During a time as turbulent as divorce, it can be easy to make an emotional decision about which divorce lawyer to choose. But in a divorce, choosing the wrong family lawyer could easily cost you tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds. You must do your due diligence.
After years of practicing family law at Guardian Law in Vancouver, we’ve noticed that many of our clients arrive at our office not knowing what to expect from their family lawyer, and seem a bit lost trying to find one. Today, we’re here to set the record straight. No need to wonder what criteria to use to evaluate a lawyer and how the selection process works.
Why Should You Look For A Divorce Lawyer?
Working with a good divorce lawyer is essential to obtaining a favourable outcome after splitting up with your spouse. You won’t know how to navigate the legal system nearly as well as divorce lawyers do. Moreover, it’s easy to read up about divorces on the internet and form uneducated opinions about the technicalities of divorce law without realizing that the information you’re consuming doesn’t apply in British Columbia. A Vancouver divorce lawyer can protect you with sound legal advice that aligns with Canadian and British Columbian law.
While negotiating a settlement, having a family lawyer on your side is far superior to doing it yourself. Aside from the potential money savings, a divorce lawyer can complete the process a lot quicker than you would on your own, saving you much stress along the way. Should the case go to trial, they will have far more savvy than a rank amateur would too.
Divorce Lawyers Aren’t The Only Option
Depending on your personal scenario, a divorce lawyer isn’t always necessary. You can solve some family law disputes with mediation rather than undergoing a formal court process. This method is far cheaper and quicker than the alternative. That said, the instant your ex-spouse brings in an attorney, you need to hire one too.
Even if you do hire divorce lawyers, the negotiation doesn’t need to be confrontational and complex. You could easily finish a divorce without any hard feelings by aiming for a collaborative divorce. Choose one that prioritizes co-parenting above all else.
In the worst-case scenario, you will need to go to court, and in those cases, you will need a good attorney to fight for your rights. But don’t go in thinking that this is the automatic outcome of any divorce. You should choose the lawyer or mediator that suits your situation the best.
Criteria For Finding Family Lawyers In Vancouver
You now understand what a family lawyer can do for you, but finding the right one is the part that most people struggle with. Think about it as though you were an employer interviewing prospective job candidates. You would want to consider at least 3 different lawyers before picking one. Moreover, you need to know what to look for in a lawyer and see if they align with your needs.
One of your foremost considerations when choosing a family lawyer is experience. While you might be surprised by some of the things that can occur during a divorce case, experienced lawyers have been there and done that. They’ve seen it all, and their maturity helps them make rational decisions in the face of uncertainty.
Questions To Ask about a lawyer’s experience
- How frequently do you represent clients in court?
This is a question of balance. You don’t want to hire a lawyer who has too many clients or too few. Too many court appearances imply that the lawyer is wont to involve themselves in long, drawn-out court cases. That’s unlikely to be the scenario you want, especially since all the lawyers and judges get to know each other over the years. Someone who is always in court likely has earned themselves a poor reputation among their peers.
Meanwhile, a lawyer who is hardly in court at all probably isn’t particularly active and hasn’t maintained relationships with the right people. Not to mention, too few appearances suggest that they aren’t gaining enough clients to be worth placing your faith in.
- How many divorce and custody cases do you have open at the moment?
Knowing how many cases a lawyer has will tell you how much time they have for you. Just like the last question, this one helps you understand whether they are in court a little too often, or not at all. Less than 10 suggests that this lawyer’s work is not primarily in the field of divorce. More than 50 open at once could mean that the lawyer isn’t going to have time for you.
- How long have you been a lawyer?
You want to hire a divorce lawyer who has been practicing for several years. Not to mention, their experience should be in the field of divorce law. In the case of an extended court case rife with disputes, you’ll benefit from their experience.
- What portion of your work is in family law?
Not every family lawyer specializes in family law. You want it to be clear ahead of time, that the lawyer has spent around half of their time working on family law cases for more than a few years. Otherwise, they won’t be too useful.
- How long will it take for my case to resolve itself?
If your attorney can deliver you a quick estimate of how long your family law case might last, then they know what they’re doing. An experienced lawyer has seen many cases before and can figure out pretty quickly how long yours will take based on the past.
You should be able to hold your lawyer accountable for their work throughout the process. Don’t bug them constantly about getting things done, but they should be accessible and respond to you relatively promptly during the work week. They should respond within 24 hours between Monday and Friday.
Questions to ask to measure accountability
- What is the expected outcome of my case?
After explaining your situation to the lawyer, they should be able to tell you roughly how they think the case will unfold. This is partly a question of experience, but it will also be a good reference point to go back to later when you’re unsure about the outcome of the case. Of course, things won’t play out exactly the way your lawyer says they will, but there should be a rough timeline you would expect to follow.
- Do you feel I have unreasonable expectations? If so, what are they and why?
A good lawyer should give you an honest assessment of your case. No client is experienced enough to know whether their expectations are reasonable, and in many cases, there are one or two things that are a little off.
- How long will it take for you to return my calls, and if you’re not able to return them, who will?
On weekdays, it shouldn’t take your lawyer more than 24 hours to follow up on your questions. Moreover, it would be nice if a secretary could follow up with you a lot sooner during business hours, even if they can’t say much themselves.
Planning & Strategy
One of the most important skills in the field of law is planning. A quality lawyer is proactive and not reactive. They can think ahead and outline a plan that’s solid enough to stick to. Almost nothing should come as a surprise to them. They should have thought of how to respond to different permutations of your case too. The lawyer is in control and should be able to handle a crisis adeptly.
Questions to ask about planning
- What are the stages of my case?
