SELECTING YOUR DIVORCE COUNSEL
A Checklist for Interviewing Matrimonial Attorneys
You want your divorce to work out as well as
possible. Part of the secret of success in a good
outcome is choosing the right lawyer to represent
you. Here's a list of questions that you can and
should ask at the first interview:
1. Where did you go to college? Where did you go
to law school? Have you authored any articles in
family law? Do you belong to any relevant
associations or organizations, like the American
Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys?
2. Are you board certified in matrimonial law?
3. What percentage of your practice is in family
law? What percentage of your clients are women and
4. What percentage of your cases is negotiated and
settled, as opposed to litigated to conclusion?
5. How many contested cases are you presently
handling? How many contested matrimonial cases have
you taken to and through trial? Appeal? How many
of these have been contested custody cases?
6. How does the division of property work? What
percentage of the assets is my spouse likely to
receive? What assets are immune from division?
7. How is child support determined? What are Child
Support Guidelines? What are the ranges of child
support that might be awarded in my case?
8. How do the courts deal with alimony? What are
the differences between permanent, temporary,
rehabilitative and reimbursement alimony? What is
the likelihood that alimony will be awarded in my
9. What might be the effect of adultery
(or another "fault" ground) on either the division
of property or the award of alimony in my case? What
is required for a New Jersey "no fault" divorce?
10. How automated is your practice? To what extent
do you use computers, word processing and
scanners? Do you have a website? Do you use email?
11. How familiar are you with the practice of
matrimonial law in [x] county? How familiar are you
with Judge [x]?
12. Do you know my spouse’s lawyer? What do you
know about this lawyer?
13. What particular experts do you recommend using
in my case? Accountant? Business appraiser?
Psychologist? Private Investigator? Real estate
appraiser? Do you have any contacts with or do you
recommend any particular expert?
14. How do you feel about alternate dispute
resolution? How do you feel about arbitration vs.
mediation? How many cases have you arbitrated or
mediated, either as an advocate or as the neutral?
15. Do you have any ethics proceedings pending
against you? Do you have any fee arbitration cases
pending against you? Do you have any malpractice
cases pending against you? Have you had any of these
in the past and what were the circumstances and
16. After you have reviewed the basic facts of my
case, is it possible
to give some rough approximations of what I can
expect, knowing there are no guarantees?
17. How long might it take to complete my case?
What is the difference between a "contested" and
"uncontested" New Jersey divorce?
18. What are your charges for your services? What
is your hourly rate? What is your retainer?
19. May I see the form of retainer letter you expect
me to sign?
20. Knowing that many of the variables are out of
your and my control, is it possible
to give approximate alternate scenarios of what my
case might cost to complete, knowing that there are
You are entitled to frank answers to these
legitimate inquiries. Not only will you be in a
better position to choose the right attorney, but
the lawyer-client relationship will be off to a
smoother start, based on full and open disclosure.
Charles C. Abut practices in Hackensack and
Springfield, New Jersey. He has been designated by
the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Certified
Matrimonial Attorney from 1998-2005 and as a
Certified Civil Trial Attorney from 1984-1998. He
is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial
Attorneys and of The International Academy of
Matrimonial Attorneys. He has been peer-selected for
inclusion in Best Lawyers in America [2000-2005],
Top 100 Super Lawyers in New Jersey  and Top
Lawyers in New Jersey .