Divorce 101- Part 3

In the third part of this series, I’m answering questions about the legal contract between you and your divorce attorney and providing you with a list of questions you should ask an attorney before you hire him to handle your divorce. Here is Part One and Part Two.

Q. Do I have to sign a contract with my lawyer? What are my rights?

A. Most attorneys will have you sign a contract or letter outlining the major terms of the representation, including hourly rates. In Illinois most divorce attorneys enter into written engagement agreements with their clients. All such agreements must include a Statement of Client’s Rights and Responsibilities. Click here for a link to the Statement.

Q: In closing, what should a client ask a prospective divorce lawyer?

• What documents should I bring to the initial consultation?
• Is there a charge for the initial consultation?
• Will you be the attorney working on my case?
• What percentage of your cases is settled?
• Have you ever tried a case like mine?
• Will I be involved in strategy decisions?
• How long have you practiced law?
• Do you practice law in any areas of law, in addition to Family Law?
• Do I receive copies of all court documents and correspondences?
• What is the best time and way to reach you and communicate with you?
• If I leave a message for you, when may I expect to hear from you?
• How do I reach you in the event of an emergency?
• What is your hourly rate(s), as well as the rates of others working on my case?
• Do you charge a retainer and how much is it?
• Is the retainer refundable if it is not used up?
• Do you have an estimate of court costs and other related expenses of my case?
• How often will I receive a billing statement and will it detail the work done?
• Do you have a written contract setting forth the essential terms of the representation, including hourly rates?
• Lastly, determine if your spouse may be obligated to pay all or a portion of your fees.

After discussing your case, ask the attorney if he or she has: identified any issues, reached an opinion on any of those issues, determined the complexity of the case or developed a strategy to achieve a negotiated settlement.

Michael C. Craven

Michael C. Craven is a well-known divorce attorney and a partner of the Beermann Swerdlove, LLP law firm in the Chicago area. He is highly respected among other divorce lawyers, judges and his clients. He is also a CPA and a LLM (Masters in Tax Law). Click here to email Michael for additional information about his services.

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