This is a pretty simple question for a good lawyer to answer. By the time you meet them, they’ll have seen so many cases before that it’s easy for them to envision how they unfold step by step. Things might not go perfectly in practice, but they should be able to give you a rough outline.
To some degree, you’ll also be able to determine the level of initiative a lawyer has by listening to how they talk about the case. If your lawyer frames things in terms of what the other party does, then that spells danger. You want a lawyer who takes the reins of a case and gets it resolved, you don’t want to be on the back foot reacting to your ex-spouse’s actions.
Attitudes & Perceptions
In family law, perceptions can be everything. You want to know how the lawyer perceives your case, how they perceive themselves, and above all, how others perceive them. A good lawyer should care about these things because they need to have the confidence to win your case. Plus, a lawyer needs to worry about how others perceive them because their reputation with judges can contribute to your outcome in court, and the willingness of your ex’s lawyer to play ball during negotiations.
Questions to ask about perceptions
- What case do you feel most proud of and why?
Like a job interview, this type of question isn’t about the cases, it’s about the attitude of the lawyer while responding to them. They shouldn’t reveal any intimate details about the case, but they should still be able to speak about the case in broad terms, and most importantly, with passion. You want to hire a lawyer who loves their work and loves delivering a fair outcome to their clients.
The 4 Steps To Finding Family Lawyers In Vancouver
Now that you have the right criteria, it’s time for you to start speaking to lawyers. Here’s what the process will look like.
Consider Multiple Candidates
As we said earlier, you should be considering a minimum of 3 lawyers during your search. There are plenty of family lawyers in Vancouver, so you shouldn’t have any worries about finding one. Don’t just hire the first lawyer you talk to. Even if family law is already one level of specialization, you might need a lawyer that specializes in family law issues pertaining to your case. Perhaps you need spousal support or maybe you need to address child custody. Ask the lawyer about their past work to determine if theirs aligns with your needs.
Ideally, you want to pick an attorney that knows the court systems in BC and Canada. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want or expect your case to go to trial, you might have little choice.
Look For Experience Divorce Lawyers
We would say that the best way to find or verify a good family law firm is to ask a lawyer you work with already. If you trust your current attorney, then you should be able to trust their recommendations too. Aside from this, you might want to ask friends and family for their suggestions. You can always verify their recommendations by reading their reviews online.
As we mentioned earlier, the lawyer you hire should have several years of experience in family law. Additionally, they should be able to dip into their experience to assess the viability of your case in court, especially on the issues that you deem important.
You can’t go in blind either. When you’re talking to the lawyers, you should have them explain your rights and other aspects of the case to facilitate your understanding. A trustworthy lawyer won’t want to keep you in the dark about your case.
Don’t Get Caught Up In The Hype
Relying only on advertisements to find a lawyer is a bad idea. Instead, you should gather recommendations on the best lawyers and decide whether to contact them based on what your friends or colleagues tell you about their experience resolving their family law issues.
Not to mention, while you’re talking to the lawyer, you should hopefully be discussing your divorce in an even-keeled tone. Don’t set out for revenge – this almost always ends badly both for yourself and your family. When a lawyer starts talking like this, go with your gut and leave if you think they’re overpromising.
Ask The Right Questions
We gave you a bunch of questions to ask your lawyer earlier. You should ask all of those and more during your initial discussion. The thing is, to get the opportunity to ask those questions and get a feel for what it’s like to work with the lawyer, you’ll need to pay for an extended consultation that lasts one hour rather than a free one that only takes 30 minutes. The most critical information is rarely free, and you need to give the lawyer enough time to evaluate your case properly.
Some Additional Tips To Consider When You’re Going Through A Divorce
Finally, to help you better prepare for your divorce and the process of finding a lawyer, we assembled a few additional tips from our experience at Guardian Law.
Start With The End In Mind
If you’re looking to get divorced, then you probably want to get it done quickly. Making an emotional decision is suboptimal but it’s quite easy to make in these circumstances. Ideally, you want to keep your lifestyle intact, so you should make that clear to your lawyer at the beginning. Pursuing a lengthy divorce rarely pays off.
Put Your Family First
Many couples go through the rigour of a divorce and completely wreck the stability of their families in the process. Your children should never become a bargaining chip in the negotiation process. Any lawyer who suggests this is not to be trusted. Not to mention, you shouldn’t intentionally act with animosity to your spouse either.
Identify Bad Signs Ahead Of Time
This is a big reason why we recommend you see a few lawyers before settling on one. One lawyer might promise you the moon and the stars when in actuality, they are simply doing everything they can to get you on board.
Here are some early warning signs that the lawyer you’re dealing with is not to be trusted:
- They make concrete guarantees about money, outcomes, etc.
- They disrespect you by not giving you their full attention when you talk to them.
- They disrespect other lawyers by denigrating their abilities.
- They act unethically by revealing confidential information about other cases they are working on.
- They belittle your former spouse and attempt to interfere in your personal affairs.
Find An Empathetic Lawyer
Communication is a major skill in the field of law. Your lawyer should be able to communicate with you in an empathetic way, and also communicate with other lawyers and judges professionally. That said, due to their experience, a lawyer might be a little jaded so they might not have time to hear out all your problems. Every time you talk to them, you’re paying them, so airing out your hardships will prove costly. Seek therapy if need be.
Hire Guardian Law
Few decisions in life have the potential to alter your future as much as divorce. Therefore, you need a family law group that has proven experience delivering successful outcomes for divorcing clients. Not to mention, you need one that has experience delivering results for customers in the Vancouver area and can deal with the BC legal system.
At Guardian Law, we have several Vancouver family lawyers, each of which has their own specialties, ranging from child support to separation agreements, property division, and more. We will do everything we can to get your divorce settled quickly and fairly so that you can move on to the next chapter of your life.