7 Divorce Questions to Ask Your Lawyer
Are you and your spouse considering a divorce?
Whether you've already begun proceedings or you're still unsure of how to get started, you're not alone. With a 48% current divorce rate in Canada, many couples have unanswered divorce questions.
No matter where you are in the divorce process, help is available. Your first step should be to find a reputable family law lawyer.
When you set up your consultation, bring this list of seven divorce questions to ask. This way, you'll have a much better grasp of the divorce process.
1. What Is Your Fee Structure?
The first question you need to ask is how the lawyer will bill you.
Different law firms have different fee structures, so it's vital to understand exactly what you will (or won't) be charged for.
Here's a short list to get you started:
- Is the initial consultation free? If not, how much is it?
- Will you be billed by the hour, or will you pay a fixed fee?
- Will you be charged for the time spent answering questions via email or phone calls?
- Do you charge a retainer fee? If so, how does it work?
Remember that divorce proceedings can take months or even years. Be sure you understand exactly what you're signing up for--and make sure you can afford it!
2. What Are the Local Divorce Laws?
Every divorce in Canada is governed by the Federal Divorce Act. However, procedures in each province or territory can vary greatly.
When asking divorce questions, it's vital to understand the variations in your specific jurisdiction. These can have a tremendous impact on factors like custody arrangements or child and spousal support.
Do both you and your spouse agree to the divorce? If so, you may be able to file an uncontested divorce. In general, these types of divorces are the easiest to navigate.
What if one of you doesn't agree to the terms of your divorce? What if your spouse is determined to prolong the process over a custody battle or another disagreement?
In that case, you're looking at a contested divorce, which will require more time and money to settle. Your lawyer can help to guide you through the process and explain all local divorce laws to you.
3. How Long Have You Practiced Divorce Law?
No rule says a newer lawyer can't be a good one. Recent law school graduates often bring a lot of energy and in-depth knowledge of new laws and technology to the table.
Still, in most cases, there's no substitute for experience. When you meet your potential lawyer, find out how long they've been practicing family and divorce law.
Do they know the local judges and opposing lawyers? Are they familiar with all local divorce laws, including any new legislation? How much trial experience do they have?
Any lawyer you're considering hiring should also have experience in negotiating separation agreements, court orders, and pleadings.
4. How Many Similar Cases Have You Taken to Trial?
As mentioned above, there's no substitute for experience. This applies strongly to trial experience.
It's one thing for a lawyer to have "handled" divorce cases. It's quite another to have actually taken cases to court--and won.
True, most divorce cases settle out of court, so trials aren't always necessary. But if you're facing a contested divorce and you and your spouse can't seem to agree on anything, you need to be prepared for the possibility of going to court.
Look for a lawyer who has a reasonable balance of trial experience but is still an advocate for negotiations and settlements.
5. How Can I Best Achieve My Goals?
Just like every marriage is different, every divorce is different. Five million Canadians have separated or divorced in the past 20 years, but every single one of their needs was unique.
While your lawyer should have a general "road map" of procedures they follow, they should also be willing to discuss other possibilities that relate to you personally.
Some cases require little more than a separation agreement and a property settlement. This may or may not be sufficient for your situation.
You should feel comfortable outlining your needs and goals with your potential lawyer. In turn, he or she should be able to explain the divorce process in a way you can understand.
Whatever your specific goals for your divorce, your lawyer should be able to outline how to get you from Point A to Point B.
6. How Much Do You Think My Divorce Will Cost?
This is one of the most important divorce questions to ask. Even with an understanding of the lawyer's fee structure, it's impossible to give an exact fee quote.
Since each divorce case is different, final costs and fees usually differ as well. If your divorce requires more time, guidance, and legal services than your neighbor's, it's only reasonable that you'll pay more.
While your lawyer won't be able to give you an exact figure, they should be able to provide a general estimate. They should base this on previous cases they handled that were similar to yours.
7. What Should I Do Now to Protect Myself?
Before you leave that first consultation, make sure you have a clear picture of what to do next.
Do you know how to deal with joint bank or credit accounts? Should you be paying temporary child support or alimony? Do you need to be cautious about what you post or share on social media?
An experienced lawyer can advise you on these and other common sense ways to protect yourself and your assets. These can save you a lot of money and aggravation down the road, as your divorce proceedings continue.
Divorce Questions and More
The truth is that nothing about the divorce process is easy. Even uncontested divorces create mental, emotional, and financial strain.
You may feel like you're all alone, but that's not the case. With the right divorce lawyer on your side, you can successfully navigate the legal system.
If you're considering a divorce, we invite you to contact us to discuss your situation.
You're also welcome to browse our legal blog for more helpful advice on the divorce process and how a reputable law firm can help.