Here’s Your 10-Step Guide to Hiring a Texas Divorce Attorney
Any successful family law attorney will tell you: The phone rings off the hook right about the time Santa’s sleigh returns safely to the North Pole. According to Connatser Family Law Attorney Aubrey Connatser, “We always experience a spike of phone calls starting the day after Christmas and extending into the first part of the year. People often prefer to wait until after the holidays before they file for divorce, whether it is for the sake of the children, due to the pressures of the holiday season or for other logistical reasons.”
If a post-holiday divorce is the only option for you, it’s vitally important to do your research before you hire someone to represent you. “The worst thing you can do is hire an under-qualified attorney, because he or she could miss critical issues and handle aspects of your case incorrectly. Consequently, the attorney might be unable to give you the advice you need to maximize your bargaining power as the divorce process takes shape,” Aubrey warns.
If you want to ensure that you make the right decision when hiring a divorce lawyer in Texas, Aubrey recommends the following 10-step guide.
1. Only hire a Texas board certified family law attorney.
An attorney who specializes in family law and divorce will be far more knowledgeable about the minutiae, idiosyncrasies and relevant case law pertaining to divorce in your county and state. You wouldn’t hire a scooter mechanic to fix your BMW. Likewise, you shouldn’t hire an attorney who doesn’t specialize in family law to handle your divorce.
2. Do your research before you pick up the phone.
To make sure any divorce attorney you are considering is board certified in family law In Texas, visit the State Bar of Texas website, click on the “Find a Lawyer” button in the upper right corner and verify information about your lawyer candidates by simply entering their names. “You should also review the lawyers’ websites to learn more about their background, accomplishments and the types of cases they specialize in handling and consider doing a Google search as well,” says Aubrey.
3. Set out to find the right match for your circumstances.
As previously noted, you don’t want to hire an attorney who isn’t qualified to handle the complexities of your case. “Look for someone who has the background and experience that matches the size of your estate and the complexity of your issues. For example, you should seek out an attorney who has experience handling complex property settlements, if those issues are present in your estate. The same holds true for concerns pertaining to child custody, visitation and support,” Aubrey advises.
4. Expect to pay good money for a good lawyer and avoid lawyers who offer free consultations.
Be prepared to pay up front. According to Aubrey, “Good lawyers charge for their consultations and for their time (FYI, that’s how you will be charged), and they expect to be paid. You should also be wary of lawyers who offer free consultations, because that’s a sign that they are trying to get people in the door, due to lack of clients.”
5. Prepare a list of questions to help vet attorneys and prepare to file.
The more you know about an attorney’s processes, services and fees, the easier it will be to hone in on the right divorce lawyer for you. Aubrey recommends asking the following basic questions to learn more about the attorney, their law firm and what you can expect during the divorce process:
- How long do they expect the entire divorce process to take? (Duration varies from county to county and also depends on the complexity of your case. While the attorney won’t be able to give you an exact time frame, he or she should be able to provide a rough estimate.)
- How much do they charge for their services and under what circumstances will you be charged?
- What paperwork do they need from you in order to understand what you need from them (may include documentation pertaining to bank accounts, trusts, taxes, property, retirement accounts, children’s schooling, etc.)?
6. Meet face-to-face before you hire a divorce attorney.
Aubrey strongly encourages people contemplating divorce to meet with potential lawyers before hiring them. “You need to meet any divorce lawyer you intend to hire in person first, because you can often learn more about a person face-to-face vs. over the phone. If they are going to be standing up in front of a judge, advocating for you and/or your children, and/or your estate, a face-to-face meeting can help you get a good feel for them and how they would present your concerns to the court. In most cases, if you like the attorney, a judge or jury will probably like them too. If you feel uncomfortable with an attorney during the initial consultation, keep looking.”
7. Personality matters. Look for compassion AND tenacity.
“You definitely want to choose a divorce lawyer who has compassion, but he or she should also have spunk. Divorces typically run more smoothly when you hire someone who can empathize with you during the process, but also has the drive and tenacity to advocate for you, aggressively if necessary,” Aubrey advises.
8. Hire an attorney who thinks strategically.
If you leave that initial consultation meeting and don’t have a clear direction regarding how the attorney will approach your case, you will probably feel confused during the entire process. Instead, Aubrey says “You want to hire a Texas divorce attorney, whom you can tell upon first meeting them, knows there needs to be a strategy and a game plan. You are the client, so if you feel uncertain as to what’s going to happen next, or what steps the attorney plans to take to win your case, expect that the judge won’t be persuaded to rule in your favor either.”
9. Get a referral and/or speak with references if possible.
“Most people prefer to maintain as much privacy as possible when it comes to divorce proceedings, however good family law attorneys are typically able to provide references you can speak with prior to hiring them. Ask to speak with a client who dealt with issues similar to yours. Speaking with someone who has walked in your shoes is really a helpful way to vet a lawyer,” advises Aubrey.
10. Trust your instincts.
They are usually right. That applies to whether to file, who to hire and when to file.
Choosing a Divorce Lawyer Should Not Be Taken Lightly
If you are thinking about divorce this holiday season, know that the family law attorney you choose to represent you could have a significant financial and emotional impact on your future. Advance research and preparation will go a long way toward helping you find a divorce lawyer whose experience, capabilities and personality match your unique needs.