Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, But The Right Lawyer Can Make It A Lot Easier

Part one of a two part post on choosing the right divorce lawyer.

If you sat down and tried to design something that would completely disrupt a person’s life, you would have a hard time coming up with anything more devastating than a divorce. The breakup of a marriage affects every aspect of the couple’s relationship – emotional, social, financial and, of course, legal. That’s why it is so important to find the right lawyer to guide you through the divorce process. In my next two posts, I will be outlining some of the most important factors to consider in choosing a divorce attorney.

Experience - Divorce law is a very specialized area of law, and it is very important to choose a lawyer that concentrates on divorces.  If you know in advance that your divorce will involve certain issues, such as child custody or complex financial transactions, you may want to find a lawyer that not only concentrates on divorce law, but also one who has experience with your particular issues.

Professionalism – Some divorce lawyers have made a reputation for themselves by engaging in “scorched earth” tactics that are designed to beat the other party into submission. For these lawyers, fighting dirty is just part of the process. However, a lawyer who engages in unethical or unprofessional behavior often makes the divorce proceedings longer, more painful and more expensive than they need to be. In the end, most clients find that they have gained little and lost much by hiring an unprofessional advocate. Consider an attorney’s reputation for ethics and professionalism before making a choice.

References – Finding a good lawyer is no different than finding a good doctor.  The best way is often to ask for a referral from a friend, neighbor or family member who has actually used the attorney’s services. You should also feel free to ask a lawyer for the names of former clients who can act as references.

Another good way to check an attorney’s reputation is to look up the lawyer’s rating in a reference guide called Martindale-Hubbell. Martindale-Hubbell ratings are based on confidential ratings by other attorneys. You can find Martindale-Hubbell ratings in most library reference collections or online at Martindale.com.

Finally, it never hurts to check on whether an attorney has been in trouble with the State Bar. If an attorney has been disciplined for illegal or unethical conduct, there will be a notation in his or her state bar record. You can search for an attorney’s discipline record at SupremeCourt.Ohio.gov

Fees – Most divorces attorneys charge by the hour, with fees typically running from $150 to $300 per hour. While it may be tempting to go with the lawyer who charges the lowest hourly fee, remember that a more experienced lawyer with a higher hourly rate may be able to complete your case more quickly and may obtain a better result, so that you actually pay less in the long run.

Most lawyers will require a substantial deposit, called a retainer, to be paid up front by the client before they will take the client’s case.  In general, the attorney is required to return any part of the retainer that is not earned, based on the amount of work that is done. However, in certain cases, an attorney is entitled to keep all or a portion of the retainer, just for agreeing to take the case. Be sure to find out in advance whether the unused portion of the retainer is refundable.

The Ohio Supreme Court strongly encourages lawyers to put fee agreements in writing to avoid potential confusion, and most attorneys do so. Read the fee agreement carefully and be sure to get any questions answered before you sign it.

In my next post, I will cover some of the other factors to consider in choosing a divorce lawyer.

Have a question or a suggestion for a topic? Email dspirgen@SpirgenLawFirm.com.

Patch posts are general discussions and should not be used as advice on any specific legal matter.  If you need legal advice on a particular situation, please consult an attorney.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

erin May 31, 2012 at 02:06 PM
I agree with you Lynette. No doubt marriage can be hard work, but nothing is more rewarding for a family then an intact, happy marriage with both spouses committed to a life long bond. Many would benefit from resources that could help couples work through their issues and thus avoid divorce.
Dennis Spirgen May 31, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Not a bad idea for an article, but it's a little out of my field as a lawyer. I don't consider myself an expert on making marriage work, even though I've been happily married for over thirty years. I might post something about the court's family law mediation service, though.
b smith June 01, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Nothing against your profession Dennis it is needed in some situations but I did think this was an odd article. Agree with Lynette and Erin marriage is very rewarding but takes work to keep it healthy.
Troy McClure June 01, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Actually, this is a very informative article. The basic "jist" of this blog is to retain an attorney who SPECIALIZES in what you need. A few months ago, I knew someone going after custody of their grandkids and the attorney they had -- quite frankly -- was a moron who didn't know family law from the back of his hand. It is lawyers like this guy who give the profession a bad name. I kept telling them to drop this guy because he's screwing your case and wasting you $$ (I am no lawyer, but know quite a bit about family law). They dropped him and went w/someone who actually specializes in nothing but family law and got positive results.
Susan M. June 01, 2012 at 01:35 PM
This is a great article and in no way misled me into believing that I would be reading about how to keep my marriage together. Maybe you can search the internet or go to the library and get information on how to make your marriages happy. There are great resources everwhere. The good lawyer here was just providing people with resources for divorce. Seeing that the divorce rate is 41% for 1st marriages and as high as 73% for 3rd marriages, this information will be put to good use by A LOT of people.


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