As I begin the tedious process of filing for divorce, finding a good divorce lawyer ranks up there with the same importance as obtaining childcare or finding a good mechanic-- you don't want just anyone, you want someone you can trust!

If you're like me, you rely on word of mouth and someone that knows someone. So, as I begin my search I start there-- with referrals from friends who have been there, done that.

Here are some tips for finding a good divorce lawyer; after all, this is an important decision, and your finances are at stake.

  • Specialize in divorce or family law. You are not fighting a traffic ticket or an unscrupulous act; you are filing for divorce and need someone who knows what they are doing when it comes to divorce proceedings.
  • Interview a few lawyers. While one may have an excellent reputation, you may hate their bedside manner; don't settle for someone you are not comfortable with-you will be spending a lot of time together. Typically, the initial consultation with a lawyer is free! Use this time to feel them out, and discuss your options. Unfortunately, nothing in life is completely free; upon securing their services you will be charged a retainer fee.
  • Be prepared for an interrogation. You will need to provide the lawyer with basic information, such as how long you have been married, names and ages of any children as a product of your marriage, an overall timeline of your marriage, moves, job changes, etc. Nothing is insignificant if you are faced with an ugly divorce; so, be prepared to spill the beans.
  • Bring your budget. The lawyer will need an accurate picture of your marital finances. Be sure to have copies of bank statements, investment portfolios, pay stubs, and all the bills. Also prepare documentation stating all of your current marital assets and liabilities.
  • You get what you pay for. Obviously, you want to get what you feel you deserve in the divorce proceedings, and finding the right attorney can help you reach that goal. A less expensive lawyer may be just as good as a high-priced one. Most importantly, how do you feel about them? When it comes to the bottom line, know what you are comparing. Most lawyers bill by the hour, including the time it takes them to research your situation and prepare documentation. Be sure to ask if this is included in your hourly rate, or if it is an additional fee.
  • Follow up. You just spilled your guts to a complete stranger, assuming you don't know the lawyer. Were they listening intently? Taking notes? Answering your questions? Most importantly, did they follow up after you left their office or return your calls within 24 hours? If not, you may want to reconsider; you need someone who is on your side, and the least they can do is return your phone call in a reasonable amount of time. 

Filing for divorce is a daunting task. As I search for my divorce lawyer, I plan to ask lots of questions, read the fine print in the retainers, and utilize every resource possible to make sure I have made the right decision.

Related posts:

Life Stages - Dealing with Divorce

7 Tips for Saving When Your Income is Not Steady

Life Just Threw Me a Curve Ball Named Divorce

Suzanne Cramer

Suzanne is a certified credit counselor working in our Ask the Expert forums as a coach and a Social Media Specialist for CareOne. Suzanne writes for our Blended Finances and A Straight Talk on Debt blogs.  As a soon to be divorced single mom, Suzanne also writes for the Divorce, Debt, and Finances blog. Ask her questions, share your story or just follow Suzanne on her journey as she navigates dealing with divorce, debt, and finances. Suzanne is also very active on Twitter and manages two CareOne accounts: ADivorcedMom and Ask CareOne where she shares the latest debt industry news and tips to keep your finances in check.