As a long-time member and past president of the CT Council for Non-Adversarial Divorce (www.gooddivorceCT.org), I am prone to be biased about the traditional litigation process as a means to resolve a divorce. I strongly believe that mediation and collaborative divorce (explained in an earlier blog) are a better way to go. That being said, sometimes litigation is the only available option.
I was just speaking with a collaborative divorce attorney who is representing a husband. She told me that he is being rather uncooperative and that she is considering a recommendation that the case be referred to litigation attorneys. This would be unfortunate, but if an individual refuses to act in good faith, a voluntary process such as mediation or collaborative divorce just won’t work. The other spouse would be at risk of signing a bad agreement if not all of the information is disclosed openly and honestly. If you find yourself in this or another similar situation and the last resort is a litigated divorce, please keep a few things in mind before you select an attorney.
Unless you think there is a really good chance your case will go to trial (only about 5% do), you should probably avoid hiring a “big gun.” Most of the uber-expensive attorneys in my area (like $700 – $800 per hour) are paid that kind of money for their trial expertise. I know great attorneys that bill under $500 that I refer to all the time. Since the vast majority of cases settle, it makes no sense to pay those crazy fees. I just worked with a client that spent $175,000 on a case that settled without a trial. She hired one of the highest paid lawyers around based on one person’s referral and did no investigating of her own. I’m sure she could have gotten the same deal for a quarter of that fee.
You also want to be sure that the attorney you hire isn’t going to purposely stir things up just to create a stronger need for legal action which he or she can bill for. When you interview an attorney and they start talking about how you can screw your soon-to-be ex and take him/her to the cleaners, you should run for the door. A good attorney will listen to your situation intently and try to help you settle the case with the least amount of acrimony possible. Believe it or not, there are compassionate lawyers out there that want to do the right thing.
If you are in CT, I would be happy to refer attorneys that are willing to litigate a case but will not soak you financially. Hiring the right lawyer is one of the most important decisions you will make in the entire divorce process, so don’t take that responsibility lightly.