Divorce is an extremely painful and long-drawn process for anyone unfortunate enough to go through it. The support of friends and family is vital at this point to keep the divorcees' emotional health intact, and the services of a well-qualified, experienced attorney are necessary to keep the legal side of things as straightforward as possible.
While looking for a divorce lawyer, it is imperative not to take shortcuts. Instead of dialing the first number you see on an ad or Yellow Pages, check and double-check for the lawyer's credentials, reputation and track record before you make your choice.
There are many benchmarks that you can use to help in making your decision:
1. Is the lawyer well qualified? Other than the mandatory LLB, there are numerous higher and more specialized degrees and certificates that the lawyer can earn. Postgraduate courses are a good second qualification, but a series of specialized certificates in family law or divorce would be the ideal qualification to opt for. The University of Florida offers good law courses, while the Supreme Court of the state organizes regular certificate courses in all branches of law - including divorce law.
2. What is the lawyer's track record like? You will want to find out how long he has been practicing, the type of cases he has dealt with, and - most importantly - his win-loss ratio. Preferably, opt for a lawyer who has had ample experience in family and divorce cases - preferably complex ones that make your case seem easy as pie. However, guard against lawyers who tend to take on mostly very highly paid or high-profile cases, as they may give you a lower fraction of their attention than they would give their other clients.
3. What is the lawyer's reputation? A lawyer with an excellent record may also be known for being a threatening, conniving or downright dishonest character. Make sure to get proper references for your lawyer before trusting him with your assets and divorce process.
A lawyer in family law and divorce will be well versed in all parts of the divorce process - filing for divorce, settling the division of joint property, child custody, alimony, visiting, mediation and so on. Also, the lawyer may help you settle your case out of court or via mutual consent, which is a much less expensive and drawn-out process than a fully-fledged court battle.
Do not bank on the fact that you can change divorce lawyers halfway through the divorce if your first one fails you. Changing attorneys during a case may be forbidden by some courts, while others require you to have a judge's permission in order to opt for a new lawyer halfway through. Also, the hassle of informing a new lawyer about every previous aspect of your case while it is being fought in court is both unnecessary and cumbersome. To top it off, the "retainer" sum of money paid to a lawyer may not be recoverable, so take care not to be penny wise, pound foolish - take proper care while choosing your attorney, and your divorce shall take place sooner and yield the best possible results.