Top 10 questions to ask before hiring a collaborative divorce attorney
Written by Craig Cherney

Top 10 questions to ask before hiring a collaborative divorce attorney

The attorney you hire can have a significant impact on the outcome of your divorce and even your future. Choosing a collaborative divorce attorney that meets your needs is essential to the process. To help you make the right choice for you and your family, we’ve put together a list of the top ten questions to ask before hiring a collaborative divorce attorney:

1. What kind of experience do you have in collaborative divorce?

Collaborative divorce attorneys are specifically trained to help you and your spouse work together to reach mutually agreeable outcomes. Learning more about their particular experience can help you decide if they would be a good match for your situation.

2. How much experience do you have dealing with specific issues?

If you have a particularly unusual circumstance, you can ask the attorney if they’ve worked on a similar case. This is a great way to learn more about the experience of your potential attorney. Some specifics to consider asking about include:

  • Business valuations
  • Division of multiple properties
  • Division of sizable financial holdings
  • Legal decision-making authority for minor children
  • Parenting time division
  • Spousal support

3. Will you or another attorney be handling my case?

Sometimes, attorneys will transfer a case to someone else at their firm without communicating this to their clients. This can cause issues with communication and the manner in which they handle your case. If multiple attorneys are working on your case, you can ask to meet them as well. A change in attorney shouldn’t impact your case, as long as it’s openly communicated.

4. Will we have to go to court?

Most people dread the tension that often accompanies a litigious divorce. The collaborative divorce attorney process will help you and your spouse avoid the courtroom. During your divorce, you and your spouse will work with attorneys, a neutral financial specialist and a communication specialist to address your specific situation and come to a mutually agreeable outcome. While there will still be meetings with these professionals, it will be in an office on your schedule, rather than in a court room on a judge’s schedule.

5. How much will this cost?

You may have seen a bus with an ad for a divorce that costs one low price. While flat-rate billing is sometimes offered, it’s difficult for an attorney to tell you exactly how much your divorce will cost without knowing the details of your case.

Rather than providing a specific dollar amount, your attorney should be able to give you a clear idea of the price structure associated with your collaborative divorce. This can include any retainer/deposit fees, their hourly rate and any expected out-of-pocket expenses.

After you hire any attorney, they should provide regular itemized billing statements to help you understand the fees accumulated in your case.

6. What fees can I expect and how will these be billed to me?

It’s not uncommon to incur a variety of professional fees and out of pocket expenses during your collaborative divorce. These can include:

  • Attorneys’ fees
  • Communication Specialist/Child Specialist fees
  • Financial Neutral fees
  • Filing fees
  • Certified copies of documents
  • Other expert professional fees (e.g. home appraisal, business valuation, division of retirement benefits).

Collaborative divorce offers a way to reduce attorney fees and any other fees related to traditional litigation, since you and your spouse will be working out many of the details together, rather than wasting time fighting in court.

Your attorney will tell you how they bill. Some may charge you as you meet certain milestones. Others may bill on a monthly basis. Depending on your situation, they may be willing to set up a payment plan.

7. Will I be billed for contacting you by phone or email?

Before hiring your attorney, make sure you have a clear understanding of how they bill their hourly rate. In some cases, attorneys may charge a flat fee. Others use a sliding scale for specific lines of communication. It’s also common for an attorney to charge an hourly rate. Most attorneys will bill you for any time they or their staff spend on your case, including phone and email communication.

8. Are there any tasks I can do myself to keep costs down?

When finances are a concern, there are a few things you can do to help keep costs down. Your collaborative divorce attorney can give you a better understanding of what you can do along the way to help minimize costs and lower the overall budget.

The number one way to save money on a divorce is to cooperate with the process. This means coming to meetings on time, with the necessary documents and paperwork. It also means that you and your spouse need to be ready to talk openly and honestly when discussing your assets and debts.

9. How long do you expect this process to take?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know how long your divorce will take. A collaborative divorce typically concludes more quickly than a litigious divorce.

There are a number of variables that can affect the duration of your case. If you and your spouse are both hoping to get through the process as quickly as possible, the best way to make that happen is by coming to each appointment with respect, flexibility and a focus on the future.

10. What are the benefits of a collaborative divorce?

During a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse will work with a group of professionals to create an outcome that meets your family’s needs. You’ll each have your own attorneys, as well as access to a communication specialist and a financial neutral. The goal is to come to a mutually agreeable outcome and move forward with your life.

Many people choose collaborative divorce because it can save time, money and stress. By handling your divorce outside of the courtroom, you and your spouse have an opportunity to brainstorm solutions that meet your needs.

If you’re ready to talk to a collaborative divorce attorney, contact the professionals at Best Legal Choices today.