Once you have made the difficult decision to divorce or you are strongly contemplating the possibility- one of the most important decisions to be made at the beginning of the process is selecting a divorce lawyer to represent you. You need to do your homework up front, because this is the professional that will (hopefully) be with you throughout the transition from your marriage.
A couple of basics to begin with: First of all, you want an attorney representing you that is competent and skilled in the area of family/ matrimonial/ custody law and practices regularly in those areas. Secondly, the Montana legal community is a small one, and your divorce will be easier for everyone involved (you, your kids, and also your former spouse), if you hire an attorney that has a reputation as professional and reasonable, and who maintains productive relationships with opposing attorneys, other parties and the judiciary. So, do your homework and ask around- other lawyers you know, folks that have been through a divorce here or individuals that work with the courts or organizations that serve families in crisis.
Finally, you need to trust yourself and your gut. The first time you meet your divorce attorney is generally through a consultation at their office. During this first meeting, pay attention. Do you trust this individual? Do you feel listened to? Is the advice that they are giving you in the best interest of you and your children? Remember, your first impression is important. This is the individual that will be your voice in this process- to opposing attorneys, mediators and in front of a judge, if necessary. You need to feel listened to, but this also should be an individual that you can trust when they advise you on what the law says and how the law is likely to be interpreted by our local judges and when to “let go.” You need to trust this individual. The divorce process requires that you be open with your lawyer with personal and delicate elements of your finances, relationships and parenting. You should never feel like you need to hide things from your own lawyer (and, let me tell you, lawyers cannot stand to be surprised by an opposing attorney and left unprepared to respond in their client’s best interests- so put it all out there- it’s confidential!).
Remember, if divorce were a simple, straight-forward process, you wouldn’t need a lawyer. It is important to find and retain a skilled and compassionate individual to be your advocate from the outset.