12 Tips for How to Choose a Divorce Lawyer Who Will Be Right for You

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When you are facing divorce, one of the first questions that comes to mind (after OMG, what the @&/$! am I going to do now?!!!) is, “How do I find a good lawyer?” Knowing how to choose a divorce lawyer who will provide you with the legal advice you need, at a price you can afford, and be the right fit for your situation, isn’t easy. At the same time, it’s one of the most important divorce decisions you will make.

Roads cris-crossing over each other with conflicting road signs.

Why Choosing the Right Divorce Lawyer Matters

Every attorney has his or her own ideas, beliefs, philosophies, and ways of doing business. Every lawyer has his or her own approach to divorce.  Most importantly, every lawyer is good at some things, and not so good at others.

Some lawyers are amazing in court, but would make a total mess in a Collaborative Divorce. Others are great negotiators, but not particularly good trial lawyers. Some lawyers believe in mediation. Others think it’s a waste of time.

Different divorce lawyers excel at handling different types of divorces. Some divorce lawyers have strong financial backgrounds and are great at sorting out complicated financial issues. Others are better at managing high conflict divorces, or divorces involving a narcissist. Still others have streamlined their practices, and are set up to help people with limited resources get a divorce efficiently and cost-effectively.

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If you want to get through your divorce in the way that’s best for you, you have to know how to choose a divorce lawyer who is going to be right for you.

Here are 10 tips to guide you in your search.

How to Choose a Divorce Lawyer

Note paper on a cork board with a list depicting choice between conflict and collaboration.

 1. Decide what divorce process you want to use FIRST. 

Most people start their divorce by hiring a lawyer. THEN they get divorced using whatever divorce process the lawyer signs them up for. The problem with approaching divorce that way is that you’ll either end up getting divorced in whichever way your lawyer (not YOU!) chooses, or you’ll end up with a lawyer who isn’t necessarily skilled at getting divorced the way that YOU want.

That means that you have to decide whether you want to use mediation, litigation, Collaborative Divorce, or some other divorce process FIRST. Then you can start looking for a divorce lawyer who is experienced in using that divorce process.

What’s important is that you match the lawyer you choose with the divorce process you want.

If you want to get divorced amicably, don’t hire a shark attorney who will only escalate the conflict between you and your spouse. On the other hand, if your spouse has already hired a shark attorney and you’re in court fighting for your life, you need to hire an attorney who can handle that level of conflict.


2. Decide what kind of legal service that you need. 

While everyone who is going through a divorce needs legal advice (at least in my humble opinion!), not everyone needs a $500 per hour big city divorce law firm on their case.

If you have a lot of assets, own companies, or have a complicated financial situation, then, yes, you may need a big law firm to represent you. At the very least, you will need an attorney who understands finances and is equipped to handle a complicated divorce.

If you have a short marriage, no kids, no real estate and are not dividing any retirement plans, hiring a big law firm may be overkill. You will pay them a lot of money when you could hire a good solo lawyer who will charge you much less. (Or, if your case is really that simple, you may not need to hire a divorce lawyer to represent you at all. You may want to investigate using unbundled legal services.)

TIP: If you are going to hire a large law firm to represent you, make sure you know which lawyers will be working on your case. (HINT: The senior lawyer who hired you is RARELY going to be working on your case all the time. Usually, there will be several lawyers assigned to handle your case.) Make sure you know who will really be doing the work on your case right from the start.)

Bank Bag full of US Money with Money Symbol isolated on a white background.

3. Figure out what you can afford. 

No one wants to pay thousands of dollars (or more) to a divorce lawyer. But, there is such a thing as being penny wise and pound foolish.

You have to balance the level of legal services that you need with the cost of the services that you can afford. And you have to be honest with yourself.

If you own multiple properties and have a six figure salary, you CAN afford a divorce lawyer. The fact that you don’t want to pay a divorce lawyer is really beside the point. When you have something to lose, “cheaping out” on your divorce lawyer can cost you more than you save.

