How to Find a Good Divorce Lawyer in Houston, TX?
Going through a divorce is a trying time, and the last thing you need is a mediocre lawyer in your corner. A good divorce law firm protects you from yourself, protects your assets and rights, and ensures you receive fair treatment in court. You need a competent attorney on your side, so it’s best to contact an attorney as soon as you know a divorce is in your future.
Maybe you have already considered hiring a divorce lawyer to help, but you are uncertain about how to choose a lawyer, let alone choosing a good one. Finding a good attorney is crucial to minimize the difficulty of going through the divorce process. Below we provide in-depth information about how you seek a good divorce law firm in Houston, Texas, and questions you should ask during an initial meeting to ensure you make the best choice.
Spend Time Doing Research to Find the Best Houston Divorce Lawyers
You need to do your homework to find a good divorce law firm in Houston. The divorce lawyer you choose will have an impact on the outcome of your case. Ultimately, you need to choose the firm and lawyer you find to be the best fit for your needs, but you should also be confident that whoever you choose will fight to get the most desired outcome for your divorce.
You can narrow your search and come up with a shortlist of good divorce law firms in Houston with the following research:
Reach Out to Those You Trust for Referrals
Likely, you do not want to broadcast your impending divorce to your entire social and professional network, but you should reach out to those you trust for a referral. Friends, family, and colleagues who have gone through a divorce will give you candid information about the lawyer they hired for their divorce. You can also ask other attorneys you know. For example, if you have a tax attorney or a real estate attorney, he or she might have a recommendation. These referrals are typically reliable because a lawyer does not want to risk their reputation by recommending a mediocre lawyer to someone else.
Read Online Reviews About Houston Divorce Lawyers
If you know what to look for and where to look, online reviews can provide valuable insight into the quality of an attorney. You can read client testimonials on a firm’s website, but remember that no firm will publish negative information on their site. Additionally, many testimonials do not provide the name of the lawyer who worked on a case.
Instead, seek out more objective sources to get a complete picture. Many choose to visit avvo.com and search for divorce lawyers in their area. Avvo.com gives a score to each lawyer that ranges between 1 and 10 to indicate their level of professional excellence. Individuals also provide up to five-star ratings for their lawyer. Some provide comments about their experience, too. Avvo.com also provides other information about divorce law firms in Houston, such as experience, status with Texas’s licensing authority, and whether a lawyer has been sanctioned or disciplined by the Texas Bar Association.
Read Peer Reviews
If you have limited time to find a good divorce lawyer in Houston, depend on peer reviews to guide your decision. Peer reviews sometimes get a bad rap because they can be a form of naval-gazing. Yet, the legal community’s peer reviews are reliable because of the importance of reputation for a law firm and a lawyer. Lawyers will not publicly say good things about another lawyer unless they know they are competent. In other situations, peer reviews are anonymous, so you get candid information.
You can find peer endorsements on a lawyer’s avvo.com profile, but you should look at other trusted resources too. These three are well-respected in the legal community and will give you a picture of a lawyer’s reputation within Houston’s legal community.
- Martindale-Hubbell. The company that owns avvo.com, Martindale-Hubbell, maintains an online registry of hundreds of thousands of practicing lawyers in the United States, including divorce lawyers in Houston. When peers recognize a lawyer as excellent, Martindale-Hubbell provides a special AV designation on their profiles.
- Best Lawyers. Each year Best Lawyers publishes their picks for the “Best Lawyer” in almost 60 practice areas, including divorce. For more than 30 years, Best Lawyers has used the same peer-review process to put together their yearly list. Peers nominate a lawyer for the list, and those on the list from the previous year hold an anonymous vote. Once a lawyer is included in a Best Lawyers list, they are automatically nominated for the next award cycle.
- Super Lawyers. This is another national directory of lawyers, including divorce lawyers. However, Super Lawyers has a rigid peer review process that results in only five percent of total practicing lawyers in each state. Their multiphase selection process begins with peer nominations. The company reviews nominations based on 12 different indicators surrounding professional achievement and peer recognition in their legal practice area.
Look for Honors and Awards
If a Houston divorce lawyer hasn’t received any accolades, it does not automatically mean he or she is a bad divorce lawyer. However, those who have received awards and honors for their work are likely good lawyers, especially when you see them alongside positive reviews. In addition to their yearly list, Best Lawyers give awards to “Law Firm of the Year” and “Lawyer of the Year.” Other recognition comes from national organizations such as the National Law Journal or the American Bar Association (ABA), but good Houston divorce lawyers might also receive awards from the State Bar of Texas.
