Finding a good divorce lawyer in Calgary can feel like a daunting task if you’re unsure where to start or what to look for. The saying goes that “Every minute spent in planning will save another 10 minutes down the line.” But in addition to the potential time wasted, there are also financial and emotional implications associated with choosing the wrong divorce lawyer.
Thankfully, divorce doesn’t have to be a traumatic, lengthy or expensive process that leaves you and your family angry and tired. A healthy, amicable divorce is absolutely possible. Here are our recommendations for finding the best divorce lawyer for you and your family.
1. Define Your Ideal Outcome
The goal of a divorce is to dissolve your shared assets and, if you have children, to agree custody solutions. However, there are also other considerations to bear in mind when filing for divorce, for example:
- Ensuring the mental and emotional wellbeing of your children
- Minimizing financial damage to both you and your spouse
- Maintaining a friendly relationship with your spouse post divorce
Take some time to really consider what the ideal outcome for your divorce looks like. When the time comes, you’ll be able to share this detail with your instructed divorce lawyer.
2. Clarify What a “Good” Divorce Lawyer Means to You
Once you’re clear on the ideal outcome for your divorce, the difference between a good divorce attorney and bad divorce attorney will become clearer. However, if you are seeking the best outcome for your family as a whole, there are some prevailing qualities which we recommend looking for in a qualified Calgary divorce lawyer:
- They specialize in family law
- They have relevant work and life experience
- Their services fit within your budget
- They can provide both mediation and arbitration services
- They will take your family’s best interest to heart
- They empathize with you but don’t play upon your position by seeking “justice” or “revenge” from your spouse
- Their office is in a convenient location for you
- They are pragmatic but want to find the best solution
Some of the qualities above will only become apparent through a conversation which is why we recommend always interviewing a divorce lawyer before hiring them.
3. Create a List of Prospective Lawyers
Now that you know what you want, it’s time to compile a list of prospective family law lawyers that you can interview. Referrals from people you trust – like friends, family, mental health professionals (counselors, psychologists, etc.) or other professionals (accountants, doctors, etc.) – will be your best option here.
4. Schedule Initial Consultations with Prospective Lawyers
I cannot stress enough just how important it is to speak to a prospective lawyer before instruction. It is impossible to assess a lawyer’s personality and their approach to divorce through second-hand information.
Most family divorce lawyers will offer you a consultation (either in-person or via video conferencing) to ensure that you are the best match for each other.
5. Ask These Questions in Your Consultations
What is the typical process you take?
With this question, you want to ensure that the lawyer is able to explain the process in terms that you understand. In an emotionally-charged process like divorce, clarity is absolutely key for reaching an ideal resolution.
What are your recommendations for minimizing the negative impact on my children?
If you don’t have children this question is irrelevant, but if you do, pay close attention to their response. For a successful, harmonious divorce, your lawyer must understand the effect that divorce can have on children, and prioritize their wellbeing throughout the process.
Having a lawyer that understands the needs of children is even more important if you and your spouse disagree on parenting responsibilities as your divorce lawyer will be counseling you. Minimizing the disruption and pain to your child will depend upon you finding a lawyer who’s fair, compassionate and well-versed in guardianship matters.
What kind of clients do you usually represent?
If the prospective lawyer typically works with clients who seem dissimilar to you, they likely aren’t right for you.
What percentage of your clients settle out of court?
You should be looking for a figure at, or around, 100% here. Going to court is an emotionally and financially draining experience for all parties. An experienced Calgary family lawyer will use litigation as an absolute last resort.
Which languages does your team support?
Clarity throughout the divorce process is essential. Find a lawyer who can work with you in your preferred language. (As Calgary-based lawyers, we speak both French and English.)
What are your rates? Are there any additional costs?
It’s typical to pay per hour for a divorce lawyer but you should also check for any potential costs which might be unclear.
Who will be involved in my case?
Your lawyer may or may not be your only point of contact throughout the process. Ask for details for any other parties who may be involved.
Do you offer mediation-arbitration?
Mediation-arbitration is a process for resolving issues related to the breakdown of a relationship. It provides a framework which gives the parties more control of their own process while keeping a back-stop option available if ultimately there are irreconcilable differences that require a third party to make a final decision. They do usually come at a different or additional cost so check this with a prospective lawyer before proceeding.
Note: If the lawyer doesn’t offer mediation-arbitration or seems agitated at the question itself, then this could be a lawyer who is more interested in “winning” for you at the cost of the other person and should be avoided.
6. Review How the Interviews Went
After the initial consultations, take some time to reflect on how they went. How easy was it to contact the different attorneys? Did they all reply to you promptly? Who did you feel most comfortable speaking to? Did any of them seem aggressive? Who seemed the most compassionate? Did any of their responses surprise you in a good or bad way?
By now, it’s likely that you have a good understanding of who the best divorce lawyer for you is.
7. Appoint the Right Divorce Lawyer for You
Well done! It’s time to appoint your chosen lawyer. You can now walk into your divorce proceedings confident that you have chosen the best option for you and your family.