Chryssikos Law Firm

How Do I Find the Right Divorce Attorney for Me?

This question has been discussed on internet sites and blog posts time and time again, and for good reason. It’s a difficult question and can have long lasting consequences. It’s been made even more confusing with so many lawyers claiming to practice divorce and family law and many of those lawyers taking the internet, road-side billboards and radio by storm.

You can take heart because there are many good divorce lawyers out there. But, the question is, how do you find the right one for you? The right attorney for you may be different than the right attorney for your neighbor, your sister, your co-worker, etc. Referrals are wonderful and lawyers make their living based on good word of mouth. It is natural to take the recommendation of someone you trust for any service, whether it’s a lawyer, a contractor, a dentist, etc. It feels nice to place a call and say “I was referred to you by _____”. We feel out of our element and dropping that name makes us feel we’re getting off on the right foot with this stranger with whom we’re putting our faith and money.

But like anything else, we can take a good thing too far and rely too heavily on the referral. After all, isn’t it likely that your divorce presents different challenges and issues than your neighbor’s? Isn’t your personality different from your sister’s? Isn’t your spouse different from your co-worker’s spouse?This is not to say you should discard the referral, but a little investigation and homework will go a long way to ensuring you’ve found the right lawyer for you.

People choose their attorney based upon many factors, not all of them necessarily designed to bring about the best,or even a well-reasoned choice. Below are a list of my top 5 criteria you should ask and evaluate about any attorney you’re considering hiring to help you through this difficult process:

  • Do they have extensive experience in family law?

Tip: Most attorneys who are dedicated to the practice of divorce and family law do little else. Some may dabble in this or that, but family law must be their clear focus. Beware the attorney who tries to be all things to all people.

This can be observed, in part, by viewing their associations. Are they members of the Family Law Section of the State Bar? Do they dedicate time to continuing legal education in the area of divorce and family law? Experience and dedication matter.

  • Do they seem genuinely interested in helping me?

Tip: Attorneys who are truly interested in helping their clients provide them with differing viewpoints and options. Beware of the lawyer who is a glorified cheerleader, offering little more than encouragement, enthusiasm, and getting started right away. A good lawyer should offer thoughtful and critical analysis, ask questions (other than “check or credit card?”) and provide reasonable expectations.

Also, beware of the attorney who only wants to fight, as well as the one who only wants to settle. Most cases require knowing when to fight, when to negotiate, and striking the right balance based upon your goals.

Lastly, do they seem interested in your plans after the case is over? An attorney that is genuinely interested in helping will want to help put you on the right path when the case concludes. That may include discussions about counseling services, furthering your education, financial planning, etc.

  • Do they want to educate me about the process or just tell me “how it is”?

Tip: It’s easy for lawyers to fall into the trap of just telling clients “how it works”. Lawyers often speak “legalese”, forgetting that you may not know what certain terms mean and why they’re important.

Likewise, when you hear a lawyer throwing terms at you like “QDRO”, “ex parte order” or, my personal favorite, “established custodial environment”, push the pause button and ask the lawyer precisely what those terms mean.A good lawyer will be happy to take the time to explain.

  • Do they appear willing and able to personally handle my case?

Tip: Most attorneys should be willing and able to schedule a consultation with you within a reasonable amount of time (typically within a week of your first contact with them). This is true of just about any service industry, but if you can’t get an appointment or even a return call promptly – move on!

Don’t think those issues will improve once you become a client. They won’t. Service and creating positive client experience is lost on many lawyers, who think it’s good enough that “I know the law”.

Also, be sure you understand who will be handling your case. It’s perfectly normal and acceptable for the lawyer to delegate certain tasks to associate attorneys, law clerks, paralegals or legal assistants. This may even be a significant cost savings for you.

But you deserve to know at the outset if you will be represented by the lawyer or his/her staff. Only you can decide how much of that delegation of work is acceptable. Don’t be afraid to ask these questions at the initial consultation.

  • What will be the cost and how are the fees billed?

Tip: It would be foolish to ignore the fact that lawyers often charge wildly different rates and the need to evaluate your financial resources to pay those fees.

Most divorce and family lawyers charge at an hourly rate with a retainer fee paid up front, those rates and fees taking into consideration: 1) the lawyer’s years of practice and experience in the field of law; 2) the lawyer’s geographic location; and 3) the complexity of the case, among other things.

The lawyer should take the time to explain their fee agreement, which must always be in writing setting forth the initial retainer and hourly rates. Lastly, always ask whether the retainer paid is refundable (non-refundable retainers must clearly indicate as such).

Lastly, make sure the lawyer will send you periodic detailed invoices for their services so you know what work is being done on your case and the cost to you. In divorce cases, this should be done on a monthly basis or at other reasonable intervals, not one big bill when the case is over.

If you do your homework and ask questions, you should have no problem finding a quality divorce lawyer that is right for you.

For more questions or information, please call us at (248) 290-0515 or visit us at

10.0James W. Chryssikos