Schedule an Initial Consultation
Once you’ve done some research and come up with a handful of potential good divorce lawyers in Houston, you need to contact one at a time for an initial consultation. Your first meeting allows you to discuss your situation and share any challenges you may face with your divorces, such as high-value assets or child custody. Your potential divorce lawyer can provide some guidance and set expectations for your case, so you have a better idea of what is to come.
These meetings are also a chance for you to ask questions about divorce proceedings, the firm, and the lawyer’s track record with previous divorce settlements. Typically, you should try to ask questions about client service, experience, and your divorce case. Here are some sample questions in each area to give you an idea of what to ask to find a good divorce lawyer in Houston:
Client Service Questions
- Who will work on my divorce case after today? You want to know if the lawyer you met with will be personally handling your divorce case. You should expect that paralegals, junior associates, and assistants help build your case, especially if you are filing for a fault divorce. However, you want to know who your lawyer will be and if they have a hands-on approach. This is especially important if you are filing for divorce on the grounds of cruelty, abandonment, or other reasons for a fault divorce.
- How long does it take for you to return calls/emails to clients? You might not get a truthful answer to this question, but you should ask. If a divorce attorney cannot commit to returning a call or email to you within 48 hours, he or she might be too busy for your case or have really poor habits when it comes to client service. A good divorce lawyer will guide you through your divorce and answer your questions promptly. Divorce is already stressful enough without having to deal with a divorce lawyer who won’t communicate.
- How often can I expect updates on my case? Your attorney should give you a broad timeline for your divorce, but they do not have complete control over the situation. Each divorce case has different challenges, and some take longer than others. However, you should expect that your lawyer contacts you to let you know about any relevant communication with the other side. Each time you speak with your attorney, he should be able to give you a rundown of the next steps in your divorce case.
Experience and Workload Questions
- Can you provide some examples of divorce cases that you have worked on that are similar to mine? Each divorce is different, but many share some commonalities. For example, if you have multiple residences and a successful business, you want to know your lawyer has experience dealing with high-value assets. Similarly, if your divorce comes with a custody battle, you want to know your Houston divorce lawyer has fought for conservatorship for previous clients.
- Can you give some examples of divorce case outcomes you have secured for past clients? Your potential divorce attorney cannot guarantee a specific outcome for your divorce case. Yet, he should be able to provide some broad numbers about past cases similar to yours in terms of assets, the income of both spouses, children, and the reason for divorce. This can give you a possible idea of what to expect in terms of paying or receiving child support and/or spousal support and whether a Harris County court strays from the presumption of community property. Remember that there are many family courts in Harris County and each judge is different. The same facts in two different courts will likely result in two different outcomes.
- What are some failures you’ve experienced in previous divorce cases? Even good lawyers have the occasional failure. If a lawyer says he or she has never failed or made a mistake, it’s fair to assume they are not completely honest or lack self-awareness. This could adversely impact your divorce case. A good lawyer will tell you about some failures and, more importantly, explain what they learned from their mistakes that make them most qualified to represent you.
- Is mediation a requirement in my divorce case? You need to know that your Houston divorce lawyer will take every possible measure to help you settle your divorce as quickly and painlessly as possible. A good lawyer does not drag out your divorce to bill more hours. Yet, if you have to battle your case out in front of a judge, you want an aggressive attorney who will fight to protect your rights.
- What is a ballpark range I might have to pay/could receive for child support and/or spousal maintenance? A good Houston divorce lawyer should be able to give you a range of what you can expect in terms of payments. Negotiations change things, and Texas law dictates child support amounts, so they cannot guarantee anything.
- Should I file a no-fault or fault divorce? No-fault divorces are most popular and often less expensive, but sometimes a person needs to file for a fault divorce in Texas. After evaluating your situation, your attorney should tell you which strategy is best if you are the one filing.
- What challenges do I face with this divorce? Experienced divorce attorneys have been through hundreds of divorces with their clients, so they should be able to identify any potential issues you might face, whether related to asset division, custody, or support. You want a lawyer who has a realistic view of the situation and has highly-developed problem-solving skills for the most difficult divorces.
Contact a Good Divorce Lawyer in Houston, TX
After you’ve done some research and narrowed your list of potential attorneys, you should feel confident about the Houston divorce attorney you hire. A good lawyer has a strong reputation and track record with divorce cases. The experienced attorneys at Skillern Firm have experience dealing with all types of challenging divorce cases in Houston, and we are here to help. Contact us today online or call (713) 229-8855 for an initial consultation to learn more about our firm and how we can help.