How to find the right divorce attorney


In 2019, around 747,000 couples divorced in the United States. Divorce is typically time-consuming and emotionally demanding, and divorce proceedings can last up to a year and cost an average of $12,900. Although a lawyer is not required to obtain a divorce, the process is legally complex, and proceeding without one might be problematic, especially if the other spouse has one.

If you determine that it is prudent to hire an attorney, what is the most effective technique to identify the correct one? Obviously, each couple will have their own concerns and requirements, so each will need their own attorney. The fees and types of divorce attorneys might vary considerably. However, it is essential to grasp the fundamentals of what divorce attorneys do, where to locate them, and how much they might charge. Even if a couple is able to resolve their divorce outside of court, skilled legal counsel can be beneficial. If you’re considering hiring a divorce attorney, consider the following.

Key Takeaways

A divorce attorney’s job is to provide guidance on the dissolution of a marriage, including the division of assets, child custody, and the client’s legal choices.

In the United States, a divorce process costs an average of $12,900, with attorney fees averaging $11,300.

A divorce lawyer who is profound in matrimonial or family law and has been practicing family law for quite some time, can assist in navigating the complex legal structure of divorce processes, which are generally marked by extensive paperwork, lengthy waiting periods, difficult language, and acrimony.

When searching for a divorce attorney, referrals from family, friends, and other professionals are a good place to begin.

Seeking out attorneys who specialize in issues such as child custody and property distribution, family law issues, can also be advantageous.

Inquiring about a lawyer’s billing policies and obtaining a cost estimate provides valuable insight into what to expect during the process.

Interviewing prospective attorneys before selecting one can provide insight into what it would be like to work with them during this trying time.

What does the right divorce lawyer do?

In addition to protecting the client’s rights, a divorce lawyer handles the custody and financial sides of the divorce. Importantly, a divorce attorney will also explain the applicable laws and your legal choices.

The attorney should examine your case and all associated documentation. These may consist of pay stubs, tax records, and property value data. In addition, they must listen to the client’s description of their circumstances and goals and provide guidance based on these specific requirements.

Even though only a small percentage of divorces proceed to trial (90 percent settle before trial), counsel for each spouse must endure extensive preparation to present evidence to the judge, summon witnesses to support their case, and make opening and closing arguments.

A family law attorney prepares a marriage settlement agreement, a legal contract that specifies, among other things, the conditions of child custody, alimony, and the distribution of assets.

Mediation is an alternative to divorce litigation. A neutral mediator aids the divorce negotiation by aiming to assist the two parties in reaching an agreement. It is frequently less expensive and faster than going to court. Couples can mediate without counsel, but it may not be the best course of action unless the divorce is really straightforward, such as when the marriage was brief, there are no children, and there is little property to divide.

Arbitration is another method for resolving disagreements in divorce talks outside of court, and it can be more expeditious. Arbitration differs from mediation in that both parties present their case to an arbiter of their choosing, who then decides how to handle the matter. Arbitrators are typically attorneys or retired judges. It is crucial to note, however, that the arbitrator’s ruling cannot usually be appealed.

Do You Require a Divorce Lawyer?

A divorce process is generally characterized by extensive paperwork, lengthy waiting periods, and the filing of various forms, among other requirements, which creates obstacles for individuals who seek to pursue a divorce without an attorney. Depending on a couple’s circumstances (e.g., whether they have children, property, or substantial retirement savings), they may require highly active family law attorneys for their divorce. The cost of hiring a good divorce lawyer will increase proportionately to the amount of work required.

There are numerous reasons why individuals decide to retain an experienced attorney. First, most family law attorneys are adept in divorce law, presenting a case to a judge, seeing the larger picture, and finding their clients the best possible deal. Second, most divorce attorneys might provide options that clients may not have been aware were accessible. As a result of their experience with previous cases, they may be able to predict the outcome, recommend settlement choices, and draft a settlement plan.

Importantly, given the emotional intensity of divorce procedures, a divorce lawyer operates as an objective third party, assisting clients in maintaining composure and pursuing the best possible conclusion. Individuals with children or substantial assets are more likely to require legal representation, but two individuals with modest and comparable assets will likely not require the same level of assistance.

What You Should Anticipate and How to Pay

The typical total cost of a legal divorce and legal fees can range between $7,000 and $28,000, with divorce lawyers charging an hourly rate of $270 on average.

According to a 2019 survey by Martindale-Nolo Research, the average attorney price for divorces lasting less than six months was $6,500, while those lasting more than 30 months was $23,000. Typically, divorce attorneys are paid through a retainer, which requires clients to pay for their services in advance. The average beginning costs ranged between $2,000 and $5,000.

Some legal aid organizations that provide legal assistance and legal services, and counsel to individuals in financial need employ divorce attorneys. However, because divorces are accorded a lesser priority than other types of proceedings, most applicants may not have access to legal representation. Individuals must balance the costs and rewards of each possible outcome in light of these considerations.

Fees Divorce attorneys typically charge an hourly rate as opposed to a set rate. Typically, clients are invoiced in six- to fifteen-minute chunks. The following is a breakdown of typical hourly wages according to a 2019 survey:

  • $100/hr.: 11 percent
  • $200/hr.: 34 percent
  • $300/hr.: 35 percent
  • $400+/hr.: 20 percent

Some attorneys charge for consultations, while others offer them for free. Ask before arranging one. Discuss the attorney’s estimated rates and billing practices during the session. In addition to knowledge and critical perspective on the subject, attorneys who have worked on similar cases may have a greater understanding of the accusations to anticipate.

