Choosing a Virginia Divorce Lawyer

Do you need legal help with your divorce? If so, the process of vetting prospective firms and building a working relationship with an attorney to get results and enjoy peace of mind can feel overwhelming. A good divorce attorney will fight for your best interests and handle the most stressful parts of the process, even litigating if necessary to get you what you deserve. However, to choose the best divorce attorney for your needs, consider your goals and what the attorney can offer for your case. Consider the following questions as you evaluate which law firm to trust.

What does the term “pro se” mean?

Pro se in legal parlance means “self-representative.” In other words, you’ve decided to be your own divorce lawyer. Though you have the right to do this, it is typically inadvisable and can make a bad situation worse in some cases.

Do you really need a divorce attorney, or can you handle the matter myself?

Technically speaking, it is permissible for you to handle a case yourself. It is usually appropriate and recommended that you get representation, even if you anticipate a smooth process.

If the divorce appears complicated and likely to lead to litigation, you'd probably retain a lawyer without thinking twice about it. But what if you and your spouse are on good terms? What if you haven’t been married that long, and you both crave a simple divorce with no drama? You might be tempted to do the divorce yourself and save on legal fees.

This makes intuitive sense, but it’s still a dangerous move. After all, even seemingly simple and “friendly” divorces have a funny way of blooming into legally complex affairs. Revelations of adultery can change the landscape, for instance. Also, remember that uncertainty creates stress and sparks drama. If you don’t know how the process works -- what will happen or what should happen next and how you should handle divorce related minutiae -- you will likely struggle to concentrate on the big picture, such as reestablishing your career, changing your living situation, and parenting your children.

Here's another way to think about it. Imagine that you need to travel somewhere. Let’s say you want to go from Fairfax, VA to New York City. Technically speaking, you could run the distance yourself or build a car from spare parts in your garage. Practically speaking, you would never do this. Instead, you would take advantage of systems that are already in place and that already work. For instance, you might rent a car or buy a plane or a train ticket. Yes, technically, you could save money on the fare by building your own vehicle. But the time and energy costs, not to mention the uncertainties and dangers, would be overwhelming by comparison.

Some things in life need to be handled by a professional. To keep control and peace of mind, be smart and retain an experienced family law attorney to get you through this process.

Wondering how to hire a Virginia divorce attorney? Read this before you hire anyone:

Here's a useful exercise.

First, on a Word document or a notepad, write down your purpose. Why do you think you need an attorney? Maybe you primarily want to ensure your child custody and visitation rights. Maybe your spouse cheated on you, and you want to prove this to the court and file a “fault” divorce. Perhaps you have a large marital estate, and you need to keep control of your finances.

Read through this guide and view our other resources on our YouTube Channel and web site. Contact our office. Our firm is ready to help you, whether your case is uncontested or high- conflict. We can answer all of your questions and tell you if DiPietro Family Law Group is a good fit for you.

What’s the next step?

Determine the principles that should govern the relationship. We all have unspoken values, beliefs and ideas about how we want our relationships to work. We expect certain things from the people who work for us, build our homes and litigate our divorces. When these unspoken values are violated, we get angry and frustrated. Here's how to surface your expectations and needs for this relationship. Imagine you must delegate the task of finding an attorney to someone else in your life. What would you tell that person to do and to avoid doing? What characteristics would you encourage? What would be deal breakers? Here is a sample list:

  • "The law firm needs to be within 30 miles of my house."
  • "The attorney has successfully handled divorces similar to mine."
  • "He or she has XYZ credentials."
  • "I get along with the attorney -- intuitively, the match feels right to me."
  • "The lawyer has presented me with a reasonable plan for how to approach the divorce."
  • "The law firm staff is friendly, congenial and responsive."
  • "The attorney has strong mediation skills as well as strong courtroom skills."
  • "The attorney is not shy about litigating my case, if need be."

Print this out, and consult with family and friends to develop it. Use it as a guide to help you keep the process under your control.

How should you prepare for your consultation?

Compile a list of questions to ask. Make it thorough, but don’t expect the attorney to solve your case right then and there. Really, you are looking to gauge the attorney’s style, processes, skills and pricing. Here are several questions to ask:

  • "How does your payment process work?"
  • "What percentage of your divorce cases are resolved through mediation? How many cases, on average, wind up in litigation?"
  • "What inspired you to do the work that you do?"
  • "Have you ever worked with someone like me, who has the following XYZ odd circumstances?"
  • "What do you expect out of your clients? How do you like to communicate with them?"
  • "Based on the information I've given you about my divorce and separation, how do you think the process will play out for me? What can I generally expect?"

What can I do to make my representation by DiPietro Family Law Group a more healthy, productive and effective working relationship?

Get to understand the attorneys’ processes -- how they like to conduct business -- and try to work within that structure. Be vocal whenever you have questions or concerns.

You might also save time and energy (and legal fees!) by keeping a running log of questions. Here's a neat way to do this. Keep a notepad (or digital device) with you at all times, so that you can jot down random thoughts, questions and ideas about the divorce whenever they hit you. Our minds have a funny way of serving up their best ideas at the least convenient times -- while we're in the shower or driving, for instance, as opposed to when we're at our desks “ready to work.” Use your notepad or digital device to capture your raw thinking, wherever and whenever it strikes. You also might want to put a notepad by your bedside table, so you can write down your late night anxieties, knowing that you'll deal with them in the morning.

When you write down your anxieties, they will consume less of your mental energy. If you have unpleasant or disconcerting thoughts about the divorce more than once without making forward progress on them, you're just making yourself feel bad for no reason.

Compile all your random thoughts and ideas into a list of questions that you can “batch ask” your attorney at the next appropriate time. This process should simplify and organize things for you and reduce your mental stress. It can also simplify life for your attorney, resulting in fewer disruptions and, ideally, lower legal bills for you.

Hiring a Virginia Divorce Lawyer

You may feel that the thought of hiring a divorce attorney adds further stress to an already tumultuous time. However, remember that an attorney’s job is to advocate for your best interests. The cost of legal representation can quickly be recouped in securing you a fair and comprehensive share of the marital assets, as well as other benefits such as child custody arrangements and other goals. Leave the stress of divorce paperwork to an attorney so that you can focus on moving on.