By Robert Schwartz and Marlene Pontrelli

Choosing a lawyer is one of the most important decisions you will make with respect to your divorce. The person you choose needs to be someone you feel comfortable confiding in since you will sometimes be providing very personal information that you have not previously shared with even your closest friends and relatives.  He or she should be a person you can trust and someone who will be a zealous advocate for your interests.  However, he or she also needs to be someone who will advise you of the pros and cons so you can make informed choices.  Here are five things to consider in choosing a lawyer that is right for your divorce.

  1. The experience of the attorney. Find an attorney that handles divorces as a regular part of his or her law practice. Take your time in choosing a lawyer that is right for your case. If you need to obtain names of potential lawyers in the area of family law, many state bar associations, including the State Bar of Arizona, maintain a list of attorneys who have been certified as specialists in family law.
  2. Consider setting a time for an initial consultation. Even if you are not ready to file for divorce, you may find it helpful to call and schedule an appointment with a lawyer to obtain basic information about protecting yourself and your children. Many times these initial consultations are to simply explore the process so you know what to expect, especially if you believe your spouse is planning on filing for divorce. You should feel free to seek all of the information you need during the consultation to help you feel secure in knowing once you decide to choose a lawyer that you have made the right choice.
  3. Consider the qualities in an attorney that are important to you. Ask yourself what you are really looking for in an attorney so you can make your choice with these standards in mind. Are you looking for someone who consistently goes to trial?  Someone who is more mediation minded?  Or a combination of both?  Every lawyer has different strengths. You want to find someone who understands your situation and can represent your best interests in a way that is satisfactory to you.
  4. Determine how the attorney likes to communicate with clients. Is it important to you to have an attorney who is available by e-mail after hours and on weekends? Does the attorney provide you a way for you to contact them if you need to reach them when the office is closed? Do you feel comfortable with the legal assistants or paralegals that will be helping the attorney with your case?
  5. Take a list of questions to the initial consultation so you have a better understanding of how the lawyer will handle your case. In addition to specific questions unique to your circumstances, your questions should include: the attorneys’ approach to dividing assets, whether your case will involve a claim for spousal support, what you can expect in terms of a time-line, the attorneys’ form of communication with clients, the amount of retainer required to start the case, whether the attorney has the time necessary to devote to your case, and whether the attorney will be personally handling your case.

It is important that you have confidence in the attorney you hire. If you are unsure about whether the lawyer is really listening to you or understanding your concerns, keep looking until you find one who you can feel understands your needs. Your divorce is an important matter. It’s critical that you have a professional you can trust.

The above was adapted from the book Divorce In Arizona, written by Marlene Pontrelli and Bob Schwartz.


About the Authors
:

Bob Schwartz is a Member in our Phoenix office. Bob has been practicing law for over 40 years, specializing in family law. He is a member of the American, Arizona and Maricopa County Bar Associations. He is admitted to practice in the federal courts of New York, Arizona, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Schwartz is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and past president of the Arizona chapter. He serves as a judge pro tem for the Superior Court of Maricopa County in family court matters. He is a certified family law specialist by the State Bar of Arizona; is a frequent lecturer on family law and related matters; and, former member of the State Bar Family Law Advisory Commission. Mr. Schwartz has tried numerous complex business valuation cases as well as complex custody cases. He has testified as an expert in family law matters. Bob co-authored the Divorce in Arizona book. He may be reached in our Phoenix office at 602-285-5020.

Marlene Pontrelli is a Member in our Phoenix office. Marlene is a certified specialist in family law. Her practice focuses on all aspects of family law including dissolution, post-dissolution, paternity, child custody and child support matters. She is admitted to practice in California and Arizona. She is a member of the State Bar’s Family Law Practice and Procedure Committee and is a judge pro tem for the Superior Court of Maricopa County in family law. She has extensive trial and appellate experience including appearing before the Arizona Court of Appeals, Arizona Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ms. Pontrelli has written several books, including as a co-author of the Divorce in Arizona book. She is a frequent lecturer in the area of family law and has conducted workshops throughout the country. Ms. Pontrelli is also an adjunct professor at The Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law at Arizona State University, where she teaches the family law class.  Marlene may be reached in our Phoenix office at 602-285-5081.