When it comes to charging, services such as document review, discussion with the spouse’s attorney, crafting negotiated settlements, and all communications with your attorney—including emails and phone calls—are all billable.

Reducing Expenses

According to a poll by Martindale-Nolo Research, the two largest factors influencing the cost of a divorce attorney are whether disagreements were addressed before trial and the length of the divorce. Costs increased by an average of 70% for individuals who litigated their divorce rather than negotiating a settlement outside of court.

Individuals can opt for a task-based billing system in which only some concerns are handled by a lawyer and the rest are handled by paralegals in order to save costs. This is less expensive than a service where the attorney handles the entire divorce.

There is also the option of requesting a flat charge, particularly for less complex divorce proceedings. This is uncommon, but it can provide a clearer picture of the expenditures to anticipate.

How to Locate the Right Divorce Lawyer

As with many other businesses, hiring a competent divorce attorney might begin with referrals from family and friends. Other professions, such as accountants and financial advisors, may also provide recommendations. Obtaining a more in-depth understanding of their experience with a lawyer can provide invaluable insight into what to seek for and what to avoid.

Additionally, you can browse attorney websites, such as those specializing in marital or family law.

Organizations to Investigate

Martindale-Hubbell, AVVO, and are examples of online information portals that provide client and peer attorney reviews. Associations of attorneys specializing in divorce and family law frequently provide search portals for members, resources, and divorce-related legal information that you can use to educate yourself. You can also utilize these resources to verify the credentials of suggested attorneys.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) is dedicated to advancing the education and standards of family law. The AAML is a professional organization for family lawyers based in Chicago. You can search for a lawyer by city and state on its website.

The Section of Family Law of the American Bar Association has thousands of members worldwide. It produces research articles on divorce and associated topics, including news and quarterly releases and case analyses. Its search site allows you to find attorneys by state. Like the AAML, its headquarters are in Chicago.

Outside of the United States, the International Academy of Family Lawyers is comprised of the top divorce attorneys in their respective specialties and nations. It has 930 companions in 67 countries worldwide. The organization was founded to enhance the global practice of divorce and family law. It provides a search engine for locating divorce attorneys in numerous nations and areas.

Finding the Right Attorney for Your Case

After identifying potential applicants, conduct interviews with your top picks. Some attorneys give free consultations, but you should budget for a paid meeting if you deem the attorney to be valuable. Each appointment will teach you something about how you want your divorce to progress. Inquire as to whether they possess the skills you require, whether their approach aligns with how you intend to operate, and how effectively you believe you would be able to collaborate with that attorney. Also, as previously mentioned, define the cost structure of engaging that attorney.


Find a lawyer that specializes in divorce and the areas that are most pertinent to your case. You may need someone who specializes in custody-related matters or the split of complex assets. A lawyer who has worked on bar association family-law committees or delivered speeches to bar associations on these matters is another indication of their expertise in the field. Also advantageous: a divorce attorney who is familiar with the judges and court system in your area and can tailor their tactics based on the prior decisions of individual judges.


Find a divorce attorney who shares your perspective on the matter. Ask how they would approach your problems. Some may employ a collaborative approach to problem-solving and conflict minimization, and they may settle the divorce out of court. Others might adopt a more forceful stance. Find the attorney who will manage your case according to your desired divorce strategy.

Comfort level.

Divorce is one of the most stressful, emotional, and financially dangerous experiences in life; thus, you should seek an attorney with whom you have a degree of trust and comfort and who treats you with respect, courtesy, and patience.

It is essential to maintain reason and composure when searching for the proper divorce attorney. Decision-making can be clouded by succumbing to excessive emotion.

The Conclusion

Numerous Americans cannot afford to hire a divorce attorney due to the prohibitive expense.

Legal activists have urged that the procedure for obtaining an uncontested divorce — in which neither spouse contests any part of the divorce — should be simplified.

For those who can handle it, the procedure can be lengthy and expensive, requiring a minimum of three months and frequently much more. Interviewing multiple attorneys might help you clarify your needs and have a better picture of the associated expenses and time commitments.

How Can I Afford an Attorney for Divorce?

Due to the fact that the cost of a divorce can range between $7,000 and $28,000, many Americans ask how they can afford it.

4 401(k) withdrawals are permitted if the funds are used to pay for the divorce. It is essential to note, however, that automatic temporary restraining orders (ATROs) prohibit individuals from withdrawing cash from their retirement accounts prior to a divorce in order to prevent a change in their financial status.

States also offer fee-waiver alternatives to those with self-reported incomes in the lowest income bracket, thereby eliminating court-related fees. Legal aid organizations may be able to give a pro-bono divorce attorney.

  • What Should I Ask a Potential Divorce Attorney?
  • Do you specialize in divorce?
  • How long have you been a family law practitioner?
  • What expenses should I anticipate when working with you?
  • What is your divorce case strategy?
  • Do you engage in collaborative divorce (achieving an amicable agreement between spouses)?
  • Do you typically settle divorce disputes outside of court?
  • What Are the Average Divorce Costs?

In the United States, the average cost of a divorce is $12,900. According to Martindale-Nolo statistics, the average hourly rate is $270. Typically, clients pay a retainer charge that ranges between $2,000 and $5,000.

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