Hiring a divorce lawyer is the same as hiring any other professional. You’ll want to get references from others if possible, and you should check the attorney’s credentials with the Nevada State Bar to be sure he or she is currently licensed and whether there are complaints filed against him or her. Also, check the attorney’s listing with the Better Business Bureau and if complaints were filed whether they were resolved satisfactorily. Also, you should ask the attorney or his case intake paralegal some questions about the legal experience of the attorney. Here are the most important ones to ask:
1. How many divorce cases of this type as this divorce attorney filed on behalf of clients?
The more of your type of divorce case the attorney has done, and the more recent the cases, the better job he or she will do with your divorce case. Divorce laws change on occasion so you want your attorney to be up on the latest changes in the law and to have recently been in front of the court on similar matters.
2. Has your attorney ever been divorced? Does he have children?
This actually makes a difference. A divorce attorney who has never felt the pain of going through the process of divorce may not empathize with your situation. A divorce attorney with personal divorce experience will understand the emotions you go through and will be more patient with you than a divorce lawyer who has just enjoyed the single life. After all, divorce attorneys are human beings too, breathing and bleeding like everyone else, and as we all know, nothing makes us more aware of the emotions that go along with life experiences than actually living through them.
3. What will be my estimated total fee?
Though an attorney is not always able to give you an exact total, he or she should be able to get fairly close barring any unforeseen circumstances, such as your spouse contesting the divorce and demanding much more than is reasonable (or if you kept things to yourself that you should have disclosed to your divorce lawyer which broadside him or her, a no-no!). The best thing, of course, is to retain an attorney with a flat fee for uncontested matters, and check that this same attorney charges reasonable fees in the event your uncontested divorce becomes contested. There are now many unbundled law firms that charge by the task which also lowers overall costs for you.
4. Will you keep me informed with what’s going on with my divorce?
Be sure that your attorney’s office has a person on staff whose job it will be to follow your divorce case from start to finish. And be sure that this individual has a system in place to keep you updated as your case moves through the court system.
In other words, this person would know firsthand by looking at your file what’s been done on your divorce case because he or she will have performed the task himself of herself. In some law firms, the really large ones, the tasks of case management are divided between multiple individuals, which means you are dealing with different people all the time depending on the stage of your divorce process.The most you should stand for is for a case intake person to turn you over to a case manager who performs pretty much all tasks on your divorce after it’s been filed at court, rather than your file going from individual to individual who perform different tasks as your divorce case progresses through the court system.When there is more than one person working your divorce file, you end up talking to a different person nearly each time you call for a status check. This might confuse you, or at the least leave you a little insecure as to actual status of your case and you want to feel totally confident that the matter is proceeding as it should at all times. Also, when case management is broken down between different individuals in a divorce law firm, the individual you talk to today might not be familiar with anything that might have become slightly different with your divorce compared to other Nevada divorces. When only one case manager handles the tasks related to your divorce, this individual will remember those things that set your case apart as he or she reads the notes in your file because he or she will have performed all the tasks related to taking your case through the court system.
5. Can you work out a deal with the other attorney?
Perhaps. Find an attorney for whom this is the norm. Some attorneys tend towards mediation and some tend to “shoot first and ask questions later.” You really don’t want the latter kind of divorce lawyer, unless your spouse has already demonstrated that he or she will be totally unreasonable and you feel you need to be overly aggressive. It is NOT recommended to go this route. The only winners are the attorneys.
If the attorney you retain is more in favor of collaborative divorce and is himself or herself a mediator, he or she is a lot more likely to open up a discussion on settlement with your spouse’s attorney if your case becomes contested. This saves you not only time and money, but a lot of emotional stress on you and your children.
A skilled negotiator and mediator is often better in a divorce situation than an aggressive trial lawyer because over 90% of divorce cases settle in order for the Court system to function. As a matter of fact, the very first thing the court orders when a divorce becomes contested is a mandatory Case Management Conference which is essentially divorce mediation. Family Court wants to see everything done that can keep the divorce from going to trial, and wants as many issues as possible resolved before the divorce trial if it becomes unavoidable.
6. How many cases have you taken to trial?
If you are filing a one signature Nevada divorce, even if you don’t anticipate that your divorce will be contested, find out if your divorce attorney has any divorce trial experience. This will avoid you the extra expense of having to retain a new attorney in the event your spouse does decide to contest your Nevada divorce. Some attorneys charge a flat fee for uncontested matters and will credit all, or at least a portion of, those uncontested divorce fees towards your contested divorce.
7. How well does the attorney and staff communicate with you?
A good Nevada divorce lawyer knows how to communicate. Does this divorce attorney and his staff talk to you in plain English or confusing legalese? Does the attorney write well? Does the staff write well? Are you easily able to understand what the attorney and staff communicate to you? Chances are high that the writing style used in general communication with you will find its way into your divorce documents filed with the Nevada Divorce Court.
8. How well does your divorce attorney know the judges in the court where your case will be filed?
This is important. Judges are people too, with personalities and quirks and attitudes and their own set of morals. Sure they have to follow divorce laws, but in a discretionary court such as family courts in Nevada, they do have a lot of discretion in decisions they make. If your divorce lawyer is familiar with the judges, he or she might know that, depending on your particular situation, it might be best to request a different judge right at the outset of your divorce.
Your attorney would make such a decision if he or she happens to know that the judge to whom your case is assigned is particularly conservative with any certain issue that affects you personally. Say that, for instance, you need all the alimony you can get, you know your spouse can afford to pay it, and the judge assigned to your case is known to be less than generous when it comes to granting it; you’d want your attorney to file a Peremptory Challenge to get a new judge assigned to your case in the hopes that the new judge is more understanding and generous when it comes to alimony.
Or you want full physical custody of your children but the judge assigned to your case highly favors joint physical custody and is not really likely to grant you full physical custody. Only an attorney with lots of experience at the court where you case is going to be filed would know your judge well enough to determine these things. In the case of family court in Las Vegas for instance, there are 23 family court judges at the time of this writing. Only an attorney with many years of experience of filing cases in that court would know enough about 23 judges to know how any of them think when it comes to any issue that is of particular concern to your own divorce.
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