As a matrimonial litigant, you never want to feel that your lawyer does not know how best to take you through the divorce or post-divorce process. After spending substantial sums of money on an advocate to aid you through a difficult and emotional process, let’s just say that “the blind leading the blind” is not the vibe that you want to be left walking away with.
Unfortunately, however, it happens way too often and I cannot tell you how many times I have had consults with potential clients during which I am told about how disappointed he or she was with prior counsel. I have had several recent cases where I am left baffled and scratching my head at the inability of a matter to move forward to a trial or settlement – not because of difficult parties or issues of complicated substance, but, rather, a lawyer on the other side who simply does not seem to know what he or she is doing.
The experiences to which I allude are all the more reason to heed the following points when selecting your divorce lawyer:
- Does the lawyer practice exclusively in the area of matrimonial law? You want a lawyer who knows the law, right? You also want a lawyer who knows how the law has been applied, how it fits to the facts of your case, and how and when it may be changing. While no lawyer is going to concede to you that he or she does not know the law, or that acting on your behalf will be a new experience, always do your due diligence before meeting with the attorney to see what you are really dealing with. Aside from discussing with your referral source, perhaps review the attorney’s online profile to see what articles he or she has written, or what presentations he or she has given on family law topics.
- Is your lawyer familiar with the judges, lawyers, mediators and experts who may be involved in your matter? This point coincides with the first point. A lawyer who is well versed in or only practices in the area of family law will more likely be familiar with the people you will come across in the course of your matter. Knowing how your spouse’s lawyer operates, knowing which mediator may be good or bad for your case, and knowing which expert can best address your financial or custodial needs is of great importance in properly presenting and proceeding in your case.
- Do you feel comfortable in communicating with your advocate about the law and the facts of your case? You are going to get to know your lawyer very well. You want to be able to confide in that person all of the good and the bad that may have happened during your marriage, as well as anything that may impact upon your divorce proceeding. Providing your lawyer with such information and allowing him or her to best address such issues is one of the reasons why you retained that lawyer in the first place.
- Do you strategize with your lawyer in a way that addresses many different potential approaches while also taking litigation costs into consideration? There are many, many…many different types of divorce lawyers. There are lawyers who prefer the path of least resistance to get you to a resolution, lawyers who are always aggressive, and so many others in between. The lawyer you retain should fit your goals and motivations of what you want or believe your divorce matter should be.
- Is your lawyer responsive to your needs? Responsiveness is one of the issues that I hear about most often from clients who have had prior counsel. You want to ensure that your attorney gets back to you in a reasonable time to address any issues that you may have.
These are just a few of the critical points that you should consider in retaining matrimonial counsel. Every lawyer is different, as is every client. Finding the right match for you is not a decision to be taken lightly, and should be based on a consideration of several factors. Your attorney is someone who you are going to confide in more than most other people in your life, including, on occasion, your family and friends. Trust and comfort in your lawyer’s ability to advocate on your behalf is a critical, if not the most critical decision that you may make during the entire divorce process.
Robert Epstein is a partner in Fox Rothschild LLP’s Family Law Practice Group and practices throughout New Jersey. He can be reached at (973) 994-7526, or firstname.lastname@example.org.