On the other hand, if you are living paycheck to paycheck, have no assets and a boatload of debt, getting an expensive, high-powered divorce lawyer is crazy! It might make you feel better. But, it might also land you in bankruptcy court too!

4. Ask around. 

The absolute best way to find a good divorce lawyer is, was, and probably always will be, word of mouth.

If you know someone who has been through a divorce in the past few years, and was satisfied with their divorce lawyer, get that lawyer’s name. (Remember to ask that person what kind of divorce process they used, though. If your friend went through mediation and you are fighting like The War of the Roses, you may NOT want to use their lawyer!)

Finally, if you know any lawyers who don’t do divorce, ask them for a referral.  Lawyers know each other.  Your neighbor who is a real estate lawyer may be able to lead you to an excellent divorce lawyer.

Hand with finger on a tablet computer.

5. Use the internet wisely.

Your prospective lawyer’s website should tell you what s/he does, and what his/her philosophy is.  If the website talks about how the lawyer will “fight for your rights,” that lawyer is likely a trial lawyer. If the website talks about divorcing amicably or staying out of court, that lawyer is more likely to work well in mediation or collaborative divorce.

Do not get sucked in by the lawyer who has the slickest website, or is paying to have their ad on the first page of Google. The lawyer with the biggest advertising budget is not necessarily the lawyer who will do the best job in your case. On the other hand, if someone gives you the name of a divorce lawyer, and that lawyer has a website that looks like it hasn’t been updated since Al Gore invented the internet (or worse, the lawyer doesn’t have a website at all!), that is NOT a good sign.

Finally, you want to use the internet wisely. The internet is best used for gathering information and validating referrals.  But, getting a personal referral for an attorney will always be best. If you have to use the internet to find a divorce lawyer you can. Just make sure to interview that lawyer very well.

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6. Take lawyer ratings with a grain of salt. 

Lawyer rating agencies are not infallible. A lawyer who chooses not to advertise, or who doesn’t participate in a particular rating site’s program, may end up being rated poorly. That may be true even though s/he may be an amazing attorney.  So, it’s often hard to tell if a lawyer is good or bad based solely on some lawyer rating agency.

Another complicating factor is that, due to ethical restrictions, lawyers in some states are prohibited from participating in legal rating websites. That means that they will almost always have poor ratings simply because they don’t actively participate on that rating website.

When viewing lawyer ratings you also need to remember that people going through a divorce are not happy.  Sometimes, even if a lawyer does an outstanding job for them, those people complain.  Their rating of their lawyer may have more to do with them, than it does with their lawyer.

Female divorce lawyer in her office

7. Find a lawyer who is experienced in family law. 

When you are getting a divorce you want to have an experienced attorney by your side.  This is not the time to hire your cousin’s boyfriend’s uncle who specializes in estate planning. You need a lawyer who regularly works in family law.

Getting an experienced divorce lawyer doesn’t mean that you have to hire someone who ONLY does divorce.  Some lawyers, especially those in smaller towns, often handle several different types of cases. That doesn’t mean they won’t handle your divorce well.  You just don’t want to hire someone who only handles one divorce every couple of years.

Getting a lawyer with the expertise that you need means more, though, than just hiring a lawyer who is experienced in divorce. You may also need to seek out an attorney who has experience in additional legal areas as well.

For example, if you’re financially on the edge, you might need a lawyer who understands BOTH family law and bankruptcy. If you have a complicated financial situation, you might need a lawyer who is both an attorney and a CPA, or who has degrees in finance and law. Whatever your special circumstances may be, it will be helpful to find an attorney who has expertise in all of the different areas you need.

8. Interview at least 2 or 3 lawyers before you choose a divorce lawyer. 

Going to two or three different lawyers’ offices and telling your story over and over again can be exhausting. It’s tempting to want to just hire the first lawyer you meet.

Resist the temptation. Take the time to meet at least two different attorneys.

Why? Different lawyers have different perspectives.  You may get two very different views on how you should handle your case.  If you do, that’s actually a good thing.  You can then think about what each attorney said. Then you can choose the attorney who uses an approach you prefer.

