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The 10 Questions You Must Ask Before Hiring a Divorce Lawyer

By | - May 10, 2018

Steve Benmor is a recognized divorce lawyer, family mediator, arbitrator, speaker, writer and educator. Mr. Benmor has worked as lead counsel in many divorce trials, held many leadership positions in the legal community and has been regularly interviewed on television, radio and in newspapers as an expert in Family Law.

Not all lawyers are equal. Like with any professional service, there are those who are excellent in their field in those who are not. Managing a person’s divorce settlement requires expertise, experience and professionalism.  In a very fragile moment in time, you need to make the tough decision of who will be your Divorce Lawyer. That is why this list of questions must be answered when considering who you will hire as your Divorce Lawyer.

#1 What is your Divorce Lawyer’s ideas on the different strategic plans available to achieve a speedy, fair and immediate divorce settlement?

Divorce lawyers have seen many different cases. Some divorce cases end very quickly. Others can take years before they end. In every case, you cannot achieve a conclusion if you do not have a defined strategic plan and objectives. The very first step in every case is defining the various outcomes and the various paths to be taken to achieve each outcome. Some will be fast and expensive, others might be slow and inexpensive. But the point is that you must be aware of all of these options at the beginning of your case so that you can make an educated choice as to which path to take or, alternatively, decide when to change paths.

#2 What is the training and experience of your Divorce Lawyer?

These days, most of this information is available on your Divorce Lawyer’s website. Whether you find it online or you obtain this information at your first meeting, the following questions should be asked and you should be satisfied with the answers.

– How long has your Divorce Lawyer been practicing Divorce Law?
– Does your Divorce Lawyer specialize or practice other areas of law?
– Does he have special certification or training?
– Has your Divorce Lawyer held any leadership positions in his profession?
– Does your Divorce Lawyer carry a manageable caseload and can he devote his focus and concentration on your case?
– How many high-conflict cases does your Divorce Lawyer handle?
– How many clerks will be helping your Divorce Lawyer on your case?
– How familiar is your Divorce Lawyer with the Divorce Judges in your area?
– Does your Divorce Lawyer have litigation and trial experience?

#3 How does your Divorce Lawyer determine if a potential divorce settlement is a “good deal”?

Even if your case does not see the inside of a courtroom, it is a good idea to have an understanding of how the law works. That way, you will get a basic idea of what is a good deal in your case. Of course, a good deal also accounts for subjective factors such as your particular needs or your spouse’s particular needs. Nonetheless, you want to have an understanding of how your Divorce Lawyer can analyze the case. That is why your Divorce Lawyer must have the experience and expertise to analyze the legal, financial and tax issues and provide you with a formal opinion on the merits of a potential divorce settlement and whether it is a “good deal”.

#4 What percentage of your Divorce Lawyer’s cases end up settling?

Over 95% of divorce cases do not go to trial. That is because Divorce Lawyers work towards a settlement through negotiations, mediation and, if in court, through settlement conferences. By asking this question, you begin planning on how to settle your divorce case on terms that you can live with. Plus, it gives you an idea of whether or not your Divorce Lawyer is one who settles cases. This also helps you get an idea of how committed your Divorce Lawyer is to settling your case.

#5 How will your Divorce Lawyer communicate with you?

Some Divorce Lawyers will talk to their clients on a daily or weekly basis. Some communicate regularly by email. Some speak by FaceTime. There isn’t a right answer, but you should find out what to expect in advance to avoid disappointment or resentment.

#6 How am I going to handle my emotional distress during this process?

There is no doubt that the breakdown of a family and the ending of a marriage is emotionally draining and devastating. For that reason, it is necessary to have a very strong support network helping you through this process. This must include your family members who love you, friends that support you, and the right professionals who have the expertise and compassion that you need. Your Divorce Lawyer is an important part of your support team. On one hand, you want a Divorce Lawyer who can be objective, level headed, and help reduce the emotional tension in your case. On the other hand, you want a Divorce Lawyer who will believe in you and advocate for your rights. In all cases, you need to manage your emotional distress and therefore acquire the right people surrounding you.

#7 What financial information should I be gathering?

Almost all divorce cases have a financial component, whether it is property division or support. For that reason, each spouse is required to provide full, frank and complete financial disclosure of all of their assets, debts, income and expenses. This is admittedly an intrusive and expensive process because it requires the completion of a detailed document called a financial statement and all of the figures tabulated. It also requires the gathering of a long list of financial records such as income tax returns, notices of assessment, investment and pension statements, credit card statements and bank records. In some cases, some spouses or their lawyers will demand even further and deeper financial disclosure. Although this is a detailed, protracted and expensive process, the financial disclosure is what ensures that the final divorce settlement is accurate, complete and fair. There have been many cases where a divorce settlement was reopened later because of missing financial disclosure. This should be avoided at all costs by making complete disclosure at the very beginning.

#8 Will there be additional costs in my case other than lawyer fees?

Aside from your lawyer’s fees, there will be fees for disbursements such as court filing fees, process server fees, couriers and, in some cases, expert witnesses. In all cases, there needs to be an open discussion at the beginning of every case to determine what disbursements are necessary and what disbursements are optional. For example, some people decide to incur the expense of private investigation. Even though this cost can be significant, in some cases, this expense can bring about an immediate and favorable settlement. Determining a person’s income or the value of the business may require the involvement of a valuation expert. Although these reports may be expensive, in the end, they may bring about a cheaper and faster conclusion. In all cases, it is critical that there be a conversation about a budget for such disbursements and the advantages and disadvantages of them.

#9 What does your your Divorce Lawyer charge for his services?

While most Divorce Lawyers bill by the hour or tenth of an hour (6 minute increments), every lawyer has a different rate of efficiency. A lawyer that has been practicing Family Law for 25 years may be able to accomplish in 1 hour what another lawyer might take 5 hours to do. Your lawyer may be able to identify the legal issues and ensure a strategic path to settlement and save you tens of thousands of dollars. A more experienced lawyer may have the gravitas and authority to settle a case fast and early. So when hiring your Divorce Lawyer, do not just consider his hourly rate, consider his experience, expertise and level of efficiency.

#10 What does your gut tell you?

In the end, the relationship between a Divorce Lawyer and his client is a very personal one. Private details of your family, the marital relationship, relations with other family members and marital problems are revealed. Detailed financial disclosure must be shared with your Divorce Lawyer. The relationship is one built on respect, integrity and trust. So in the end, trust your instincts and your gut. Select a Divorce Lawyer that you feel most comfortable and confident with.

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