Conclusion & Advice
Should I Hire an Attorney
Everyone can appreciate the consequences of taking a bad situation and making it worse. This could not be truer than when choosing the right lawyer. By the time most clients learn that they chose the wrong attorney, it is usually very difficult to unwind the damage. Here are basic tips every client could use in evaluating potential candidates for legal services.
Not Just Zealous—Precise and Thorough
When clients think about which attorney to hire, they often think about the attorney that will “win” the case and get them more of something—more parenting time, more child support, more maintenance, etc. Although zealous advocacy is important and you should hire an attorney that fights for you, remember that you also need an attorney who is precise and thorough. At the end of your case, you want to make sure that every asset is correctly divided, every debt is dealt with, and your unique issues are completely investigated and handled.
Our attorneys often see cases where assets were forgotten about or not properly divided (such as retirement accounts). We also see cases where parenting plans are so ambiguous that no one can understand them. You don’t just want a lawyer that will negotiate you a parenting plan that works for you, you also want a lawyer that drafts the parenting plan so that it actually says what you want it to say.
Expertise in the Practice Area
The legal profession has become increasingly more specialized and it would serve clients well to consider lawyers with significant expertise in the practice area concerning their case. While a general practitioner may be competent, clients should be wary of attorneys who rarely practice in niche areas of the law.
For example, family law follows a distinct set of procedural rules designed for domestic relations cases. Many procedures, rules, and deadlines are entirely different from a typical civil case. Ask your lawyer what experience he or she has in your area of need. Particularly if you have complex issues such as executive compensation, trusts, businesses, or numerous assets, consider hiring a good attorney.
Clients sometimes hire an attorney with a lower rate only to find out that the true cost of hiring that attorney is much greater because of all the time spent making mistakes, misunderstanding the issues, and creating problems for you that then need to be fixed. Although you may not always need the most expensive and experienced attorney in town, your divorce is not a place where you should take risks.
Industry Recognition and Experience
The vast majority of respected lawyers and law firms are peer-reviewed every year by various industry organizations. Publications like Super Lawyers and Denver’s Top Lawyers– 5280 Magazine, to name a few, are respected publications that base their lists on peer review and recognition. It also worth investigating your lawyer’s reputation in the community and how their practice fits with your goals in the representation.
For example, if your case is difficult or contentious, and likely to end up in court, you should ensure that your lawyer has the trial experience to take your case to the finish line. However, if your goal is to be collaborative and to resolve the issues outside of court, then a collaborative lawyer may be the right fit.
Transparency and Realistic Expectations
Clients should be wary to avoid the lawyer who promises the world at a bargain price in the initial consultation. Most experienced lawyers appreciate that there are no guarantees in litigation. Those lawyers also understand that they do not have all the facts at the initial consultation and are likely hearing only one side of the story.
The right lawyer will ask lots of questions. They will thoroughly discuss the pros and cons of moving forward and outline the apparent risks. Most importantly, they should set realistic expectations of potential outcomes.
Regarding fees, a competent and conscientious lawyer should be able to give you a reasonable range of what your case should cost. If they cannot give you a range, they should have a reasonable explanation as to why not and they should be able to advise you regarding what additional information they would need to formulate an estimate later.
Again, clients should scrutinize any lawyer who offers a bargain estimate in an initial consultation with limited information. More often than not, the client will end up paying significantly more money later after the damage is done. Divorce is not the time to find a bargain-priced attorney—particularly if your spouse hired one of the better attorneys in town.
Finding the Right Fit
Half of the calculus in hiring the right lawyer is common sense and following your instincts. It is worth paying attention to the little things that are so often overlooked. For example, consider:
Did the lawyer timely respond to your inquiry and communicate to set up an initial consultation in person?
Were they on time to the consult?
Were they prepared in advance by the time you met? For example, did they review your documents in advance?
During the consult, did the lawyer take the time to listen or did they spend most of the time telling you how great they are?
After hearing your story, did the lawyer have a game plan or strategy?
Were they professional and courteous?
Did the lawyer provide you with a copy of the fee agreement to review?
In finding the right lawyer, it never hurts to interview several candidates if you have the option and resources available to you. There are many styles of lawyers, and it is hard to know what is right without shopping around. Last, in selecting the right lawyer, consider this parting thought: No matter how bad your circumstances may be, did you leave the consultation feeling more confident that your situation was manageable? If your head is still spinning, keep looking.
How Much will a Divorce Cost?
Although there is a wide variety of industry data on this topic, most Colorado divorces cost about $10,000 to $30,000. Although many cases will cost more or less than this range, this is a fair estimate knowing nothing else about the case. More complex cases, particularly those with experts involved, will cost more. Here are factors that can increase or decrease the cost:
Factors that Increase Costs
Domestic violence and protection orders;
Complex parenting issues;
Complex assets such as oil and gas interests and trusts;
Conflict between the parties;
Mental illness or disorder;
Inattention to the case by the clients (i.e. not providing documents to attorneys or ignoring deadlines);
Cases where all issues are at stake (parenting, child support, maintenance, etc.)
A specific intent not to settle (this actually happens – some spouse’s simply want to see the other suffer); and,
Factors that Decrease Costs
Organized spouses that provide the documents and meet all deadlines;
Spouses who will work together, compromise, and have reasonable expectations;
Cases where there are few assets, or the assets are not complex;
Cases where the issues are limited (for example, where parenting is not an issue);
Cases where the parties have negotiated and figured out how to divide their assets before hiring attorneys (to the extent they can do so);
Cases where the parties can agree on values for businesses or real estate without experts; and,
Cases where both sides have excellent attorneys who know the strengths and weaknesses of their case.
How Long Does the Divorce Process Take?
The divorce process takes at least 91 days because this is the amount of time that a district court must wait before it can grant your decree of dissolution (there is a waiting period). In general, cases can resolve in 3–6 months. Many others will take somewhere between 6–12 months. A few cases will take longer than 12 months. These cases are the ones where a lot is at stake and the parties cannot agree. It can be the cases where one party appeals or where substance abuse or domestic violence is an issue.
How Does the Divorce Process End?
The process of divorce ends in an official capacity when the court issues a “decree of divorce.” Usually there will be a settlement. The parties will (often) end the case by submitting the following documents:
A “Separation Agreement” addressing property, maintenance, and other issues;
A “Parenting Plan” addressing parenting, decision making, and (sometimes) child support;
A “Decree of Dissolution” stating that the marriage is officially dissolved (this is somewhat like a marriage certificate);
A “Support Order” when child support is an issue; and,
An “Affidavit for Decree Without Appearance of Parties,” which is a document telling the judge that you want your divorce granted and that you want to do so without having to go into court.
If you go to trial, the court will address these items when they issue the order deciding your case. The order will address everything presented to the court at one time including property division, maintenance, child support, and parenting, etc.
What Will Happen in My Case?
Although the process will be difficult, time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally taxing, it will eventually be over, and you will get through it. The process of divorce is difficult, but you will learn during the process. You will learn about your assets, your children, your spouse, and yourself.
We encourage you to continue looking through our blogs and preparing yourself. If you have more information, the process will be easier, quicker, and less-emotionally draining. If you need the help of an attorney or would like recommendations for experts to retain such as accountants or therapists, do not hesitate to call or contact us through or online consultation request form.
Griffiths Law represents clients across the state. If you hire an attorney, make the right choice by choosing Griffiths Law. We Litigate. We Collaborate. We Protect Your Future.