Woman checking box on a list.

9. Try NOT to interview lawyers when you’re an emotional wreck.

There’s no way you can properly interview a divorce lawyer when you are in so much emotional turmoil that you can barely remember your own name.

Given that you may be extremely emotional for months at this point, you have two choices.

You can wait until you get your emotions under control before you start interviewing lawyers. (This can work if your spouse hasn’t already filed for divorce yet.)

Or, you can bring someone – a family member or a friend – with you to your initial interview. That person can act as a second set of eyes and ears for you. Later, when you can’t remember a single thing the lawyer said, your friend can clue you in.

10. Make a list of questions to ask BEFORE you interview any one. 

Like everything else in life, your level of success in hiring an attorney will directly depend on your level of preparation. Here’s why.

When you’re interviewing divorce lawyers you’re GOING to be nervous! You’re GOING to be emotional! That’s normal. Divorce is emotional. And talking to a lawyer about your personal life would make anyone nervous.

Unfortunately, your natural nervousness may make it difficult to focus when you are talking to an attorney. Once you are in an attorney’s office, you may forget what you wanted to ask. You also may not remember the lawyers’ answers.

To make sure you get answers to your most important questions, make a list of your questions beforehand. Writing that list when you are calmer, and can think clearly, helps.  It also helps if you bring a pen and paper with you when you interview a lawyer. Taking notes will help you remember what the lawyer said later.

11. Make sure to hire a lawyer who has time for you.

This is a tricky one. Very few lawyers will admit they don’t have the time to handle your case. In their defense, they are used to juggling a lot of cases at once. So they think that they can handle your case, too.

The problem is that, even though the lawyer may be able to handle your case, if s/he is super busy, everything is likely to take longer. That’s probably not what you want. So, if time matters to you, then it’s up to you to figure out whether the lawyer you’re hiring will handle your case as quickly as you want.

Unfortunately, figuring that out isn’t always easy.

Obviously, if the lawyer interrupts your initial conference several times to take other calls, or deal with other people’s cases, that’s not a good sign. If your lawyer’s office is piled from floor to ceiling with case files, that’s not a good sign either. But, even if your lawyer is attentive and organized in your first meeting, that doesn’t mean that s/he really has time for you.

If you’re concerned that your potential lawyer may be too busy for you, here’s something you can try.

After your initial appointment, but before you hire the lawyer, call him/her back after business hours. Leave a message that you have a question. Then see how long it takes the lawyer or his/her secretary to get back to you.

While that’s not a perfect solution, if the lawyer takes a week to get back to you, BEFORE s/he is even hired, then you may want to hire a different lawyer!

12. Use your head but listen to your gut.

The first nine tips are all important. They are  logical and rational. But, when you’re trying to choose a divorce lawyer, logic isn’t the only thing you need.

If you meet a divorce lawyer and the little voice in your head is screaming “Run!,” do yourself a favor. Listen to it! There’s probably a reason that your alarm system is going off. If you’re not sure whether you’re being overly sensitive, here are a few warning signs to look for.

Any lawyer who screams at you, makes you feel stupid, or makes you cry,  is probably NOT the right lawyer for you. (Unless, of course, you enjoy being screamed at. Then, by all means, hire that lawyer!)

If a lawyer takes telephone calls or texts from other clients while s/he is meeting with you, that’s not a good sign. That lawyer may be too busy to give your case the attention it deserves.

If you walk out of a lawyer’s office and you have that kind of nauseous, uneasy feeling that you get when something is not right, pay attention! It doesn’t matter that you can’t explain why you feel that way. There are plenty of divorce lawyers in the world. Go look for one who makes you feel comfortable.

Woman looking over her glasses wondering how to choose a divorce lawyer

Bonus Tip:  If you screw up, cut your losses quickly. 

No matter how much research you do, or how carefully you try to choose an attorney, you can still make a mistake. It actually happens more often than you might think.

If mid-way through your divorce you feel like you’ve chosen the wrong lawyer, don’t be afraid to find a new divorce attorney.  Obviously you don’t want to jump from lawyer to lawyer for no reason. But, if you find that you are not comfortable with your initial attorney, it may be best to cut your losses.

