Choosing a Matrimonial Attorney

Matrimonial law in New Jersey is complex and can be very difficult to navigate alone.  There are many nuances to the law, and even more nuances to your family.  Even if you do not have children, division of assets — even in a short-term marriage — can have unexpected twists and turns.  You may know whether or not you can keep the wedding ring, but how about a gift by your parents to the down payment of your house, which is now held in joint names?  What about the family business, how is that to be divided?

Other cases are fairly simple, or maybe you have already “worked things out” with your spouse.  Can you be sure your deal is fair?  Even if you think it may be fair now, how about in several years?  Are the children’s interests protected?  Where will you be once the amount of alimony is in place, now and in the future, whether you’re the recipient or the person paying?

Choosing a matrimonial attorney is not an easy job, and it’s one of the most important choices you can make.  This is the person you will count on to guide you through the process, fighting for what’s fair when you need it, but without robbing your future with unnecessary legal bills.  This is also the person you will count on to counsel you through the negotiations, steering your case towards your goals, giving on what’s not so important to you to achieve what is.  This person must be thorough and detailed so your Settlement Agreement reflects your deal accurately while protecting your interests, or so your Motions and trial (if there is one) goes smoothly and in your favor.

It is generally best to choose someone who is available to you, taking into consideration their office location, their staff, their hours and modes of communication, and whether they delegate their cases to Associates.  It is also important to find out whether that person is known in the court you will be filing — even if you do not go to trial and never file a Motion, the attorney’s reputation precedes them.  It is also very important to find out whether they are “settlement minded” or “litigation minded.”  Some attorneys tend to prefer or even specialize in one method over the other.

Why do most reputable attorneys in New Jersey charge a fee for a first consult?  Because this is perhaps the most important meeting you can have with your attorney.  You will assess each other and your case.  You will also assess whether you match personally and philosophically with each other.  If you want to settle and the attorney suggests “scorched earth,” keep looking.  Likewise, if your case involves domestic violence or significant power imbalance and the attorney is adverse to using the courts to protect your interests, find someone who will.

Consult with your prospective attorney, or several, before making a choice.  When you find someone who understands your goals, has the skills and experience you need, and with whom you think you could work well, this partnership will move your case forward.   You will find it is well worth the effort to find the right person.


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