Nobody wants to think about divorced or get divorced, but it happens. If it happens to you, it’s really important that you get someone in your corner who can be an objective advocate for you. A good Illinois divorce attorney will help you set goals, prioritize them and get you thinking not just about what you want now, but six months from now, five years from now and 20 years from now. That could relate to custody of kids, retirement plans, payments of spousal support, where you want to live and a host of other important issues.
It’s one thing to know you need a good attorney to advise you, but something totally different to find that right lawyer. Here are some questions to ask them before you hire them to help you make the right decision.
1. How much of your practice is focused on family law? If it’s not at least 80% and your case isn’t a simple divorce, I’d keep looking elsewhere. In contested cases, the attorneys that don’t know what they are doing get eaten alive.
2. How much work do you do in the county where the case will be filed and what can you tell me about the Judges there? If you divorce is in Cook County, you likely want a Chicago attorney handling the case. If your divorce is in Lake County and your lawyer isn’t in Waukegan all the time, it could hurt you. Judges are not supposed to be biased, but some certainly favor attorneys they know and deal with all the time. Don’t let your attorney say, “I do a lot of work there,” have them tell you about the Judges. If they don’t know specifics, especially for cases outside the City, it’s a bad sign.
3. What is your retainer and how long will that last me? Some attorneys ask for very little down, but before you know it they are asking for more. Some will pad their bills. Talk about fees. Ask for an estimated cost.
4. How often do you send bills? You should get an itemized statement every quarter at worst, but personally I’d ask for one every month. Too many people get a huge bill and have no idea what their attorney is charging them for until it’s too late.
5. Do you expect to have to do research that I will be charged for? There is one Chicago divorce and custody law firm that regularly does this on very basic cases as a way to rack up a big bill. Unique circumstances can come up on occasion, but in most cases, especially in the beginning, there should not be a need for “research.”
6. What can you tell me about my ex’s lawyer? If they have one and they do a lot of family law, your attorney should know them. It’s a way of testing how much family law work your lawyer really does.
7. Who will be handling my case? Sometimes you think you are hiring an experienced attorney and it turns out they are “supervising” some young lawyer who is gaining experience by making mistakes on your case. You don’t want that to happen.
8. What advice do your clients say at the end of the case that they wish they knew at the beginning? This is a way to see if the attorney has any compassion. It’s a burnout area of law. Do they still see their clients as humans or just case numbers?
9. How many cases did you take to trial last year? There is no magic number, but if the answer is really low it’s a sign that you might not have a fighter in your corner.
There is a lot of other advice we could give, but this is a good start. If you have any questions or want an attorney referral please call us at 312-346-5320.