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Things to Consider

Divorce is never easy, but a good divorce lawyer will make the experience as painless for you as possible. The right attorney will help you arrive at a settlement that works for you and your former spouse, and will be on hand for divorce modifications involving custody, alimony and other concerns--not just now, but for years to come.

When hiring a divorce lawyer, you've got to do some homework of your own. If you have friends, coworkers or relatives who can recommend someone, that's great. Even if you're starting from scratch, you can end up with a good attorney. Things to think about when hiring a divorce lawyer include:

Experience: How much experience does the attorney have in family law? In divorce cases? Practicing law in general? How much of his or her practice is devoted to family law issues?

Rates: Are you paying a flat fee or by the hour? Will the attorney offer a free consultation to hear your case? How often will you be billed? What miscellaneous expenses, such as court filing fees, will you have to pay?

Comfort Level: As the divorce case proceeds, you may need to talk to your divorce lawyer about personal issues, concerns, and problems. Do you feel comfortable with this person? Do you have a rapport, and do you trust him or her to advocate for you?

References: Will the divorce lawyer provide you with references from clients, particularly past divorce clients? Do independent research to find testimonials, search the firm's website or ask the attorney directly. Follow up with references. Think up questions beforehand, to make the most of the reference check.

Once you've found several attorneys, it's time for a consultation. Some lawyers will charge for this, while others might provide a free consult. Prepare for the consultation by listing out any questions you have about the divorce process, attorney-client relationship, or likely outcomes. During the consultation, lay out your goals to the divorce lawyer. What do you want to walk away with? Be reasonable and try to see the situation from an outsider's perspective. Remember, your attorney is there to help you through the legal process of the divorce. If your ex is driving you up a wall, call a friend, hit the gym, or locate a therapist to talk things over.

Choose the right attorney based on your research, your feeling and your consultation. Before you sign a fee agreement, make sure you know what to expect from your chosen divorce lawyer.