Updated: Jul 26
Hint: There is a RIGHT time to hire one!
When divorce is on the horizon, one of the first things most people think about is what attorney they should hire. It goes without saying that hiring an attorney is a very personal decision. It's something that you should take very seriously. You should not just hire the attorney down the street whose office you pass every day. It would be best if you were a little more diligent about finding the right person.
To start, when do you hire an attorney when divorce is inevitable? One of the things that a lot of people feel the urge to do is to run off and hire an attorney at the very beginning. While there is nothing technically wrong with doing that, it is not what you should be doing. First, divorce attorneys will charge you a retainer of some kind, usually around $5,000. Most will handle your case the way they handle all their other cases. That means going into the court system and hoping for the best. But that is not typically the best use of your money or time.
Therefore, when divorce starts, your first step should be to have an introductory consultation with an attorney. That does not mean a "free consultation" where you get on the phone with somebody for thirty minutes. You need to go and pay an attorney for an hour or two hours of their time and find out what you are looking at. It is crucial to find out your best-case scenario and worst-case scenario and learn it all to understand what you are looking at.
Then, after you get some legal advice, try to convince your spouse to go to mediation. This does not require you and your spouse to agree on anything other than you both do not want to spend all your money fighting and want to get this done as quickly and fairly as possible. That's all it takes.
When do you hire an attorney to represent you? You should not hire an attorney unless your efforts to resolve things fail. Also, you should hire an attorney if an emergency happens. An example is your spouse withholding the children from you or draining your bank account. But absent an emergency, you should not be hiring an attorney to represent you in the divorce unless that is your last option. There are attorneys out there who will do something called a consulting retainer. You might consider that that is where they charge you less than they usually would and can answer questions you might have as you go through the settlement process. However, in terms of hiring them to represent you, you wait until that is your last option.