WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT HIRING A DIVORCE LAWYER
In today’s legal market, with dozens of attorneys and law firms clamoring to handle your divorce case, it is of the utmost importance to understand what you should really be looking for in a divorce lawyer. Many say they are the best, but very few can actually deliver on that promise. New Mexico Legal Group’s managing attorney, David Crum, has written an e-book entitled: “8 Secrets to Hiring a Great Divorce Lawyer.” You can download that entire e-book for free (sign up in the right hand column). In the meantime, here are the three most things you should understand when hiring a divorce lawyer.
1. NOT ALL LAWYERS PRACTICE OR EVEN UNDERSTAND DIVORCE AND FAMILY LAW
A lawyer does not have to specialize or even practice divorce and family law on a regular basis to handle your case. And in fact, many lawyers who will offer to take your case handle only a few divorce cases as part of their overall practice. The problem with this is that law school does not prepare a lawyer to practice competently in this specific area, and it is only through training and experience that these cases can be handled properly. As the legal profession has matured, divorce and family law has become much more complex, and smart attorneys have begun to specialize and ramp up their skills in this specific area.
Family law should compose at least the majority of the practice of the person you hire to handle your divorce. The ideal situation is for your lawyer to practice only divorce and family law.
An attorney who invests all of his or her time handling family law cases is more likely to have the knowledge and experience you need to succeed and obtain your best possible resolution.
2. YOUR ATTORNEY SHOULD HAVE EXPERIENCE IN YOUR JURISDICTION, IN YOUR COURTHOUSE, AND IN FRONT OF YOUR JUDGE
Not only should your attorney have experience in divorce and family law; he or she also needs to have experience in your jurisdiction (county), in your courthouse, and in front of your judge. Having that local experience ensures that your attorney knows the decision makers and how they make rulings on a daily basis. It is critical, especially with family law cases, for your attorney to know the judges in town and how they are likely to rule on a certain case.
Judges often have different approaches to divorce cases based on their caseloads, their general approach to issue resolution, and how they interpret the law. These factors will dictate how your attorney presents your issues to the judge. Sometimes your case may take place in one of the smaller towns in New Mexico, and you would rather hire someone from outside of your jurisdiction with more training and experience in divorce and family law. Ask questions about who the attorney knows. The answers will provide insight about the judge who will be hearing your case and how the attorney will prepare for that judge.
You also want an attorney who has built credibility and trust in New Mexico with judges and other attorneys in the family law community. It often helps to run an Internet and social media search using a potential attorney’s name to determine how he or she is involved in and perceived by the local community.
3. YOU HAVE MANY OPTIONS – BUT NOT ALL DIVORCE LAWYERS ARE QUALIFIED FOR ALL POSSIBLE DIVORCE OPTIONS
Even lawyers who handle a large number of divorce and family law cases may not have the skills necessary to provide representation as it relates to all of your divorce options. In particular, divorce and family law has evolved to include a large number of mediated and collaborative divorce cases. If the attorney you are considering hiring does not have experience in these areas, you are greatly limiting your options. Your attorney should have experience in the following types of divorces:
UNCONTESTED DIVORCE: If you and your spouse are in general agreement about getting a divorce and dividing up assets and debts, and if you have general understanding about how your cases should be resolved, then you may be able to file an uncontested divorce. This type of divorce takes less time and costs you less money than if your case were to go through litigation. For this option, you will need an attorney who is experienced in negotiation and effective drafting of legal documents.
MEDIATED DIVORCE: In a mediated divorce, one attorney handles the case and acts as a neutral third party. He or she represents neither spouse and provides no legal advice but helps both spouses work toward a resolution of their case. The process is flexible and confidential, and it keeps you and your spouse in control of your divorce and out of court. Unfortunately, very few lawyers have the experience and skills to mediate a divorce effectively, and many will not even bother to explore this option with you. If you and your spouse can still communicate effectively about the issues in your divorce, mediation should always be explored as a first option in your case.
COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE: Collaborative divorce is a specialized divorce process that is completely controlled by the parties and their attorneys. The best way to think about it is that it is like building a container around your divorce process, and everything happens within that container, according to your agreements. The parties also build a team of qualified professionals, depending on the unique needs of their case, that
LITIGATION: This is when your attorney files a petition for divorce and takes it through the normal procedural steps for litigation, which may include numerous hearings and possibly a trial. Effective litigation work is highly specialized and requires a very specific set of legal skills.
CALL ONE OF OUR QUALIFIED ATTORNEYS TODAY TO DISCUSS YOUR CASE
The attorneys at New Mexico Legal Group practice solely in the area of divorce and family law. We have dozens of years of experience in thousands of cases, and we are qualified to handle any type of divorce that might be right for your situation. Our team serves clients throughout New Mexico in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and Rio Rancho. To speak with a qualified attorney, call us at (505) 876-9175 to set up your initial consultation. We look forward to working with you.