If you can afford a lawyer, you may need a good referral through your state bar association or through a local domestic violence, sexual assault, or legal aid program. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may be able to get help from a legal aid or the self help center available at most county courthouses. One can also choose to represent oneself in court but this can be difficult just from a paperwork that is required when filing motions and following protocol. If you are hiring a lawyer, you can interview the lawyer and make sure that you feel good about what he or she can do for you. Be sure to ask about the lawyer’s experience with whatever kind of case you need help with, and make sure the lawyer is able to explain things clearly to you. You may also want to check out the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence if there is abuse involved.
Your basic requirements should be that the lawyer have a fair amount of experience with family law in your state and that they have a manageable caseload of clients. They should also come recommended by others who can attest that this attorney helped bring their divorce to closure in a timely basis and at a reasonable expense. Don’t fall for attorneys who cannot give you a sense of understanding of where you’re at and what it would likely take to conclude your divorce after understanding the opposing parties’ needs and demands.
I thought a lawyer would be the answer to many of my challenges. I was wrong. Although I hired an attorney, it immediately impacted how and what we communicated to each other altogether. The tension was palpable, and after I hired an attorney most all of our communication was through the legal channel. Mediation is something to consider when evaluating your options. Mediation can be effective, less conflictual and cheaper.
I opted to retain a female attorney as in my mind, who better to understand the way in which a women thinks better than another woman? After all, this wasn’t a gender war, it was a divorce of two people. Turns out my female attorney, although empathetic, intelligent, and well versed was nice but she wasn't a barracuda. She was mostly passive and complacent throughout most all of my proceedings. I stayed with this attorney for too long, and she didn’t get me anywhere in my case other than onto more litigation with my ex and her multiple attorneys. I have to say she did her best, but there has to be a strong balance between knowing what you’re doing as an advocate of your cause and acquiescing to the court’s dispositions and requirements even though they are wrong. Many things can go wrong in your case, and your attorney should be able to manage this. This type of lawyer can cost you a lot of money because nothing will get resolved in a timely manner. She'll drag your matters out until you're broke. Nobody likes wasting their money on legal fees.
"Marriage can be tough because you have to deal with feelings ... and lawyers."
—Richard Pryor, actor, comedian
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I don't advise hiring the angry barracuda attorney. All these lawyers do is perpetuate the pain and angst of the divorce because all they want to do is argue and file motion after motion. Trust me, even though your soon to be ex is the meanest darkest vindictive princess bitch from bitch land, fighting only serves to perpetuate your own anger, frustration, discontent and hurt. Men want resolution fast and we want to move on with our lives. Most every man I know hates to argue. The barracuda attorney will spend all your money and argue relentlessly. You don't want that. You want an inexpensive swift and painless resolution.
Fact is, it will be difficult to impossible to find a competent reputable lawyer that doesn't want to take as much of your money as humanly possible. As I say in my book House of Straw "Lawyers don't get paid unless they have clients". Ideally you select an attorney that becomes your advocate and champion. I mean that’s the least you should expect for $375 an hour. I recommend you do your homework before selecting an attorney and then cross your fingers!