Step-By-Step Divorce in Minnesota -Choosing an Attorney
So you've made the difficult decision to go forward and file for divorce. Now what? The first step should always be to find a family law attorney that fits your needs. There are no shortage of attorneys in this country, and especially not in the Twin Cities with four major law schools pumping over a thousand new attorneys into the system every year. So how do you know which attorney to choose? Running a random google search or throwing a dart at the nicest yellow pages ad (do people still use the yellow pages?!?) may not net the right attorney for you. Even though I obviously am more than a little biased, I'd like to set forth some pointers on separating the proverbial wheat from the chafe.
1) Do your research. Although your attorney won't be able to change the facts of your specific situation, their style, experience, and temperament can greatly influence how your case proceeds and what the ultimate outcome is. Check out the attorney's website and see if any clues are given as to their practice style. If they present themselves as "Aggressive litigators", they may not be the best choice if your goal is to work together to keep things as civil as possible. Likewise, if they specialize in collaborative divorce, or do not handle litigation, you may want to keep looking if your divorce is likely to become contentious.
2) Meet with the prospective attorney in person. Any attorney should be willing to sit down for a free consultation with you. At the consultation, you'll quickly get a good idea of what the attorney is all about and if their style and personality are a good match with yours. Ask questions that are important to you - what is their policy on returning emails? Are clients provided with a cell phone number to call in emergencies? Who will you be dealing with when you have questions - your attorney or a paralegal?
3) Check on the attorney's creds. Make sure that they practice primarily in the area of family law. Some attorneys take every case that comes in the door, whether it is their area of expertise or not. Technically, I'm licensed to practice in all areas of law and could take on a medical malpractice or bankruptcy case too - but I choose not to because I know it would be impossible to keep up to date on every area of the law. I don't think my clients want to pay for me to learn the newest case law on the go. A clever trick to see what kind of cases your prospective attorney handles is to run a search on www.mncourts.gov. You can "find case records" on civil (or criminal) cases by attorney name. Check and see what kind of cases your attorney is listed on and how many are recent family law cases.
4) Get a clear retainer agreement - If you find an attorney that you are comfortable with, before they start any work (and before you put any money into your retainer account) make sure that a clear, written retainer agreement is provided and explained to you. You should be comfortable knowing exactly what the business terms of the attorney-client relationship will be so that there won't be any surprises down the line. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask! An attorney who doesn't want to thoroughly explain any grey areas on the retainer should raise a huge red flag in your mind about how the rest of the process is going to go.
All in all, the most important thing to do is to find an attorney who is qualified, fits the needs of your particular situation, and who you are personally comfortable working with. Going through a divorce is stressful enough without having to worry about dealing with an attorney you don't trust. Feel free to contact us at Vox Law today for a free consultation or to find out more about the divorce process in Minnesota.