Divorce is a decision that will have a massive impact on the course of the rest of your life. That’s why it’s so crucial to get it right. Naturally, your first step is to pick a divorce lawyer who knows what they’re doing and won’t take advantage of you or mislead you. The issue is, that once you’ve hired a law firm, it’s kind of hard to switch. Many family law cases end up not going the way the client thought it would simply because they weren’t clear on the terms before they made an agreement.
So, before you start talking to lawyers about your divorce, you should keep 3 major questions (and 9 other important ones) in mind. The answers to these 3 questions will dictate much of your relationship with your divorce lawyer, so pay close attention to this article.
The 3 Big Questions
Who Will I Work With During My Case?
Most people choose the family law firm for their divorce based on its reputation. That means someone likely recommended a particular lawyer based on a positive outcome they received. You come to that lawyer’s firm, excited at the prospect of a similar result.
However, you might find that when you go to sit down with that lawyer, the one you desire is simply impossible to obtain. In many legal offices, your initial consultation might be with a senior member or partner of the firm. However, in some firms, it’s common for this senior lawyer to then delegate your case to another attorney after this meeting. On the other hand, some firms assign you the lawyer you meet during your initial consultation for the entire duration of your case. Both approaches are standard, but you might have a preference regarding who represents you. Be upfront about your preferences.
What Share Of Your Cases Go To Trial?
One common misconception about lawyers is that most of our value lies in our ability to defend you in court.
For a divorce lawyer, going to court is more of a worst-case scenario than a place we typically frequent.
In fact, less than 5% of divorce cases that are filed will typically go to trial. That means that divorce is typically resolved collaboratively. Most of the main issues, such as child support, spousal support, property division, and others, end up being arranged by both spouses’ lawyers in an efficient manner outside of the courtroom. While there may need to be some bargaining, and other financial experts will need to get involved, the fact is, that the terms of the case are rarely so contentious that the case needs to go to court.
Thus, if a lawyer tells you that the majority of their cases go to trial, you should regard that as a red flag. It’s one thing if they specialize in dealing with contentious divorces, but otherwise, you should steer clear of a lawyer who has, say, an average of 70% of their cases go to trial. That likely means that they are not particularly good at negotiation, which implies that they can’t easily obtain the best result on your behalf. Moreover, going to court will only increase the amount of time and money you have to spend on the case, and divorce is definitely one thing that you don’t want to drag out forever.
The other side of the coin is that you don’t want your lawyer to answer 0%. This likely indicates a lack of experience, at the very least, in court. Hiring a first-time lawyer for something that dictates the outcome of the rest of your life is not a good idea. You want a lawyer who has experience in litigation and a relationship with the other judges and divorce lawyers in Vancouver and the rest of BC.
Ask For The Billing Details
When you ask your lawyer how much the case is going to cost, it’s not like going to the store and buying a bag of apples. The price isn’t a straightforward, one-time thing.
Think of it more like the bill at your auto body shop after getting your car repaired. The shop can give you an estimated price, but they might discover extra things that need fixing after a closer examination. That said, they can clearly break the price down into different components.
Your billing schedule for your divorce case will function somewhat similarly. In the realm of family law, an upfront deposit is customary. The size of this deposit can vary based on the nature and intricacy of your case, among other considerations.
You’d also benefit from inquiring about the division of tasks between lawyers and their support teams and understanding the billing rates for each individual. Make sure to get clarity on incidental expenses like mailing and photocopying charges. The court might also impose certain fees, which could either be deducted from your initial deposit or billed separately. If you anticipate specific court motions in your case, it’s wise to seek details about the associated costs upfront.
9 More Questions To Ask Your Lawyer
There are ample questions that you can ask your lawyer, the first 3 were probably the most important, but you can gather even more information if you ask about the following.
While some of the questions we mentioned earlier will help you evaluate experience, you can ask the following questions to understand the full scope of the divorce lawyer’s experience.
How many cases like mine have you handled?
This question is crucial for assessing the lawyer’s experience and familiarity with cases that mirror your own situation. As we alluded to earlier, a lawyer who has handled numerous cases similar to yours is likely more equipped to predict potential challenges, navigate the complexities, and use past experiences to inform their strategy. It’s about competence and confidence. If they’ve successfully managed cases like yours in the past, it may offer you greater peace of mind, trust, and assurance in their capabilities.
Can you handle both contested and uncontested divorce cases?
The nature of divorce cases can vary significantly. An uncontested divorce, where both parties are in agreement on all terms, generally requires less litigation and can be a more straightforward process. A contested divorce, on the other hand, is where disagreements exist, and these cases can become more intricate and prolonged. By asking this question, you’re determining the versatility and breadth of the lawyer’s expertise. Whether your divorce starts uncontested and becomes contested, or vice versa, you’ll want an attorney who is adept at handling both scenarios. It ensures that no matter which direction your divorce takes, your lawyer won’t be caught off guard and can continue to provide effective representation.
Assessing Your Case
Here are some questions you should ask about the case itself, regarding your chances of success.
Based on what you know about my situation, what do you anticipate being the main challenges in my case?
This question is vital because it directly addresses the lawyer’s assessment of your unique situation. By asking this, you get a glimpse of the attorney’s depth of understanding, foresight, and experience. A lawyer who can promptly identify potential challenges is both attentive and experienced. Furthermore, knowing the expected challenges ahead of time helps you mentally and emotionally prepare for the road ahead, allowing you to set realistic expectations and possibly work proactively to mitigate these challenges.
What is your strategy or approach to address these challenges?
It’s not enough to simply identify challenges; a competent lawyer should also have a strategy to address them. This question delves into the lawyer’s problem-solving skills and methodology. Their answer can give you insight into their experience, creativity, and adaptability. Moreover, it helps you gauge if their approach aligns with your values and comfort level. For instance, if you prefer a more amicable resolution but the lawyer’s strategy leans heavily on aggressive litigation, you and the lawyer might not be a good fit.
