Came across this article in the Huffington Post. Pretty good Advice.
By: Kate: Scharff
Imagine: You're sipping coffee, perusing the Sunday paper. Suddenly,
you're jerked from your reverie by an ominous bang. You dash to the
basement. Scalding water from your ruptured hot water heater rises
around you. As your bare feet blister, you splash to your phone, Google
frantically, then punch in the number of the first plumber you find who
does emergency house calls. You don't check references. You don't care
if the company is bonded. You can't even think. You just want it to
stop -- now!
Facing separation and divorce is some version of this nightmare.
Whether you're leaving or being left, whether you've been planning
the split for months or it hit like a bolt from the blue, life as you've
known it is over. Even as your emotions ping pong like lottery balls,
you'll have to make some big decisions -- starting with which lawyer
you'll choose to represent you in discussions about two of the most
important things in your life: your kids and your money.
Where to start?
Relax. You can do this. Here are some tips.
You're under pressure. Maybe your wife has dumped your clothing in an
angry heap on the guest room bed and left the real estate listings on
the pillow. Perhaps your husband's attorney is flooding your inbox with
nastygrams threatening litigation if you don't get counsel yesterday. But guess what? This is a life crisis, but it's not an emergency. Don't allow your spouse's bullying or your own anxiety to force you
into any sudden moves. Choosing a divorce lawyer is one of the most
important things you'll ever do. Researching options will pay huge
financial and emotional dividends -- for the rest of your life.
Tell Your Greek Chorus to Quiet Down
Most of us naturally turn for advice to our nearest and dearest --
family, friends, colleagues. They all have opinions, war stories, and
the name of a great lawyer. But they also have agendas. Your tennis
partner -- still reeling from his wife's affair with her personal
trainer -- will gladly produce the number of his gladiator. Your
recently divorced friend who got "fleeced -- I'm telling you fleeced!"
will eagerly refer you to her shark litigator. While we all need support during this time, what your loved ones
don't know can hurt you. Soak up all the emotional encouragement you can
-- but do your own homework. Only you can know what kind of lawyer is
right for you.
Take a Personal Inventory
Even in the early days when the very thought of your spouse elicits
homicidal fantasies, ask yourself: Is an adversarial process going to
serve you best? Try to think beyond today's pain and rage. Do you want
to squander both your kids' college fund and any potential good will in a
nasty negotiation or (worse) litigation? Consider preserving your family's resources and the possibility of
dancing with your ex at your daughter's wedding by choosing the most
peaceful process that the two of you can agree on.
There are many ways to get divorced. Very few couples (particularly
those with short marriages, no kids, and simple finances) opt for the
"kitchen table" approach -- they simply sit down together and work
things out. But most couples need the support of divorce professionals.
The "mainstream" processes (settlement negotiation, mediation,
Collaborative Divorce, and litigation) differ from each other in a
number of important ways. You need to get up to speed. Below I've listed
some helpful websites. Just browse through them. Remember: if you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you're
not sure which "type" of divorce would be best for you, interview
attorneys with a full complement of tools in their toolbox.
Avoid a sales pitch
Attorneys have an ethical obligation to explain all legal
process options. While many attorneys lean heavily toward certain ways
of working (some, for example, prefer strategic negotiation over
non-adversarial approaches), you're entitled to information about your
full range of choices. If you're not getting good answers, go elsewhere.
Cheaper isn't always a bargain, and more expensive isn't always better
If finances are tight, a greener attorney might be a good choice. Many
younger lawyers are well-trained, well-mentored, and, because they're
typically less busy than their senior colleagues, may give your case a
lot of attention. At the other end of the continuum are the famous Big
Dogs with decades of experience and astronomic fees. If money isn't a
concern, you don't have energy to research attorney's credentials, and
national name recognition is important to you -- go for it. But know
that these folks often offload big chunks of their work to other members
of the firm. While that might be fine (even preferable), be sure to
ask up front who will answer the phone when you call.
Choose a good listener
When you walk into a lawyer's office you'll be nervous -- you won't know
what to expect. Before he or she launches into advice or starts
strategizing, a good lawyer will take the time to put you at ease by
listening carefully to your story, asking relevant questions, addressing
your immediate concerns and offering emotional support.
Trust your gut
Picking a divorce lawyer is like dating. If there's a voice in your head
whispering "run," then run. You're getting out of bad relationship;
don't jump into another one.