The truth is, if you are unhappy with your divorce attorney, it’s best to change lawyers as early in your divorce as you can.  Once your case has been pending for months or years,  getting a new attorney becomes both more difficult and more expensive.

How to Choose a Divorce Lawyer Who Will Be Right For You

Your divorce lawyer is going to be your “navigator” in the divorce process. S/he will be the one who advises you, guides you, and gets you through the court system. No matter which divorce lawyer you choose, getting divorced still won’t be painless, and it likely won’t be easy. But choosing the right divorce lawyer can make your divorce experience the best it can be.


This article was originally posted on August 1, 2017 and updated on June 15, 2020.

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Head shot of Karen Covy in an Orange jacket smiling at the camera with her hand on her chin.

Karen Covy is a Divorce Coach, Lawyer, Mediator, Author, and Speaker. She coaches high net worth professionals and successful business owners to make hard decisions about their marriage with confidence, and to navigate divorce with dignity.  She speaks and writes about decision-making, divorce, and living life on your terms. To connect with Karen and discover how she can help you, CLICK HERE.


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  • I understand that attorneys can specialize in different areas, but I guess I never realized how different they are. When my friend got a divorce, she hired a divorce attorney who helped her a ton. I bet if she hired someone else, she wouldn’t have been able to keep the house. Thanks!

  • Thanks for this helpful post no choosing a divorce lawyer. My brother is going through the early stages of a divorce. I told him that he should probably get an attorney, but he isn’t sure if he wants one or not. I decided that I should maybe help him try to find a lawyer. I like what you said about deciding what type of divorce process you want to use. I don’t know what type of divorce my brother is going to go through, so I will figure that out first. Thanks for the help!

  • That’s really good advice to ask around to find a good family law attorney. I figure that asking someone who has had a good experience with a family law attorney should be the easiest way to find a reliable attorney. If I ever find myself in a tough family position, I’ll be sure to ask around in order to find the right family law attorney for my needs. Thanks for the useful tips!

  • My best friend is going through a divorce, and I told her I would help her find a divorce attorney because it is the least I can do. It is interesting how you point out the importance of looking for someone who regularly works in divorce so that they have had plenty of experience. I imagine that it would be beneficial for her to ask for a consultation with the lawyer to make sure that all of her questions are answered. Thanks for the information!

    • What kind of questions should i ask? My kids are grown and we dont own much so none of that will be a problem. The only problem i might have would be financial! What should i ask?

      • There are way too many questions for me to list them here for you. But if you want to get a free list of lawyer questions, just click on the green button in the article that says “Send me my list of questions” and you can get them.

  • Thank you for the help. I have a friend that just started looking for a family lawyer. I think he should interview a few, as you suggested. What type of questions should he ask during those interviews?

  • I like that you mention to look for a few different lawyers before choosing one. That way you can have a few options and figure out which one is going to be best for you. That way you can feel a bit better knowing the one you picked was thought out and hopefully they turn out great for you.

  • Asking around for a referral for a divorce attorney is a great idea. Not only with others be able to give you a referral but a review that you can trust. If possible, getting a referral from someone who recently went through divorce would be better than someone who hasn’t gone through divorce.

  • These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice to decide what kind of legal service you need based on the complexity of your divorce. My husband and I have a couple of kids, but we don’t have a super complicated financial situation. I’ll definitely look into finding a good lawyer who can provide advice, but because the situation is fairly simple, I’ll definitely avoid choosing a really high end attorney. Thanks for the great post!

  • My sister is considering divorce, and I am trying to find all the information I can to help her through the process. I really like your tip to interview at least 3 lawyers before choosing one to work with. Sometimes they might look perfect on paper but in person they are not someone you get along with. Is one interview usually enough to tell if they are right for you? Thank you for sharing these tips.

  • Thank you for providing this information about how to choose a divorce lawyer. It is a good idea to ask around and find a person who has good reviews and references. One would want a reliable attorney. Something else to consider would be to find someone who is experienced with cases similar to yours to ensure that the process will be smooth.

