Solving Complex Family Law Issues with Creative Strategies

How to Find the Best California Divorce Lawyer for Your Orange County Case

If you’re facing a divorce or domestic partnership dissolution in California, one of the most important decisions you’ll make involves finding the right lawyer for your case.

A domestic separation like divorce is as personal as it gets, with your family life and financial future on the line. For successful couples living and working in Orange County, you and your spouse may have to split complex assets in addition to working out child custody, child support, spousal support, and alimony. CEOs and business owners may hold stock options or limited partnership interests. High-income earners and high-net-worth couples require the right expertise to properly resolve their divorce.

Every family is unique. You must find an Orange County divorce attorney who can handle the needs of your case and understands and represents your personal values.

  • Does your lawyer’s approach align with yours?
  • Can you trust your attorney to guide you to a favorable resolution?
  • Can your lawyer tell you what you need to hear even if it’s not what you want to hear?
  • Does your attorney communicate clearly, openly, and proactively with you?
  • Does your legal team understand the sophisticated world of high-asset divorce?
  • Is your lawyer equipped to handle custody matters, including co-parenting strategies?

Few divorces are cut and dry with little to no complications. Emotions can run high across the negotiation table. The greater the assets you own, the more that creates a potential for conflict. The best divorce lawyers can help you navigate your issues with a deft and sensitive hand.

How Can Hiring the Wrong Divorce Lawyer Hurt Your Case?

Hiring just any lawyer to handle your divorce can backfire. Some attorneys who take divorce cases are general practitioners – they take on a variety of cases in different areas of law. Sure, they might technically be able to handle your divorce, but they have no specialized knowledge of family law. Without this expertise, they may miss critical details in your case.

Instead, you want to find a family lawyer who specializes in divorce, child custody, and spousal support matters. That narrows down the pool of candidates – but for high earners, the search continues. You must find a divorce lawyer who focuses on high-net-worth cases and has enough experience to properly handle the assets that you own.

The wrong lawyer could hurt your divorce by:

  • Losing sight of your goals and choosing solutions that don’t align
  • Fueling unnecessary flames of conflict when compromise is more effective
  • Failing to investigate or not knowing where to look for hidden assets
  • Pressuring you to accept a settlement offer you’re not comfortable with
  • Avoiding or glossing over the tough issues in your case, which can cause problems later
  • Being unavailable or unresponsive to your attempts at communication
  • Failing to support you or offer you resources throughout the process
  • Getting flustered or combative with opposing counsel during negotiations

For example, one important distinction happens with aggressive lawyers. You may have heard that it’s best to find an aggressive attorney for your divorce. But a lawyer who has an aggressive personality may derail sensitive divorce negotiations and alienate your spouse further. Rather, you want a lawyer who takes assertive action, with a creative approach to your issues.

You want to find the right family lawyer for the job from the beginning. Few things are as disruptive to your case as having to start over with a new divorce attorney halfway through your case.

How Do You Find the Best Divorce Attorney?

Finding the right divorce lawyer for your case starts with a bit of research. Even if you get a recommendation by word-of-mouth, you want to look into an attorney’s background.

Before you begin, consider what you want from your lawyer and identify the goals you want to accomplish. How much emotional support do you need throughout the process? Do you want your divorce attorney to provide guidance for you and your spouse as you learn to co-parent?

If you’re on this page, you’ve probably started looking at family law firms to handle your divorce. A law firm’s website is a great place to start your evaluation. Check to see:

  • Did the lawyer attend a highly ranked law school?
  • How many years has the lawyer practiced divorce and family law?
  • Has the attorney received any awards for their legal practice?
  • Does the attorney have any client testimonials you can read?

That covers the basics but still leaves many potential candidates. How do you know which divorce attorney is the best match for you? Consider:

  • Does the attorney’s website have articles that are relevant to your family’s situation?
  • What kind of tone does the lawyer’s website communicate? Do they sound professional, knowledgeable, and focused on client outcomes?
  • Does the law firm’s website match your values and goals?

For example, the legal team at Moradi Saslaw focuses on high-net-worth divorces, which come with unique challenges – so we mention that on our website. Our blog includes articles that we would consider relevant to our high-earning customers in Orange County.

When it comes to tones, values, and goals, the metrics are more subjective. Does an attorney’s website speak to you, personally? Do you find yourself nodding along as you read their website? Do they sound like they would be a pragmatic fit for your family?

How Do You Know If a Divorce Lawyer Is Good?

In addition to checking an attorney’s website, you can use other online services to evaluate a divorce lawyer’s performance and professional reputation.

Some divorce lawyers have client reviews on Yelp. You can also find objective reviews of attorneys on lawyer directories like Avvo and Martindale-Hubbell.

