How to Know Who the Best Divorce Attorneys Are When You Are Feeling Lost
Written by: Megan Dell
Most family law attorneys can adequately advise someone who is facing divorce, but finding the best divorce attorneys can be more challenging. The ending of your marriage might make you feel vulnerable, deceived, or directionless, and that is before you even start the divorce proceedings.
You may feel a sense of loss or grief, particularly if the divorce is unexpected or unwanted. You probably also feel uncertain about your future and worried about the impact of the divorce on your finances, children, and social life. Overall, the experience of getting divorced can be overwhelming and can take a significant toll on a person’s emotional and mental well-being.
You need an experienced attorney who will look out for your best interests through your divorce and help you manage the unexpected. Here is what the best attorneys do for their clients.
A Good Divorce Lawyer Asks Questions and Listens to Your Answers
Divorce is fundamentally an emotional process. The divorce attorney’s job is to give good legal advice and manage the legal process of divorce to give you space to mourn your marriage and the future you expected to have.
The best divorce lawyers take the time to listen to their clients and understand their needs and concerns. They create a safe space for their clients to express themselves and share their story. They ask questions and gather all the necessary information to build a strong case.
Communication is key in any legal matter, and the best family lawyers understand this. They keep their clients informed of any updates or changes in the case and answer any questions they may have. They also promptly communicate with the other party’s attorney, the court, and any other relevant parties involved in the case.
The Best Attorney Will Tell You The Weaknesses in Your Case
It can be frustrating to pay someone to tell you the problems or flaws in your case. But doing so is part of your divorce attorney’s job! By identifying potential issues early on, the lawyer develops a realistic assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the case. This can avoid surprises during the divorce process, and it allows you to make informed decisions about how to proceed.
Overall, knowing weaknesses in the case allows the lawyer to prepare a strategy to address them, which can help improve your overall chances of success.
The Best Attorneys Suggest Strategic Options
Most divorce attorneys can explain the basics of the legal process, dividing assets and debts, whether spousal support or alimony is likely to be an issue in your case, and any red flags that may affect custody issues. A good lawyer can explain the basics of the legal process in a way you can understand.
The best matrimonial lawyers can provide more than basic details about South Carolina divorce laws. Instead, they can explain why an uncontested divorce is not likely for your situation, describe how the services of a forensic accountant or private investigator might be helpful, and provide you with other resources for guidance. They may offer printed materials you can refer to later.
The ideal attorney will present you with options on how your case can be handled, based on the priorities you set for the representation. By offering strategic options, the best divorce attorneys empower their clients to make informed decisions about their case. They help their clients understand the risks and benefits of each option and work collaboratively to develop a plan that will achieve their client’s goals. With a strategic plan in place, the best divorce lawyers can navigate the divorce process more effectively and help their clients move forward with confidence.
The Best Divorce Attorneys Prepare to Go to Trial
The divorce process can be lengthy, and the worst possible ending is going to trial. But family law judges are tasked with making decisions when spouses can reach a resolution on their own. Many lawyers in Family Court do not try cases very often, which can make it harder to reach a resolution favorable to you.
By demonstrating to the other party that you are prepared and willing to go to trial if necessary, you can pressure the other party to settle with terms more favorable to you. Any divorce attorney you consider should understand how to use court proceedings to create leverage for favorable settlements.
When a divorce case cannot be settled through negotiations, trial becomes necessary. To prepare for trial, divorce lawyers engage in a series of essential steps that enable them to present the strongest possible case for their clients. These steps may include:
- Collecting Evidence: Divorce lawyers collect evidence that supports their client’s claims and discredits the other party’s claims. This evidence may include documents, photographs, witness statements, and expert opinions.
- Depositions: Lawyers depose witnesses, including the other party, to gather information that can be used at trial.
- Legal Research: Lawyers conduct legal research to identify specific laws and precedents to support their clients’ requests at trial.
- Witness Preparation: At trial, evidence is presented through the live, verbal testimony of witnesses. Before trial, your divorce attorney should prepare your witnesses for trial, ensuring they understand the questions they may be asked during cross-examination and how to present themselves in court.
- Admitting Evidence During Trial: The South Carolina Rules of Evidence govern the materials family law judges can consider when making their decisions. You should hire an attorney who is comfortable with those Rules.
Most divorce lawyers do not regularly go to trial. The best lawyers are constantly preparing for the possibility a trial will be unavoidable. This kind of preparation usually yields better results for clients.
The Best Family Lawyers Negotiate Settlements with Your Goals in Mind
Divorce lawyers negotiate by engaging in a series of discussions with the other party or their attorney in an attempt to reach a settlement that both parties can agree on. Negotiations can occur informally or through formal channels such as mediation or collaborative divorce.
Divorce cases often involve complex financial and property issues, and the best divorce attorneys are skilled negotiators. But because divorce involves human emotions, resolutions do not rely entirely on spreadsheets and data.
Your divorce lawyer should work with you to gather all relevant information related to the case and identify your goals and priorities for property division, spousal support/alimony, and any child-related issues. Your divorce attorney should communicate clearly about whether your goals are reasonable and how they might be accomplished.
Divorce settlements require both spouses to compromise, which may mean accepting terms that are less than ideal, but that are acceptable to both parties.
