4 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Divorce Lawyer
(Columbia, MD) If you’re reading this, it’s most likely because you (or someone you are close with) are facing a legal separation and/or divorce. This can be an overwhelming and emotional time, and many questions are probably running through your mind right now. For most people, at the top of this list is: How do I find the divorce lawyer that’s right for me?
Unfortunately, at a time in your life when you most need support, many people are afraid to talk to friends and loved ones about what’s going on with their marriage. This can be for a lot of reasons, but some of the most common causes are embarrassment, shame, guilt, and fear, to name a few.
However, regardless of who – if anyone – you choose to confide in personally, it is important that you seek the guidance of a highly-qualified and experienced Maryland divorce lawyer right away. Many people delay meeting with a divorce attorney, typically in the hope of minimizing legal fees. Unfortunately, this decision often backfires and can end up costing you more money in the long-run, as decisions made in the early stages of the divorce process can have a major impact on the ultimate outcome.
Just as every marriage is different, so is every divorce. There’s no such thing as “one-size-fits-all” divorce lawyer, so it is important to find the attorney that best fits your unique situation and needs. To help clarify this process, here are 4 factors to consider when selecting a divorce lawyer in Columbia, MD.
4 Factors For Choosing the Best Divorce Lawyer For You
Let’s just go ahead and start here, as it’s first and foremost on most people’s minds. No matter which way you look at it, one thing is for certain: divorce can be expensive. You must consider the potential costs associated with maintaining dual households, child support, alimony, and legal fees, among other expenses. While it is logical to try to save as much money as possible, many people make the mistake of choosing their divorce lawyer on the basis of cost alone. Just as waiting too long to meet with a divorce attorney can cost you more money in the long run, so can choosing a “cheap” attorney to try to cut costs. The last thing you want is to end up with a costly – and possibly irreversible – legal mistake in an attempt to pinch pennies up front.
Typically, the more experienced, well-trained, and effective an attorney is at his or her profession, the more he or she will charge per hour (as compared to other lawyers in that same geographical area). It’s simply a function of supply and demand. However, a higher hourly rate does not necessarily equate to a higher overall legal bill. For example, if one attorney charges twice as much per hour as another, but is able to do the same work in half the time because of his or her high-level of experience, the ultimate legal bill will be the same for both clients.
Of course, this is an overly simplified example, but it’s simply meant to illustrate the importance of evaluating cost as part of the bigger picture, and not basing your choice of attorney solely on hourly rate.
2. FAMILY LAW / DIVORCE EXPERIENCE
Attorneys are like doctors in the sense that most have areas of expertise. You wouldn’t go to a dermatologist to get a prescription for eyeglasses, would you? In the same sense, you want a divorce lawyer that is highly-experienced in the area of family law, and is well-skilled in handling divorce cases. Some questions worth asking during the interview phase would be:
- What percentage of his or her law practice is devoted to family law / divorce?
- Has the attorney handled cases similar to yours? Were they successful?
- How long has the attorney been in practice?
It’s important to understand that most attorneys do not solely handle all of the day-to-day tasks relating to your case. During the initial consultation, inquire about all the potential staff members who may be assigned to your case, and ask to meet them, if possible. Also, find out if your attorney has access to outside resources that may be relevant to your case. Does your attorney have a relationship with a forensic accountant? Would you need to hire a private investigator? A doctor? A psychologist?
3. LOCAL EXPERIENCE & REPUTATION
Experience with the local court system is another very important factor to consider when choosing the right divorce lawyer to handle your case. When it comes to applying the statutes and law to your case, judges have a wide range of discretion. This means that for each of the 24 Family Courts in Maryland, each judge has his or her own unique way of determining such issues as alimony, child support, custody or visitation.
For this reason, a divorce case in Howard County, Maryland may not be handled in exactly the same manner as a divorce case in Carroll County or Frederick County. More experience in the local area means the attorney is likely to be well-acquainted with the judges and nuances specific to that local court system. However, in many cases the attorney’s reputation can be just as big of a factor as his or her level of experience.
For example, if a lawyer is considered by the local judges to be a “troublemaker,” or has a bad track record of “not playing by the rules,” his or her negative reputation could prove to be problematic for you as the client. Therefore, it is important to find an attorney who is both reputable AND well-experienced in your local court system.
As mentioned above, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to choosing a divorce lawyer. Attorneys are people, too — and they all operate differently. The best divorce lawyer for one person, may very well not be the best divorce lawyer for you, depending on the unique circumstances of your case.
The sad, but true, reality is that even divorce cases that start out amicable can turn contentious as matters progress. Dealing with highly-emotional topics, such as child custody and finances, can bring out the worst in people. That being said, being honest with yourself and setting realistic expectations for the divorce process is extremely important, and will help you choose the best divorce lawyer for you.
You need to be able to trust, and feel comfortable with, your divorce attorney. Is age, gender, personality, etc. important to you? Are you looking for an aggressive “pitbull” who shuns mediation in favor of litigating your case in the courtroom, or would you prefer an attorney focused on helping collaborate with your spouse to negotiate a mutual consent divorce?
Many people feel shy or uncomfortable asking “tough” questions during the initial consultation, but it’s very important that you do so. For example, depending on your expectations, some smart questions to ask a potential divorce lawyer during the interview phase:
- How does the attorney handle the situation when the opposing spouse is focused on retaliation? What if they are trying to humiliate you or attack you financially with excessive litigation?
- How does the attorney feel about divorce mediation? In what percentage of cases does he or she encourage clients to pursue it as a resource?
Our Columbia, MD Divorce Lawyers Are Here to Help
At Coover Law Firm, LLC, we understand how stressful and overwhelming the divorce process can be. Attorney Fred L. Coover has been serving families as a divorce lawyer in Howard County, MD and beyond for over 30 years. If you are facing a separation or divorce, contact us at (410) 553-5042 to schedule a $99 no-risk initial consultation and see if our firm is the right fit for you.