There’s a popular Facebook Group called LA Mommies® that provides a space for parents and caregivers to ask questions and find family-related resources. It’s a great group and, as a member, I chime in with quick tips and guidance from a legal perspective.
A common question that comes up is, “Who is the best divorce attorney in Los Angeles?” If you’re in L.A. and looking at divorce options, it’s natural to ask this question when looking to retain legal support. However, there’s a better, more targeted question that you should be asking here: Who is the RIGHT divorce attorney in Los Angeles for your case?
The Difference Between “Best Attorney” and “Right Attorney”
Changing your mindset from “best” to “right” shifts the conversation to match your specific needs. It helps you determine what type of attorney is a right fit for YOUR unique situation.
Because needs and goals are different in every divorce, it’s impossible to determine the “best” Los Angeles divorce attorney. Seeking such an individual may end up costing more time and money than necessary, especially if you retain one who’s not the right fit for you.
So how do you find the right attorney in Los Angeles? First, start asking some fundamental questions that will help you align your divorce goals with the style and strengths of a divorce attorney. Let’s go over some questions you should be asking:
Do You Want to Litigate or Mediate?
In general, there are two types of divorce attorneys to choose from: litigation attorneys and mediation attorneys. On the one hand, litigation attorneys spend time in court and trials to fight for your demands. On the other hand, mediation attorneys focus on collaboration and constructing an agreement that has been iterated to suit the needs of you and your partner as best as possible.
What do you need to know BEFORE getting a divorce?
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Litigation Questions (to Ask Yourself)
Before deciding on a Los Angeles litigation attorney, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you want/need to go to court?
- Do you want to get involved in complex litigation?
- What is your budget for litigation? Are you prepared for the possibility of spending at least $15,000 on your case?
- Are you prepared for the possibility of a lengthy trial?
- Are you prepared for the combative nature of litigation?
- Do you and your spouse disagree on major issues to the point that every discussion turns into a fight?
- Are you ready to allow lawyers and judges to determine your family’s future?
- Do you need someone to protect you, either financially or physically, from your spouse?
Mediation Questions (to Ask Yourself)
As an alternative to litigation, mediation is most often the option with lesser friction and puts control back into the hands of you and your partner (rather than the attorneys and judges).
Before choosing mediation, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you willing to divorce without going to court?
- Are you ready to be honest and open about your feelings, actions, money, and assets?
- Do you think it’s necessary to make concessions on occasion?
- Have you already talked about how to divide your possessions or share parental responsibility for your children?
- Do you both want to keep communication open and active?
- Do you need help with parenting plans, child custody agreements, or support issues?
- Are your biggest concerns the cost of legal proceedings and trying to keep costs down?
Questions to Ask Your Attorney
Whether you’re looking into a litigation or mediation attorney, ask them the following questions:
- Are you a family law attorney, or do you handle other areas of law as well?
- Are you primarily a litigation or mediation attorney? Please explain your preference.
- Will you work collaboratively with my spouse’s attorney?
- What are your rates? How do you bill?
- What is expected of me as a client?
- Will you be my attorney, or will it be an associate?
- Do you have experience in handling cases that involve spousal support?
- Do you have experience in handling cases that involve child custody and visitation?
- How often do we communicate, and what methods of communication will we use?
Once you tell the attorney what you’re looking to achieve, ask them if they think you’re being reasonable. You’ll want an attorney that is telling you the truth. They might even tell you something you may not want to hear, rather than just egging you on knowing that means more money for them.
Take a look at my comprehensive comparison of litigation vs. mediation to help you decide which route is right for you.
What Personality Traits Are You Looking for in Your Attorney?
Beyond the brass tacks of finding an attorney, finding the right Los Angeles divorce lawyer also means that you mesh well with them. Remember, your attorney is someone you’re bringing into your life who you’ll interact with for potential years to come. Plus, their work will significantly impact the success and well-being of you, your partner, your family, and your children. You’ll want an attorney that reflects your personal ethics and values as they will be an extension of you during one of the most trying times of your life.
Here are a few questions to keep top of mind when vetting a divorce attorney’s personality:
- Do they want you to be hands off or heavily involved?
- Will they fight fire with fire? (i.e., Do they play dirty when the other lawyer plays dirty?)
- So far, have you looked forward to meeting and working with them, or do you feel nervous or anxious when doing so?
- Do they give you hope, faith, and guidance, or, instead, do they get annoyed when you ask questions?
- Is the attorney a good listener?
- Are they able to break things down into easy-to-understand language for you?
- Are they doing a cost/benefit analysis of your possible strategies involving your case?
- Are they patient in explaining the divorce process to you?
- Do they bad-mouth your spouse from the get-go, or are they more willing to see both sides and help both of you move forward?
- Is their first suggestion to run to Court for you to get orders?
Making the Right Decision
As you can see, you’ll need to think through vital questions before choosing the right attorney for your divorce case. In Los Angeles, divorces can be more expensive than in other cities, so taking the time to uncover your needs and vet your attorney is crucial to your long-term success.
I’ve been practicing family law for over a decade with the goal of helping people achieve successful divorces. Reach out to me for your legal support needs — I’d be happy to help answer any questions.