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How To Choose The Right Divorce Lawyer

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Hiring a divorce lawyer is a big decision because the attorney will either make their client win or lose their case.  Going through a divorce is hard enough for any couple.  A husband or wife should not feel that their divorce lawyer is going to disappoint them.  It is important to have the right divorce attorney standing by the client’s side.  It is always best practice to hire a divorce lawyer that has experience.  The more experience that a divorce attorney has, the better a client’s chances are at winning.

 Should I Tell My Divorce Lawyer Everything?

During a person’s first consultation with a divorce lawyer, it is important to tell the attorney everything about the situation.  The client should let the attorney know if there are children involved. Has the spouse been abusive to the children in any way, shape, or form?  If so, has anything been reported to child protective services?  Lawyers can use this as evidence in the case to help their client to retain full custody of their children. 

If the client hides anything financial or important from their lawyer, it can cause their client to get less in the divorce settlement.  If the client has a record of being arrested or having an alcohol or drug problem, it is important to let the attorney know. The other party will more than likely bring this up to the court to show that the spouse has poor character. 

At the end of the day, both the plaintiff and defendant in the divorce case want to retain as much wealth and assets as the possibly can.  

The divorce lawyer already knows that their client is seeking to win as much as they possibly can from the case.  Divorce lawyers already realize that their client will more than likely hold back information that can incriminate them personally. However, a client’s lawyer is not out to get their client. In fact, it is reverse.  The more that a person’s attorney knows about them, the better.  It will help the client in the long run.

 How Do Divorce Attorneys Get Paid?

Nearly all divorce attorneys charge by the hour.  The client fees that a divorce attorney charges are often between $100.00 to $1,000.00 per hour.  The lawyer fee often depends on how successful the attorney is at winning cases for their clients. 

Famous divorce lawyers like Sorrell Trope represented the wife of Tiger Woods Elin Nordegren.  It is estimated by many celebrity tabloids that the attorney charges approximately $650.00 per hour.  In the divorce settlement, it is estimated that he won 100 million dollars for his client.  He was also the divorce attorney for:  Nicolas Cage, Cary Grant, Britney Spears, and Nicole Kidman.

Sorrell Trope also has 60 years of experience in law.  When he wins cases for his clients in a divorce settlement, it is understandable why he charges the fees in which he is being paid. 

Most divorce lawyers will expect a retainer up front. If the couple had only a few thousand dollars to worry about, its best to higher an inexpensive lawyer. These lawyers often do not have a reputation for winning big cases.  They are often students that just passed their bar exam. Many “newbie” attorneys will often advertise that the divorce will only cost $2,000.00 or less.  If the couple’s assets are under $10,000.00, this may be the best solution.

It will get “messy” in divorce cases in which custody for children are involved.   In most divorce cases, both parents want complete custody of their children.  However, most of the time, each parent gets 50% custody.

Usually, the only time that a parent loses 50% custody is if they are known to have abused the child or child protective services says that they are not fit to be a parent. Sometimes a judge will award more custody to a parent if it is in the best interest of the child. Perhaps the father or mother is always traveling for work and does not have time during the week to be a parent to their child.  Staying at home with a babysitter may not be a suitable situation and therefore, the other parent can care for their needs better. In this situation, the judge may award partial custody to the parent that cannot be there for the child all the time. 

Choosing the right divorce lawyer means that the client should not choose their attorney based on emotion.  It is best to not choose the attorney because they are good looking or happy.  Lawyer’s emotions change all the time. It is best to choose an attorney based on reputation and what the client can afford. Online customer reviews are becoming more popular when choosing an attorney as well.  If the lawyer has a lot of one-star reviews because they have a bad attitude or perform poorly in cases, this can be the result for the client as well. 

It is best to choose an attorney that the client has confidence in.  In some cases, a divorce attorney will work on contingency if they believe that the other spouse in the relationship has a substantial amount of money and can collect their legal fees once the case has been settled for their client.  In some instances, the lawyer may ask the judge to have the other party pay for the legal fees of their client upfront. 

Lawyer Fees Are Often Paid Up-Front In the Following Way:

  • An inexperienced divorce attorney with little experience or not known to win many cases: $500.00 to $1,000.00 retainer.  Legal fees by the hour will often be charged to their client if necessary. If the client has little money and no assets with their spouse, the case is often settled relatively fast.
  • A lawyer with some experience in divorce cases and that has a good reputation for winning cases will often ask for a $10,000.00 retainer and charge by the hour afterwards.
  • A lawyer with 10 years or more experience and a good reputation for winning most of their cases will often ask for a $20,000.00 retainer and charge by the hour. Their hourly fees are often $300.00 and up. 
  • The most experienced celebrity attorneys (those that often represent celebrities and millionaires) often charge upwards of $600.00 per hour.  These lawyers will often ask for a retainer fee of $100,000.00 or more.  Some work on a contingency based on how wealthy the spouse is in the divorce. If a celebrity is worth 10 million dollars, a celebrity attorney may feel that they can get their client at least 5 million of that.  In many cases, if there is no prenuptial agreement, the couple walks away with a 50/50 split of assets and money.  Often, the attorney will collect their fees once the settlement has been made. The lawyer often charges a 20 to 30% contingency fee of the settlement amount.  If the attorney reached a settlement deal for their client for 5 million dollars, the lawyer would receive around 1.5 million dollars and the rest would go to the client. 

Many times, spouses of celebrities do not have the same financial means as their spouse. Divorce attorneys often know that they cannot expect their client to give them a retainer fee of $100,000.00 because in many cases, the celebrity controls all the money.  Therefore, they take the fees out once the case has been settled. 

How To Let Your Divorce Lawyer Do Their Work Best

The best way to let a divorce lawyer do their work is by not telling them what to do. After all, the attorney knows the law best and the client hired the attorney to represent them. 

If at any time a client feels that their lawyer is not a good fit for them, they can always cancel their agreement with the attorney and try someone else.  However, negotiation in a divorce case takes time.  The more assets the couple has, the longer the divorce will take in most instances. Child custody battles will often take two years or longer.

It is important for the client not to have unrealistic expectations for their lawyer.  The attorney will often tell their client what they can expect during the case. However, it is important to know that each step of the divorce will change as the clients and spouse’s attorneys negotiate on a fair settlement for both parties. 

It is best for the client to not the lawyer everyday asking how the case is coming along.  Many attorneys will not allow someone to talk to them outside of their appointment times. 

If the client demands to speak to the lawyer, the attorney will often charge the client an hourly fee.  That can start costing the client a lot more money. Therefore, if the client is calling the attorney to solve emotional problems with their ex, it will cost them money. 

The lawyer is not a counselor or friend.  The attorney is a legal counselor that is there to make sure that the client gets everything that the law says that they are entitled to. 

Most lawyers want to be left alone to do their job.  When something important comes up, they will notify their client.  A good time to call an attorney is if the client has evidence to help the attorney in the case. This can be discovering that a spouse has a bank account in a foreign country with $100,000 or more in it. This is useful information in a court case. Perhaps the client found out that their spouse is earning more money than they are reporting and have evidence of that. 

In conclusion, the right divorce lawyer for a client’s case will be determined by the factors listed above.  Winning a divorce case often means hiring an attorney that has a proven track record.  In most cases, hire priced lawyers have a lot more experience than lawyers charging cheaper rates.