Top 15 initial consultation questions to ask a Massachusetts Divorce Lawyer
Here are the top fifteen questions to ask a divorce attorney when you are interviewing. As we explained in our article about how to find a divorce attorney, you should always interview several divorce lawyers before choosing one. Once you locate several Massachusetts divorce lawyers to interview, bring some questions with you to ask. This guide will help.
1. What areas of law do you practice?
Some Massachusetts lawyers practice in more than one area of law. While this does not mean they are not effective advocates, it is very difficult to have a complete knowledge base of more than one area of law. Be careful of a divorce lawyer that practices in multiple areas of law, such as personal injury, estate planning, and so forth.
2. What geographical area and courts do you cover?
It is important to know where your case will be handled, and if the attorney has handled cases in that particular courthouse. For example, residents of Dartmouth seeking a Dartmouth divorce lawyer, or residents of Attleboro seeking an Attleboro divorce lawyer, should know that the case is handled in Bristol County, Massachusetts.
3. What experience do you have with divorce cases?
Find out from the attorney what experience they have resolving cases. Do they actively try and settle cases? Do they have lots of court experience? Ask the divorce lawyer to talk specifically about cases they have handled like yours.
4. How will you help me resolve my divorce case?
Get an idea from the Massachusetts divorce lawyer how specifically they will help resolve your case. Will they promote settlement? Is there discovery and information you need to obtain?
5. What accreditations do you have?
Ask the attorney about what kinds of awards and accreditations they have. Often, attorneys that are involved in the community and with the “family law bar” have access to judges and information that others attorneys lack. Different accreditations may derive from peer or judge reviews, such as the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers fellowship.
6. Have you ever taught a family law legal seminar?
Lawyers who are experts in their field often teach legal courses and seminars regarding various topics of family law. Typically, top-notch attorneys are involved with teaching continuing legal education seminars.
7. How much is your retainer?
Different divorce lawyers require different retainer deposits for their services. Retainer deposits are money that is placed into a client trust account (called an IOLTA), and when the attorney earns those funds he or she can place them into their own business account. The retainer deposit may or may not cover the entire cost of a case. Be careful of an attorney that requires a very low retainer deposit – if the deposit seems low to you, your instincts are probably right. Look for an honest, straightforward discussion about the overall cost of your case.
8. What is your hourly rate and your staff’s hourly rates?
Different attorneys charge different hourly rates, depending on their level of experience. All attorneys also charge for their staff’s time to work on your case. Get an honest assessment of the attorney’s billing practices. Also ask whether the attorney sends bills to you. Our firm, for example, sends two itemized bills every month so our clients always know exactly what is going on and what we’ve done on their case.
9. What do you estimate the total cost of my Massachusetts divorce to be?
Divorce lawyers are not permitted to guarantee results, nor can they predict exactly what the overall cost of a particular case will be. However, an experienced divorce attorney should walk you through the different ways that your case will cost less or more. For example, the opposing attorney and/or opposing party’s conduct and cooperation will have a significant impact on the overall cost of the case. Also, ask the attorney about how attorney fees might be paid by the other party. Here is a complete guide to attorney fees and costs of divorce cases in Boston, Plymouth, Hingham, Canton and other areas in Massachusetts.
10. Do you offer any different types of representation?
Some lawyers offer flat fee rates (we do not), or “scrivener” services which is when the attorney helps drafting documents only. Some attorneys also offer limited scope representation where they just represent the client for one particular hearing or issue in a case. Additionally, many attorneys offer mediation services. Finally, our firm offers hourly consulting services.
11. Do you utilize mediation and/or alternative dispute resolution?
Massachusetts divorce lawyers are required by law to discuss alternative dispute resolution with their clients before filing a 1B divorce case. Make sure the attorney is versed in mediation and other ADR methods to help keep the cost down in your case.
12. How will property and debt be divided in my case?
Massachusetts is an “equitable distribution” state, which means that property and debts are fairly divided between the parties. There are several important statutes that discuss equitable division, the most important being M.G.L. c. 208, Section 34.
13. How is alimony, child custody and child support applicable in my case?
When you begin asking the divorce attorney specific questions about how child custody, child support and alimony may be applicable in your case, you will get a solid feeling whether or not the divorce lawyer is experienced in these areas. The lawyer should be able to answer all of your questions in a straightforward manner.
14. How do you communicate with your clients?
Divorce lawyers communicate in different ways with their clients. Most currently practicing lawyers utilize a variety of communication methods, including phone, email, and so forth. If a divorce lawyer is unwilling to communicate via email, for example, they likely do not utilize technology to his or her benefit (which ultimately keeps your costs down).
15. Tell me about yourself personally.
Divorce lawyers are people too, and his or her response to this question may be eye-opening for you. If the attorney doesn’t get along with many people, works 15 hours a day, has conflict in the office, these may be red flags. A divorce attorney’s ability to communicate and get along with other divorce lawyers, and the court, is imperative to the resolution of your case. A lawyer who promotes conflict in your case is not someone you want representing you. There are many ways that an experienced divorce lawyer can be extremely aggressive, yet very cooperative with the other side and cordial to the Probate and Family Court. You should try and connect with an attorney that shares your values and works to effectively advocate for you, in a respectful manner with everyone else involved in your case.
To ask these questions to our lawyers, click here. We offer a free, private consultation.