You can also gauge a divorce lawyer’s skill and expertise by their extracurriculars:

  • Does the attorney participate in any speaking engagements about divorce?
  • Has the lawyer been published in legal journals about family law and divorce?
  • Does the attorney have any additional family law certifications?
  • Does the lawyer engage in continuing legal education above and beyond what’s required by California Bar Association requirements?

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, it’s time to schedule a consultation. You can get an even better feel of the attorney’s style and answer any remaining questions you have.

What Should You Ask a Divorce Attorney on Your First Visit?

Your initial consultation with a divorce lawyer is all about communicating your needs and getting a better idea of how exactly an attorney can help. By the end of your consultation, you should have an understanding of where you stand legally and your legal options.

You should prepare ahead for your consultation with questions to ask the lawyer you’re meeting. Consultations are protected by lawyer-client privilege and remain confidential even if you don’t end up hiring that lawyer, so you can be candid in your discussions.

You can and should interview multiple attorneys before deciding which one should handle your divorce. Do not feel pressured to accept a law firm’s representation right away – if a law firm is too pushy when it comes to signing you as a client, they may also pressure you into legal strategies or settlement agreements that don’t align with your goals.

At your divorce attorney consultation, consider asking the following questions:

1. How will your case be billed? What are the hourly rate and retainer fees?

Billing should never be a mystery. A good attorney will describe their billing practices clearly and transparently upfront. This includes any retainer fees they charge plus their hourly rate. You should also know exactly when you can expect to be billed.

If the law firm you hire has multiple partners and associates working on your case, ask if they bill with a blended rate. This is the amount you can expect to pay per hour when multiple lawyers with different billing rates work on your case at the same time.

2. How much can you expect to pay for your case?

In addition to rates, a good divorce lawyer will be able to give you an estimate of how much your case will cost depending on the legal strategy you choose to pursue.

Estimates may not be exact, especially if your case ends up pivoting or shifting to a new strategy out of necessity. However, your lawyer should be available to discuss billing with you throughout the process, especially if they anticipate any major changes to the cost of your case.

3. Has the lawyer successfully handled your type of case before?

What type of client does the law firm usually represent? If your case has unique needs – such as high-net-worth divorces – has the firm handled similar cases with successful outcomes? If not, you may want to look somewhere else for representation.

Not all divorce is the same. For example, if you want a cooperative divorce, you need to make sure that your lawyer has experience handling the unique challenges of that process.

4. What legal strategies does the lawyer suggest for your situation?

Your divorce lawyer should be able to present your legal options and strategies in clear terms. They should be able to discuss the pros and cons of each legal approach available to you in a way that helps you determine exactly where you stand and how you want to proceed.

A good divorce attorney will come up with creative legal strategies based on your values and goals. Sometimes, communications break down and you have no choice but to battle out your divorce in court. But if you and your spouse want to keep conflict to a minimum and take a collaborative approach to your divorce, you should be wary of lawyers who pressure you into confrontational strategies like litigation without good reason.

Your lawyer should be able to work with you to reach your goals to the best of their ability. That means catering legal strategies to your unique situation.

5. Is the lawyer familiar with the opposing side’s counsel?

This only applies if your spouse has already found a law firm to represent them. Divorce lawyers who work in the same geographical areas often encounter each other across negotiation tables and courtrooms. While familiarity with opposing counsel is not necessary, it may give your attorney a feel for the other side’s negotiation style and strategies.

If you and your spouse are considering mediation or collaborative divorce, attorneys who have worked together in such cases before may work well together again.

6. Has the lawyer tried any cases before the judge assigned to your case?

This applies only if your case has already been assigned to a judge. Divorce lawyers with many years of experience in local courts naturally become familiar with the judges who oversee their cases. This type of expertise is nuanced and impossible to get without putting in the work.

7. Who at the law firm will actually be working on your case?

Many family law firms have multiple divorce lawyers and paralegals on staff. Other partners and associates may put in hours helping your case. Whichever firm you hire should be able to tell you exactly who is working on your case. If multiple partners will be handling your case strategy, you should be able to speak with everyone who expects to be involved.

8. When can you call your lawyer? What about in an emergency?

You will undoubtedly have questions to ask your attorney throughout your divorce. How can you contact your lawyer? Do they communicate the most through email or phone calls? What hours of the day will they be available? How can you contact your legal team in an emergency?

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to ask your lawyer questions about your case and being unable to get a hold of them or get a straight answer. Consider how the consultation is going. Is the lawyer good at answering your questions now or do they seem to avoid addressing the tough issues? Do they speak in plain language that you actually understand or do they seem to be talking circles around you? Do you have their full attention or do they keep getting interrupted during the consultation? If you see red flags now, chances are high they’ll come up later.

