Getting divorced is not something most people do on a regular basis. Therefore, it’s a topic many know little about even if they have experienced a divorce. Without legal experience it can be difficult to totally understand the process and to choose the best divorce lawyer for your situation.
Finding the right attorney in the Cleveland area could be the key to a quicker, less painful, less expensive divorce. At a time when you may already be feeling stressed emotionally and financially, your choice of a divorce lawyer could also bring you peace of mind.
Here are some tips for choosing a divorce attorney:
1. Remain focused on your goal.
Your goal in filing for a divorce should be to get divorced with as little major disruption in your family’s life as possible, especially if there are children to consider. If you let your emotions run unchecked when you are negotiating over material things that usually don’t mean much in the end, anyway, your divorce will take longer, will probably require more court action and will definitely cost more. So keep your focus on getting divorced with as little upheaval in your life and as few financial repercussions as possible. If you find that one party is dragging their feet on divorce proceedings, try to determine if a court-litigated divorce is what is best for you and best for any children who may be involved.
Here are some other considerations.
2. Know what kind of divorce you want.
Are you seeking a traditional divorce? If there are no complications with children and finances, you might hire a mediator to help you and your partner negotiate the terms of your divorce. This is the fastest and cheapest way to get divorced in Ohio especially if you have few issues—you may not even need an attorney.
You can also decide to get a “collaborative divorce.” This means you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse focus on negotiating all issues with the goal of preserving a co-parenting relationship–getting into litigation only as a last resort. If neither side will compromise, the aforementioned options may not work for you but they may be avenues to consider before hiring a divorce lawyer.
It is also possible both sides are not 100% certain they want to end the marriage, but need some time apart to assess the situation. In this case, you could file for a legal separation. You will remain legally married but will likely live in different households as you work things out (or don’t).
3. Identify at least three potential attorneys and interview them.
Identifying divorce attorneys you may want to interview
You should hire a divorce lawyer who specializes in family law and one who can handle the specific type of divorce you have chosen to pursue. The ideal divorce attorney has the legal knowledge and experience required, helps you to understand the divorce process, shows evidence of skill in communication and negotiation, and is experienced with the family law judges in your jurisdiction. This usually means he or she is located locally.
How do you find these divorce lawyers? Ask friends who have gone through divorce if they can recommend (or not recommend) someone. Ask them questions like how long it took the divorce attorney to return their phone calls, how well they answered questions and if they did anything to expedite the process when the lawyer had an opportunity to do so.
If you have prepared a will or handled other financial matters through an attorney, ask that lawyer for a recommendation. It is generally not a good idea to use the same lawyer as the spouse you are divorcing. It is legal to do so in Ohio, and you may both know the attorney well, but each of you needs their own attorney.
If you are not aware of any divorce attorneys in the area, spend some time online and check out websites that have client reviews of local divorce attorneys.
How to interview potential divorce attorneys
Begin with a telephone call to the attorney’s office. Sometimes how that communication is handled will tip you off as to whether you want to proceed with a particular divorce lawyer. Once you make contact, ask the lawyer about his or her experience and specialization in family law and what type of client they generally represent. Ask them about their rates. You may not have to continue your interview if the lawyer is out of your price range, but if all sounds good so far, schedule an interview. (You may want to make sure there is no cost.)
Most attorneys will provide a free consultation to discuss the specifics of your case, so why not take advantage of that and compare the free legal advice as you make your decision. Ask to meet the person who will be handling the details of your divorce and find out the attorney’s access to financial specialists, parenting coordinators, forensic appraisers and other experts who may be dealing with your case. Will there be additional cost for these resources? Ask about the attorney’s trial record and his or her history of success as this could be an indicator of the lawyer’s success in negotiation.
4. Be realistic about the divorce attorney’s role in the process.
Your divorce attorney is not your therapist or your psychologist. Divorce is a legal process with the purpose of dissolving joint assets and resolving joint debts and custody issues if there are any of the latter. It can be a good time to vent your anger, frustration, and sadness over the current circumstances of your marriage, but it is not a divorce lawyer’s job to deal with your emotions.
Most attorneys would like to have a cordial relationship with the client, but it is important to keep things on a professional level. Also remember, the more you contact your attorney on extraneous matters, the higher your bill may rise.
5. Look for these red flags.
When you are interviewing attorneys, if the lawyer you are speaking with disparages other attorneys, this may mean that attorney isn’t respectful to others and may not treat you with respect. (It may also mean they are warning you about hiring a particular lawyer or law firm and they are entitled to their personal opinion.) If the attorney you are interviewing appears to be constantly distracted by phone calls or e-mails while you are in his or her office, be aware that attorney’s caseload may be overbooked and he or she may not have the time and attention for your case.
If a lawyer talks about high-profile divorce clients during your interview and divulges confidential information about other cases, it’s possible he may do the same to you. Also, be wary of trusting a candidate who makes promises about the outcome of your divorce agreement. Like many other legal processes, there are no guarantees in the divorce process.
6. Choose your attorney.
To sum it up, you need a divorce attorney who listens to what you want, advises you and has your best interest at heart. In other words he or she should be professional, knowledgeable, and responsive. The attorney should be someone you feel comfortable with, someone who shares your basic philosophy about divorce. He or she should be someone affordable who realizes the importance you attach to your children and will help you fight child support demands or custody arrangements that are unreasonable.
Divorce is, in most cases, highly personal and can be very emotional. Sometimes going through the divorce process does not bring out the best in a person. However, the outcome of a divorce can have a significant impact on the lives of all those involved.
It is of course possible to change attorneys if you have hired a person you later believe is the wrong divorce lawyer for you, but careful attention to the selection process may save you time and regret.
Where to find a good divorce lawyer
Slater & Zurz is a local law firm that offers skilled divorce lawyers who will be pleased to be interviewed as a candidate to handle your divorce. The firm offers free consultations and their attorneys will advise you about the direction in which you may want to proceed.
Slater & Zurz has offices in Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Columbus and Cincinnati and would be happy to arrange an appointment between you and a divorce attorney. Please call the firm at 1-888.774.9265, or go to their main website slaterzurz.com. You can fill out a short form stating that you would like to speak with a Slater & Zurz divorce attorney. The form also provides space to briefly describe any issues you may foresee in your divorce.
Slater & Zurz also has legal personnel on hand 24/7/365 who will return your call very quickly.