your attorney should explain her policy regarding calls, emails, and text messages, and making office appointments. Your attorney works for you – not the other way around. You should never feel like your questions are a bother to the attorney. Throughout your initial consultation, you should feel like you understand how your case is going to be handled by that attorney.
The attorney should be experienced in handling divorce cases
Divorce in Virginia can be complicated. It is important that your attorney is familiar with the local rules of court in the various jurisdictions in which she practices, and is well respected among her peers. An attorney with a professional reputation of being easy to work with, means things typically go smoother and there is less contention between the attorneys that may trickle down to you and your spouse.
At your initial consultation, your attorney should explain the various grounds of divorce required in Virginia and how your case fits with those requirements. She should also explain the process of filing for divorce, having your spouse served with the complaint, and a general timeline for your case.
While settling your case out of court is usually favorable and more cost-effective, your attorney should always be prepared for trial in case a settlement cannot be reached. This means you should ask the attorney you’re consulting with if she has trial experience and whether she enjoys being in the courtroom.
Your divorce attorney should give you an estimate of the cost of the service
Unfortunately, many clients select their divorce attorney because the attorney quoted them the lowest price, only to be disappointed at the quality and/or quantity of services they’ve received. Since your Final Decree of Divorce will govern a large part of your life, often for the rest of your life, it is important that you think carefully before signing up with the attorney who promises a speedy divorce for $169.00.
During your initial consultation, your attorney should explain the cost of retaining her services, and the various payment options the firm has available. Some cases may be handled on a flat fee basis, meaning you pay one amount up front for the entire case. More complicated cases typically involve the client making a deposit to the attorney’s trust account, and then the client is billed by the hour for the work done on the case. You should understand the various options your attorney has available before making a decision about who is going to represent you.
Lu Aloupas at Aloupas Law is a Hampton Roads divorce attorney dedicated to helping her clients navigate the divorce process while she protects their interests.