Given the facts of my case, what are the possible outcomes, both best and worst-case scenarios?
This question directly addresses the lawyer’s analytical abilities and their capacity to forecast potential outcomes based on your specific circumstances. Understanding both the optimistic and pessimistic possibilities allows you to set realistic expectations and emotionally prepare for potential eventualities. It demonstrates the lawyer’s candidness and their willingness to be transparent, which is crucial in building trust. By getting a spectrum of possible outcomes, you can make informed decisions, weigh risks, and decide how aggressive or conciliatory you want to be in your approach.
What are my rights regarding child custody, spousal support, property division, etc.?
This question seeks to gauge the lawyer’s knowledge of the specific laws and regulations governing family law in your jurisdiction. A well-informed attorney should be able to clearly articulate your rights in various areas of the divorce process, ensuring that you are neither taken advantage of nor remain unaware of entitlements or responsibilities. Knowledge of rights is foundational in a divorce; it forms the basis of negotiations, agreements, and potential court proceedings. By seeking clarity on this, you are ensuring that you are empowered with the necessary information to advocate for yourself and make the best decisions for your future.
Can you provide an estimated timeline for my divorce?
Divorce can be an emotionally taxing process, and knowing an estimated timeline can provide some semblance of clarity and predictability in an otherwise uncertain time. This question can help you plan your life around the expected legal proceedings. Additionally, it can be an indirect measure of the lawyer’s experience. While every divorce is unique and timelines can vary, an experienced attorney should be able to give a rough estimate based on the complexities and challenges they anticipate in your case. It’s also worth mentioning that a lawyer’s estimation can help you budget for legal fees, particularly if they charge by the hour.
Setting the stage for consistent communication is a good way to get a sense of how your relationship with your family lawyer will work.
How will we communicate? How often?
By asking this, you’re setting expectations for future interactions, ensuring you won’t be left in the dark about the progress of your case. Additionally, understanding the regularity of updates helps you feel more involved and informed, which can be comforting during an emotionally taxing process like divorce. It also allows you to express your communication preferences and see if they align with the lawyer’s practices.
How long does it typically take for you to respond to emails or phone calls?
Timeliness in communication is a key indicator of a lawyer’s professionalism, commitment, and respect for their clients. This question seeks clarity on the attorney’s responsiveness. A divorce process often involves time-sensitive decisions and actions. If a lawyer is slow to respond, it could impact the flow of the case and potentially have more serious ramifications. Furthermore, knowing the expected response time can alleviate anxiety; if you’re aware that your lawyer typically takes 24 hours to reply, you’re less likely to worry if you don’t get an immediate response. It establishes a trust that they will indeed get back to you within the mentioned time frame.
What Your Lawyer Needs From You
Now, if you want to get started working with a lawyer that fits your unique needs, then you also need to bring something to the table. To make it easy to get started, here are a few tips about what to bring to your first meeting.
We actually wrote a full guide on every single item you need to bring to your first meeting, there are 56 documents you need to show them. Read the full article to go over every single one.
Bring Financial Documents
Financial documents are of utmost importance during your divorce. Here are a few types of documents that can be of use to your lawyer.
- Income Details: Records of both partners’ earnings, including pay stubs, tax returns, and bonuses. Essential for child and spousal support decisions and asset/liability division.
- Banking & Investment Records: Overview of financial assets like checking accounts, savings, and stock investments. Crucial for equitable asset distribution during divorce.
- Retirement Accounts: Accounts like RRSPs and pensions may need to be valued and divided during the divorce.
- Property Details: Includes land, homes, and tangible assets. Specialized valuation might be needed, and all valuables, including heirlooms, should be listed.
- Outstanding Debts: Documentation of all debts, from credit cards to student loans, which influence asset division and financial stability post-divorce.
- Insurance Policies: Current policies that may need updates after divorce, considering potential cash values or future financial planning.
- Other Financial Records: Additional insights from documents like credit reports that highlight overall financial standing and potential undisclosed debts.
Of course, not all of these documents are relevant every time. Here’s a sampling of the documents your divorce attorney might need to help you win your case.
- Prenuptial Agreement: A pre-marriage contract detailing asset distribution upon divorce. Can simplify proceedings if present.
- Postnuptial Agreement: Made after marriage, addressing asset changes or financial terms. Can impact asset division.
- Separation Agreement: Drafted when couples separate but aren’t divorced; often outlines custody, support, and assets.
- Powers of Attorney Paperwork: Legal permission for someone to act on another’s behalf. Needs review during a divorce.
- Healthcare Directives or Living Wills: Specifies medical treatment preferences; may need revision if the spouse is the decision-maker.
- Other Estate Planning Documents: Includes wills or end-of-life plans; post-divorce, beneficiary, or executor details might require changes.
- Trusts, Either for You or Your Children: Holds assets for beneficiaries; important for asset protection and division.
- Rental Agreement, If You Don’t Own a Home: Relates to living arrangements and potential shared liabilities or rights during a divorce.
- Any Other Legal Documents That May Be Helpful: Miscellaneous documents, like business contracts, that might impact divorce proceedings.
Book An Appointment With Guardian Law
By now, you likely have a mountain of burning questions about your situation that you can’t wait to get answered. After all, we merely covered the general questions that everyone has, but your divorce will have its own unique challenges.
That’s why you need a team of family lawyers like the ones at Guardian Law to help you navigate your family law case. We have a skilled range of legal professionals who can assist with everything from drawing up separation agreements to helping you negotiate child support. Reach out to us today for an honest assessment of your divorce, so you can start preparing for a better future.