One of the biggest and toughest decisions in your life can be filing for divorce, something generally most people do not want to do except as a last resort. The next biggest issue is choosing a divorce attorney to represent you in your case.
So, how does one go about choosing a divorce lawyer exactly? It can be a daunting task and ultimately a subjective decision that only you can make.
First, doing your research is always a good idea. The internet allows you to search divorce attorneys online, look at their websites, and get a feel for the attorneys out there in your area.
Speaking of divorce attorneys in your area, you should generally try to choose an attorney in your city or county, depending on where you are. For example, if you live in Orange County and your case is in Orange County, you generally should find and retain an Orange County divorce attorney. Why? There are 3 reasons: (1) your attorney will have to travel less time to get to court, which in turn will save you in legal fees, (2) a local divorce attorney will know how the court in your county works (i.e. the little “ins and outs” of the court system) which is invaluable, and (3) a local divorce attorney will be known by the other attorney in your case and, even more important, the judge will likely know that attorney. All those factors can have an effect on your case in terms of legal fees, the duration of the litigation in your case, and in how your case might be resolved.
Chances are you know someone, i.e. a friend, family member, or someone you work with, that has gone through a divorce. If they are willing to talk about it, ask for an attorney referral because that person has gone through the process whereas you likely have not. That person can give you a lot of helpful information and assist you in choosing a divorce attorney that fits your needs.
Much like asking someone you know about their divorce attorney, checking out and reading the client reviews of divorce attorneys is also a good way to narrow the attorneys you will want to set up consultations with. Such reviews can be helpful in getting a sense of what those attorneys are like. Some of those reviews are posted on attorney websites, but there are independent websites like Avvo.com that has helpful information about attorneys including client reviews.
It is always advisable to meet with more than one divorce attorney once you have narrowed your choices. Set up consultations with each. Some will offer free 60 minute consultations, some will offer a free 30 minute consultation, and some will require a charge for their time, often at the attorney’s hourly rate. Do not let the issue of free vs. paid consultation be the determining factor in choosing an attorney. Instead, in meeting each attorney, ask questions about the attorney, about how they handle their cases, about how available they are by phone/email/in person when needed, etc. Make an informed decision about the divorce attorney you pick after doing all of this. You want to pick an attorney that you feel comfortable with, is accessible and who actually listens to you.
A word of warning: if a divorce lawyer that you meet promises or guarantees an outcome in your case, run out of their office. NO divorce attorney should EVER promise or guarantee an outcome, because there are many factors involved if your case goes to trial that may affect the final outcome. Don’t ever choose an attorney that says only what you want to hear, but one that also tells you what you need to hear.
In the end, there is no such thing as “the best attorney.” There are many qualified divorce lawyers out there. Rather, the issue is choosing the best attorney for you.
For more information or to schedule a consultation with Gerald Maggio, please call our Orange County office at (949) 553-0304 or go to maggiolawfirm.com.