Donna Ferber, a psychotherapist and author of the book "From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman's Journey Through Divorce" (Purple Lotus Press 2009), recently wrote a two-part blog on the Do's and Don'ts of hiring a divorce attorney. Some of the highlights:
- Just because your friend had a good experience with an attorney doesn’t mean they are the right one for you. Trust your gut.
- Aggression doesn’t insure a “win”. An overly aggressive attorney may fan the flames of conflict rather than move toward resolution.
- Pick an attorney who understands this isn’t about “winning”. She/He should understand divorce is about a major change in the family and that more than the “bottom line” will be affected. A good family attorney is willing, when necessary to work with your therapist. He/she is focused on the family’s post divorce situation and understands the interconnectedness of the family does not end with the dissolution of the marriage. In short, they can see the “big picture”.
- A consultation is like a first date, what you see is probably what you get. Don’t pick someone who minimizes your concerns, is sarcastic or dismissive. Don’t ignore your own radar by dismissing his/her behavior in favor of excellent credentials.
- Be clear the court is not going to reward you for pain and suffering. Settlements aren’t based on how betrayed or rejected you feel. Keeping an objective attitude regarding the legal system can play a big part in keeping your expectations realistic.
- Don’t use your attorney as a therapist. And don’t use your therapy time to talk about legal issues. Efficient utilization of your professionals will keep costs down, provide you with better information and effective support.
- Don’t withhold information from your attorney because you are embarrassed. They aren’t there to judge you, but if you don’t give them the information they need, you cut down on their ability to effectively represent you. Don’t assume drinking, abuse or affairs are not relevant even if you live in a “no fault” state. Underreporting or minimizing can result in your not getting the best settlement. ALWAYS tell your attorney if there are weapons in your home.