Six months ago, you were happily married. That was before your husband accidently called you "Susan" while you were being "intimate." He now lives with Suzie the Secretary and you are in the old marital home, trying to figure out just how in the hell your life ended up this way.
Divorce is miserable. It often devolves into bitter arguments about possession of that ten-year-old Toyota and assumption of the credit card balance. In fact, many of your attempts to settle the case have played out like this. Throughout the gauntlet of hell that has been divorce, you have had a steadying presence: your divorce attorney. Three significant qualities have helped her to ensure that you came out of the divorce (relatively) unscathed.
Anchor to Reality
A good attorney always provides a neutral perspective of the issues of contention in a divorce. For example, do you really want that ten-year-old Toyota? It does, after all, have over 200,000 miles and multiple collisions on its record. Perhaps it can be swapped in the settlement for something more likely to hold up long term. Divorce is a financial transaction. Emotions should be saved for therapy.
On the other hand, a dishonest lawyer (cue lawyer jokes) will allow emotions to fuel the divorce. They will fight over that credit card debt, even if it is relatively insignificant in the context of the mountain of marital assets. They will fight every single possible issue in order to build up billable hours. Though this may provide some catharsis (which doesn't work), it also means far less assets are left when you are ready to rebuild your life.
Reasonable and Clear Billing
With modern software, time tracking has never been easier for an attorney. If you are getting simple and sporadic bills that only provide a massive total balance due, you might want to rethink your choice of counsel. Billing software can now track the number of hours spent on each task, can differentiate between work done by an attorney and presumably cheaper work done by a paralegal. Not only should the total amount due be reasonable, but the bills should arrive regularly and should clearly tell you what exactly was done, at what rate, and by whom.
Find an attorney that meets your needs. Some clients need to be updated daily, as they are more
OCD "hands on" than the typical client. Some only need updating when something significant happens. The type of attorney that should definitely be avoided is the one that never returns calls. While you shouldn't harass your attorney every hour with nagging questions, you should expect return phone calls within a reasonable amount of time. Even if the attorney is busy, a secretary or paralegal should be able to answer most of your routine questions, like upcoming court dates and required financial disclosures.
The communication and reliability of a good attorney can be a rock to lean on during stormy times. Will they solve all your problems? No. Will they get you through a rough patch with your sanity intact? They just might. Good luck.
- Consult a Chicago Family Law Attorney (FindLaw)
- Divorce Coaches: What Do They Do? Are They Worth It? (FindLaw's Chicago Family Law Blog)
- Tips for Choosing a Divorce Lawyer (FindLaw's Chicago Family Law Blog)
- Paula Cole's Cowboy and Alimony Laws in Illinois (FindLaw's Chicago Family Law Blog)