  • My wife and I have recently decided that the best thing for us to do is get divorced. I am currently trying to find a divorce attorney, because I do not want to try and figure this process out alone. I think I am wanting a divorce attorney that specializes in litigation.

    • If you know for sure that the only way to resolve your case is to fight in court, then getting a divorce attorney who is a litigator makes sense. But, if you can use mediation or collaborative divorce, your divorce will probably be more amicable and cost less. If you choose to get divorced using either of those divorce processes, hiring a litigation attorney to represent you, won’t be your best choice.


  • I really like your tip about making sure that you know what you can afford when it comes to getting a divorce. My sister and her husband have decided to get a divorce after three years of marriage so I’ll be sure to pass these tips on to her. Hopefully, they can find someone to help them through the process, thank you for sharing!

  • Thank you for the information regarding divorce attorneys and how to choose one. I think this information would be perfect for anyone who might be thinking about getting a divorce because it is important to find an attorney quick. I never knew that you should meet with many attorneys before deciding. Thanks for the reminder.

  • My sister is currently going through a divorce. We want to make sure she can get a good lawyer to help her with her case. As you said, it’s important to find someone that will fit your budget and lifestyle. These are some great tips to make sure we can find the right person to help us. Thanks for sharing!

  • I like that you recommend interviewing at least two or three divorce attorneys before settling on one. After all, it is not likely that you’ll find the right one for you on your first go. Getting to interview three of them also gives you a chance to learn about the different ways each lawyer might plan to tackle your case.

  • I like what you said in your first point that you should decide which route you would like to take before even looking for a divorce lawyer. Getting a lawyer who is more specified will definitely give the results that you’re looking for when going through the processes. My brother is going to be getting divorced from his wife in a few months so sharing these tips about deciding what kind of a divorce lawyer he is going to need will help save him time and money.

  • Unfortunately, my husband and I are planning on getting divorced. Especially for the safety of my children, I want to make sure that I have the right lawyer by my side. I agree that finding someone who regularly works in divorce is important. Thanks for sharing!

  • Karen, you posted a great article on tips for hiring a good divorce attorney. I realize many people are not sure how to distinguish a good divorce attorney from one that, well, may not do as well in court. Keep up the great writing.

  • Now that my friend’s kids are all grown up, she and her husband have decided to get a divorce since they have nothing left in common. It is good to know that when it comes to finding a divorce attorney, one should ask around. I like what was said about how you can ask lawyers who do not do divorce for referrals. Understanding that lawyers know each other is helpful. Thanks for the information.

  • I agree that you want to consider using the internet to check an attorney’s references. Finding out things like how past clients have reacted to a lawyer would be really helpful. My sister is looking for a divorce attorney, so she’ll have to find someone who has good references.

  • You made a good point that before hiring the services of a divorce lawyer, you might as well ask around first for any references such as your friends and family. You certainly would want to get the best lawyer who can defend you in court. If I would ever need one, I will definitely keep this in mind. Thanks.

  • I really liked that you had mentioned that it can be important to find a lawyer who is fully experienced in family law so that you can make sure you’re getting the best help possible. My brother has been having problems in his marriage and they’ve gotten to a point where they’ve decided to separate and he still wants to have custody of the children. I might have to help him find someone who is experienced in family law that will be able to help him out, I’ll be getting someone experienced without a doubt.

  • It’s good to know that when it comes to finding a divorce lawyer that there are somethings that I need to consider when it comes to finding the right one. I like how you mentioned that I need to find one that is experienced in this kind of law and works regularly in this kind of procedure. It will be nice to have someone that is well experienced so that I will be able to get this process done smoothly and as quickly as possible.

    • It’s also important to find a local divorce attorney, too. For example, even though I’m licensed to practice in the entire state of Illinois, I’m a Chicago Divorce Attorney. I work in Cook and Dupage counties. If someone from a different county wanted to get divorced, they would probably be better served by getting a lawyer who works more often in their county.

