When spouses separate, they are often not thinking clearly. Emotions run high, causing feelings ranging from sorrow to revenge to wanting it over with quickly. These emotions may lead to making the wrong decision in hiring a lawyer. But what attorney you choose at this stage is crucial to how the case progresses from start to finish and how much it costs in terms of financial and emotional cost. Most of the Dallas area family law judges will require spouses to negotiate in good faith and try to settle the contested issues prior to taking up the court’s time in a hearing or trial. Are you picking the right lawyer to both negotiate for your best outcome and to litigate for you if necessary?
Carla Schiff Donnelly, a Pennsylvania family law attorney writing for the Huffington Post, suggests six tips to help avoid making the wrong choice in hiring a divorce attorney in her article Don’t Get Stuck With The Wrong Lawyer: 6 Steps To Avoid the Most Common Divorce Mistake. Here are the first 3 of her points. I will discuss the remaining 3 points in our post What to ask an attorney during your first interview.
1. Identify the potential need for a divorce attorney early.
It is better to interview potential lawyers at a time when you are not under the pressure of choosing one. Once getting served with divorce papers you will be under the stress and time-crunch of choosing someone, turning the important factors from who is the best fit for your case to who is simply available at the time you require.
2. Reach out to trust sources for referrals.
Searching for a divorce attorney on the internet – googling “best dallas divorce attorney” – can give you a list of attorneys to start researching. But, financial advisors, marriage counselors, attorneys practicing in areas other than family law, CPAs, or even friends who have recently gone through divorce can give you valuable insight into the pool of divorce attorneys you should be talking to. Some recent divorcees may even refer you to the divorce attorney who represented their former spouse. (This has actually happened to me more than once – the opposing party in a case I handled referred me a friend of their’s.)
3. Hire a specialist.
The Texas Board of Legal Specialization is the certifying authority for lawyers in the State of Texas. Out of 70,000 attorneys in Texas, only 763 attorneys state-wide are certified in Texas family law. Certified Family Law specialists have participated in the contested trial of cases involving matters such as divorce, property division, child custody, child support, adoption, paternity or other matrimonial matters. (O’Neil & Attorneys is proud to have two board certified family law specialists on staff, lead attorney Michelle May O’Neil and associate attorney Katie Lewis.)