Often, clients benefit from the advice of a lawyer who understands the emotions, psychological motivators, and philosophical end goals of both spouses. A good divorce attorney, who can identify the motivations of everyone involved is more likely to settle your case with an agreement.
Effective negotiation is critical to achieving a successful outcome in a divorce case. Divorce lawyers who are skilled negotiators can help their clients reach a settlement that is fair and equitable and minimizes the emotional and financial costs associated with litigation.
A Good Family Lawyer Knows People
Most family law attorneys have developed expansive networks of other kinds of professionals and can refer you to them as needed.
A good attorney will advise you to seek mental health support through a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist, and they will be able to provide you a list of providers their prior clients have successfully worked with.
A divorce attorney can also refer you to professionals to appraise real estate or other assets, as well as mortgage brokers, financial advisors, and other financial experts. If you need to sell your former marital home, your lawyer can probably suggest a realtor with experience in your area.
The Best Divorce Lawyers Are Straightforward About the Cost of Divorce
Divorce can be expensive. Any attorney who says otherwise is misleading you. Unfortunately, many attorneys may tell you what you want to hear.
In South Carolina, many divorce lawyers require payment of an initial retainer and then charge hourly for the services they perform. Some law firms have established a minimum retainer required for all divorce cases, and others set the retainer based on the facts and circumstances you describe during your initial consultation.
Hourly rates for family law attorneys in South Carolina often range from $200 per hour up to $600 per hour. When billing hourly, divorce lawyers charge for time spent on your case, often in 6-minute increments. Time spent on your case includes reading and responding to emails, phone calls with you and others involved in your case, preparing court-required documents, and reviewing materials related to the issues in your divorce.
Rarely, a family lawyer in SC will accept flat fees or other alternative payment arrangements.
Ideally, your family law attorney can provide an estimate of what your case is likely to cost, and the estimate should become more exact over time.
The Right Lawyer Helps You Focus on the Future
When going through a divorce, it’s common to feel overwhelmed and stuck in your present unhappy situation. Though divorce is the end of a marriage, it is the beginning of whatever is next in your life. Remember: the divorce process will eventually come to an end!
A good divorce lawyer helps their client move forward by encouraging them to view the divorce process through the lens of what you hope to have in the future and set your goals accordingly. The right divorce lawyer will provide support and guidance as a divorce coach as you navigate the changes in your life and help you plan for the future.
How To Start Looking for The Best Lawyer
The best divorce lawyer is the one who is the right divorce lawyer for you. When looking for the right divorce attorney, you should:
- For some people, hiring local lawyers is a priority. Look to whether each divorce lawyer is involved in the local bar association, other bar associations, or other organizations.
- Ask friends or family members to describe their experiences with their family law attorneys. Previous clients can provide some of the best insight on a specific attorney’s strengths and weaknesses, and client referrals are meaningful to attorneys.
- Use online resources to find qualified attorneys who focus on divorce law, child custody, and family law issues. Focus on the professionals who appear to be respected within the legal community; a good indicator is whether the attorney has been invited to lecture to other professionals on topics related to practicing law or divorce.
- Read online reviews, but follow your instincts about whether each individual review is likely to accurately describe a previous client’s actual experience with the prospective attorney. Keep in mind that not everything on the internet is true, and disgruntled opposing parties can sometimes leave negative reviews for a good divorce attorney without consequence.
- Schedule an initial meeting (or “consultation”) with several attorneys during your search process. Note: the best divorce attorney for you may not be the one who offers free consultations, and it may not be the first attorney you meet with!
- Before you meet with each attorney, identify the top priorities you want to accomplish in the divorce proceedings and be prepared to explain those during the consultations.
- During the initial consultation, ask questions about the substantive law, how it is likely to affect your case, whether a settlement is likely, and how much experience the potential lawyer has with the divorce process in South Carolina.
Choosing the Best Lawyer for You
If you’ve followed the above advice, then you’ve now met with several potential people and are trying to decide which one is the right attorney for you. When choosing between several potential attorneys and law firms, to find a good divorce lawyer, for each specific attorney, consider:
- The relationship the attorney has with other divorce attorneys, especially your spouse’s attorney, and the lawyer’s reputation within the community;
- How frequently the potential attorneys handle divorce cases and the attorney’s experience practicing family law, including whether the divorce lawyer has represented clients with similar factual and/or legal situations before;
- How frequently the potential lawyers handle divorce proceedings that are resolved without trial, and the attorneys’ perspective on the factors affecting the ability to settle; and
- The experience each lawyer has in trial and the attorney’s trial record: it doesn’t matter whether they have won or lost cases, but how frequently they handle divorces that go to trial does matter.
Follow Your Gut When Hiring a Divorce Lawyer
Choosing the right divorce lawyer is a crucial decision that can have a significant impact on the outcome of your case. While researching and gathering information is essential, ultimately, your gut feeling is an important factor to consider.
Your intuition can help you identify the attorney who will best represent your interests and work with you through this challenging process. It is crucial to feel comfortable with your lawyer, trust their judgment, and feel confident that they are committed to your case. Listening to your instincts can lead you to find a good divorce lawyer who is the right fit for you and can help ensure the best possible outcome for your case.