Divorce (and separation) is an intensely emotional, personal process; it can feel very difficult to open the curtain and let someone behind the scenes. This is why it’s essential that you don’t just choose any family lawyer. You need a partner with whom you can work openly and honestly.
How Do You Ensure You Find The Right Fit?
When you meet with a potential divorce lawyer, view it as an opportunity to “interview” them for the job. Consider:
- How they engage with you.
- How they speak.
- Their demeanour.
- Knowledge and experience.
- Do they give you options?
Talk with them. See how the two of you interact with each other. Is it a real dialogue? Do they listen? Answer your questions? Through their engagement with you, your lawyer should establish a sense of comfort and reassurance.
Are you fluent in legalese? You shouldn’t have to be! Your lawyer needs to be able to explain the process in clear, understandable terms — not babble away in jargon. This can quickly begin to feel condescending.
While always professional, effective divorce lawyers inject a bit of levity into the situation. They can lighten the mood and help you relax. This is critical because, if you are like many, you are entering into this process with a great deal of worry.
For example, you may not have experience in handling your family’s budget or finances, and you may feel shame or embarrassment that you don’t know a lot about this aspect of your marriage. Your lawyer should set you at ease and articulate that they will help you gather that information. A calm, helpful demeanour goes a long way in making this process easier and less fraught with anxiety.
During your interaction, does your lawyer appear knowledgeable about divorce and the process into which you are about to enter? Do they ask the right questions? Do not hesitate to inquire about experience: how much family law do they do? Lawyers who specialize in this area will have represented hundreds or thousands of clients. While each of these cases is unique, you will benefit from their expertise.
Many divorce or separation files don’t have to end up in court. Negotiations for a separation agreement are sometimes the most appropriate route to follow. For some, “collaborative practice” – a user-friendly specialized approach to settlement – is ideal. Some family law lawyers may devote all or more of their practice to court matters. Some do not practice in the courts. Others devote portions of their family law practice to both.
You have heard the saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” Beware of promises or guarantees as to outcomes. Family law lawyers sometimes take on a bit of the role of social worker, accountant, confessor… but they are not magicians. Be wary of unrealistic promises.
When choosing a family lawyer, both interpersonal skills and professional experience matter. Consider these factors so you can move ahead with greater reassurance and confidence.