  • I like that you mentioned to choose a lawyer who has a lot of experience in the type of case you have. It makes sense that somebody specialized would have more knowledge and experience that could help you win. I am trying to help my friend find the right lawyer, because he and his wife are getting a divorce. I will definitely keep this in mind, thanks for sharing.

  • Karen, thanks for your comment about how you should choose a divorce lawyer who has beliefs similar to yours regarding your case. I like how you said that you should choose one who can work with you within your budget as well. My cousin is considering legal services with an attorney she trusts and shares the same standards as her as she enters a divorce with her husband.

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  • It really can be quite helpful to take the article’s advice and interview the lawyers before hiring them, especially if you are looking for a divorce attorney. However, I do like that your article strongly encourages people to interview more than one. As you point out, different attorneys have different opinions on cases, so you want to gather as much information as possible before hiring one.

  • Thanks for compiling these great tips on how you can choose the best lawyer for your case, they were very helpful. I would imagine that one of the best ways to find a great lawyer is to ask friends and family if they have any suggestions, they can tell you a lot about how the lawyer works. My brother is in need of a divorce attorney and he is having a hard time finding the right one, I will be sure to share these tips with him.

  • These are great ideas for choosing a divorce lawyer. I like how you said that you need to decide what kind of service you need. My brother is probably going to get a divorce soon, and I think he’ll need as much legal help as he can get.

  • Thanks for pointing out that you should meet with at least two different attorneys because different lawyers will have different perspectives. You’d also want to find one who has experience with the same sort of situations your case needs. It’d be a good idea to follow your advice to find a good lawyer.

  • I like that you suggested asking the people that you know who have been through a divorce for the name of the lawyer that may have provided them with satisfactory services. My husband and I decided to end our marriage. It’s important for me to find a reliable divorce lawyer, but I honestly don’t know where I should find a trustworthy divorce lawyer. Thanks for sharing all your tips.

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  • Thanks for putting the effort for this informative article. I think this will be useful for my friend who is getting a divorce.

  • Hi Karen, my name is Alexies I’ve been following you for month’s now wishing that I would have seen your info on divorce back in June of 2019.I am on number 2 lawyer, first one was a bull out of the gate then she set on her hands for four months!! Now this one I feel he’s hesitant because I tried to change jurisdiction to Mississippi from Louisiana because we both live in Mississippi but he wanted it in Louisiana because he advised to have the divorce in Louisiana we have a old home there that we rent out and he used the address at that home to file so the judge denied jurisdiction I feel that do to the Judge and the opposing lawyer having a affiliated with each other they were lawyers together year’s back.
    I’ve been separated for a year now and never received any Financial support from my ex.
    His lawyer told him not to work of course so he wouldn’t have to pay me anything.
    Wounding if I should stay with this lawyer?

    • The best way to know whether you should stay with this lawyer is to talk to another lawyer in your area and get a second opinion about what you can do in your case. But, before you do that, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

      1. What do you want to achieve in your divorce? Where do you want to end up?
      2. What do you want a lawyer to do for you that your lawyer isn’t doing for you?
      3. How much time and money will switching lawyers cost you?
      4. Is changing lawyers worth the switch?

      Changing lawyers won’t help if you don’t know what you want or what you expect from a lawyer. Once you answer those questions, you can ask # 1 – 3 to the lawyer you go to for a second opinion. #4 you’ve got to figure out by yourself.

      Hope this helps.


  • I like that you said that the best way to find a lawyer is still word of mouth, which is why I should ask family and friends for recommendations. My cousin, Leila, got divorced last year, so perhaps I should call her later to ask if she can recommend her divorce lawyer to me since I plan to file for a divorce soon. I’ll also follow your tips and search the internet but take the ratings with a grain of salt. Thanks!

  • It’s great to know the tips on how to choose a divorce attorney. I have been thinking of filing a divorce after my husband failed to do his job as a husband and father multiple times. With that considered, I shall then follow your advice to take the time to interview two different attorneys, ask them a lot of questions, and assess their skills to see how they can help me with my case.

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