By Debra Schoenberg
Divorce is one of life’s most difficult and stressful events that require steady guidance and support. You’ll likely encounter no shortage of unsolicited advice from friends, family, and even well-intentioned strangers who more often than not, offer inaccurate information. As our lives are increasingly lived online, you may also find a number of divorce apps that offer communication tools to streamline the divorce process. While improving ease and accessibility to the justice system is a worthy goal, it’s equally important to find a trusted and supportive advocate who can help achieve the best outcome possible.
It’s important to find an experienced family law attorney who you trust and have confidence in who will provide the best and most accurate professional advice you can receive. Think of your relationship with your attorney as a partnership in pursuing your goals because the advice your attorney provides can affect your life for years to come.
The job of an attorney requires being a zealous advocate for your interests and an expert in the fundamentals of family law because the legal process, especially in California is complex. You are entrusting your legal counsel to advise you on a range of strategic and procedural matters which may include a custody dispute and the division of substantial assets. You want to have full confidence in the attorney you hire to listen to your needs and understand your concerns.
The process of finding the right family lawyer can take many paths. Maybe your friend or a family member has a referral. Or you can ask professionals who work with divorce lawyers such as financial advisors, tax attorneys, or family therapists. Many attorneys have websites that provide information on their practice areas, professional associations, experience, and philosophy. Be wary of online reviews that use the general public to rate practitioners. While some of the feedback is helpful there may also be posts from disgruntled past clients who did not listen to their attorney’s advice or had unrealistic expectations about the outcome of their divorce.
The state of California offers certifications to attorneys within their specialties so you’ll want to find a Family Law specialist certified by the Board of Legal Specialization. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) is a select professional organization that admits only the top 1,500 family law attorneys in the country so if you can afford an AAML member, you should hire one.
Even if you and your spouse are breaking up on good terms, you need to find separate divorce lawyers since attorneys are ethically prohibited from representing two people with conflicting interests who are in a dispute. Some couples reach agreements directly with each other without understanding their rights under the law. You will benefit from receiving independent legal advice on issues such as taxes, retirement plans, health insurance benefits, and other matters.
Choosing the right attorney is a big decision and you should be willing to interview more than one attorney to ensure you’ve found the right advocate to meet your goals. Changing lawyers in the middle of litigation can be stressful and expensive. It’s wise to invest time, money, and energy into making the right choice at the onset of your journey towards dissolution.