Communication is critical in a divorce case. When in doubt, check in with your intuition. How did the consultation make you feel? Did you feel heard, respected, and supported? Or did you feel ignored, pressured, or uncomfortable? If it’s the latter – you deserve better.

What Questions Will a Good Divorce Lawyer Ask?

You can get a better idea of a lawyer’s expertise based on the questions that they ask you, too.

To begin, a divorce lawyer will ask you about the details of your situation. The more information you can provide, the more thorough your consultation can be. Prepare to answer:

  1. When did you get married?
  2. What is your current living situation and has it changed?
  3. When did you separate and can this be disputed?
  4. What are the main issues that you believed caused your divorce?
  5. Do you and your spouse share custody or care of any minor children or pets?
  6. How old are your children and what type of custody arrangement do you want?
  7. Do you have custody of any children from other relationships?
  8. Do you and your spouse have any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements?
  9. Have either you or your spouse been married before?
  10. How do your finances compare to your spouse’s financial situation?
  11. What are you and your spouse’s most significant assets and debts?
  12. Do you or your spouse own any real estate either separately or together?
  13. Do either of you own complex assets like stock options?
  14. Does either spouse hold an ownership interest in a business?
  15. Have you had any property appraised recently?
  16. Does anyone in your family have special needs or health issues?
  17. Do you, your spouse, or any of your children have a therapist?
  18. What are your most important goals going into your divorce?
  19. What are you most concerned about going into your divorce?
  20. Are there any issues that you will absolutely not negotiate over?
  21. Do you or your spouse want to stay in the family home?
  22. Do you want alimony or do you expect you will have to pay spousal support?
  23. Do you plan to move away or out of state after your divorce?
  24. Are you concerned for your safety or experiencing domestic violence?

Your lawyer should ask about and determine the issues that are the most important to you. A good divorce lawyer should be able to take all the information you give them, identify your greatest concerns and most valuable goals, and offer creative strategies to accomplish the best possible outcome for your case. If a lawyer brushes off your questions or diminishes your concerns without addressing them, you should look somewhere else for representation.

Divorce is personal. When it comes to finding the best divorce lawyer for your case, the right attorney shouldn’t shy away from the tough issues. For the most effective representation, your Orange County divorce attorney should get a complete understanding of the circumstances of your marriage.

Should You Tell Your Orange County Divorce Lawyer Everything?

Yes. You should not hold back any important information from your divorce attorney.

Trust is one of the most important parts of your relationship with your lawyer. You should be able to trust your attorney to not only protect you legally and guide you towards your best interests but to also keep the details of your case private.

United States law recognizes attorney-client privilege, which makes confidential any communications between you and your divorce lawyer. This keeps any conversations you have with your divorce attorney under lock and key. Your lawyer cannot reveal confidential information you give them about your case unless you consent.

The only exceptions to attorney-client privilege are:

  • If a client seeks a lawyer’s help in order to plan, carry out, or conceal fraud
  • If the lawyer reasonably believes that they need to disclose confidential client information in order to prevent death or substantial bodily harm.

Divorce proceedings are extremely personal. Some of the details of your marriage you may not want to share with anyone else. However, the more information you can provide your lawyer, the better understanding they have of you, your family, your goals, and the legal challenges you face. This is not the time to hold back. Attorney-client privilege was made specifically so that you could feel safe and comfortable sharing information that may hurt you if it becomes public.

The legal profession takes confidentiality extremely seriously. Lawyers who fail to protect their clients’ confidential information can lose their license to practice.

That means you should tell your lawyer not just the information that will help your case – but especially any information that could potentially hurt your case. The best legal strategy takes into account all the negative scenarios that you face in order to avoid or mitigate them. Your divorce attorney cannot do that if they don’t have all the relevant information.

For example, if you have any accusations, evidence, or charges of domestic violence against you, your divorce attorney should know. They can make a plan to address the issue, which is almost certainly going to come up during your case. The best strategy is to address any negative issues head-on rather than trying to deny their existence.

In addition, you should disclose all of your assets in their entirety. Yes, you want to protect your wealth, but hiding assets from your spouse in a divorce is illegal in California.

Concealing your assets doesn’t have to involve complicated schemes like shell companies or offshore bank accounts, although those could come into play. You could be accused of trying to hide your assets if you simply transferred any property to friends or relatives. Even if you’re pretty sure that an asset belongs to you – you should bring it to your lawyer’s attention. They can decide how to handle the asset based on the information you provided.

Nothing is worse for your divorce case than being blindsided by information you should have told your lawyer upfront. Consider your divorce lawyer as your most trusted confidante through the process. They can help you navigate even the greatest challenges of your divorce.