Divorce FAQ's - Part Two
Nov 11, 2022 | Written by: Share|
There are many common questions that prospective divorce clients ask (or should ask) when consulting with a family law attorney. In March 2020, I addressed some of the most frequently asked questions about divorce. However, since there are so many more commonly asked questions, here is Part Two.
You may wish to pose some of the questions below to your prospective attorney during your consultation. Some are self-explanatory; for others, I have provided some response.
- Do you focus your practice solely on divorces, or are divorces just a portion of your practice?
- How long have you been practicing family law? How many family law cases have you handled? Are you a "certified matrimonial law attorney?"
- What is your strategy for my case?
- How long do you take to return phone calls? How do I reach you if there is an emergency? What do you consider to be an emergency?
- Will anyone else in your office be working on my case? What experience do they have? Can I meet them?
- How will you charge me? What is your hourly rate? Do you charge for the time I spend with other lawyers, with paralegals, and/or with secretaries? If so, at what rate?
All of these questions should be set forth in specific detail in your fee retainer agreement, which is required in New Jersey.
- What costs (other than your own) do you expect will be involved (for example, for private investigators, forensic accountants, physicians, and/or psychologists), and how will you charge me for them?
- Do you allow me to negotiate directly with my spouse?
Provided that there are no domestic violence or safety concerns, the answer is possibly yes, but a good attorney will prep you in advance for such a meeting and/or negotiation.
- Are there tasks that I can do myself to cut down on the amount you will charge me?
Yes, typically clients can complete tasks like obtaining bank and other financial statements, tax returns, etc., which is very helpful. The more organized and helpful you are, the more likely you are to save some legal fees.
- What can you do to help me understand the tax effect of the decisions I will have to make?
For many different reasons, most lawyers cannot and should not give tax advice. However, they must be able to spot issues and tell the client when tax advice should be sought and whether the financial terms have tax consequences to be considered. Sometimes the attorney meets with the client and the tax professionals, depending on the complexity of the case/issues.
- How often do you reach an out-of-court divorce settlement agreement?
In New Jersey approximately 98% of cases settle, however, they may do so at various points along the divorce continuum. That could occur anywhere in the range of a few months to a few years, depending on the case, county, backlog, complexity, experts, etc.
- Do you know my spouse or my spouse’s attorney?
While you may not want opposing counsel who are “friends,” having them be friendly is almost always helpful. Having an adversary who is litigious, rude, or unnecessarily adversarial will only exacerbate the case and further polarize the parties. Your attorney’s reputation or rapport with others should not be an impediment to your case resolving itself or parties conducting themselves reasonably.
- How well do you know the local family court judges?
Knowing your audience is helpful, but not knowing the judge is not a fatal flaw.
- Will you petition the court for my spouse to pay my attorney’s fees?
If your case does not settle and your attorney is forced to file motions (seek relief from the court) or go to trial due to one side’s unreasonableness, yes, you would likely see a request for fees.
Any statements made herein are solely for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon or construed as legal advice.