HOW TO SELECT A DIVORCE ATTORNEY

1. Above all, select an attorney who devotes his or her law practice just to Family Law! Never retain a divorce attorney until you have had a personal consultation with that attorney. On Staten Island, that initial consultation may last from five minutes to up to an hour or more. The cost will vary from free (generally for a five or ten minute consultation) to $450.00 or more. Our firm charges $150.00 for an initial half hour consultation. If you should retain our firm within 30 days of the initial consultation, we credit your account for the $150 consultation fee. At this initial consultation, you should not ask the attorney whether or not he or she "handles divorce cases", but rather, ask "what percentage of your professional practice is devoted exclusively to divorce, separation and custody matters?". If the answer given is less than 90%, you do not have a true matrimonial specialist and you should look elsewhere! In addition, write down several questions before the interview to test the attorney's knowledge of current divorce law, recent tax law changes, etc.

2. Discuss fees candidly. A good matrimonial attorney will respect you for bringing up the question of fees at the first meeting. Some important questions are:

  • How is the fee determined - on the basis of the number of hours of legal services rendered, on a flat rate basis, etc.
  • If there is more than one attorney in the firm, who will be handling your case?
  • Will one hourly rate apply regardless of which attorney performs the services, or will you be charged less if an associate attorney performs certain portions of the case?
  • If you would prefer to have the partner or owner of the firm perform all parts of your case, even if it will cost more, do you have that option?
  • How often will you receive bills? Beware of non-itemized bills. Rather, insist upon fully itemized bills rendered monthly. A fully itemized bill, which our firm uses, helps to keep you advised of the progress of your case as well as to help eliminate the possibility of any errors occurring in the preparation of your bill.

3. Watch out for attorneys who pressure you to retain them during the initial consultation. Ethical divorce attorneys will usually encourage you to think over whether or not you wish to proceed. At our firm, we discourage your retaining our firm during the initial consultation since we believe that divorce or separation is a major step in your life which should only be undertaken after careful consideration. If you are uncertain as to how to proceed, we will be glad to recommend a marriage counselor, priest, etc.

4. After you have met the prospective attorney at the initial consultation, ask yourself whether or not you felt comfortable discussing personal and often intimate details of your life and marriage with that attorney. Did the attorney seem too busy to properly handle your case? Did the attorney "talk down" to you and refuse to answer your questions in simple sentences? If you decide that you feel comfortable with the attorney, you should then try to find out the attorney's reputation on Staten Island. Is the attorney known as a knowledgeable, forceful and aggressive fighter for his client or as an attorney who is often unprepared and afraid to go into Court to protect his client if Court action is necessary? If you determine that the attorney is well known on Staten Island as being a good matrimonial attorney who fights for his clients, then you probably have found yourself the best divorce lawyer for you!

5. How many years of experience does the attorney in Family Law? Experience does count! It takes many years to become an accomplished Family Law attorney. If possible, pick a Family Law expert with at least 20 years experience handling difficult Family Law cases. Mr. Leininger has practiced Family Law for over 35 years. Use our experience to your benefit!