Cary Grant once said that divorce is a game played by lawyers. That’s fair enough as wry observations go. But divorce is no game to the person going through it.
For many people, the period between filing for divorce and finalizing it is a miasma of stress, uncertainty, and resentment. It can be difficult in that fog to make any choices, much less the correct ones. This is why you need the right family law attorney looking out for your best interests. Not because it’s a game to them, but because they understand it’s not a game to you.
Let’s discuss how to find the best family law attorney for your Colorado divorce.
In this Article
- Beginning Your Search for the Best Family Law Attorney
- Five Qualities to Look for in a Family Law Attorney
- Size of the Firm: Does it Matter?
- Common Matters in Divorce and Family Law
Beginning Your Search for the Best Family Law Attorney
Nobody thinks about hiring a family law attorney until they need one. Unfortunately, if you’re getting divorced or dealing with issues connected to divorce, you’re going to need competent counsel. Any lawyer can file paperwork today and bill you tomorrow. However, when you’re dealing with a complex and emotional family matter, you should expect better.
Your idea of what competence looks like will depend on what you’re going through. As you begin your search for the right attorney or family law firm, start by identifying your specific needs:
- What could you lose if the case goes badly?
- What are you prepared to fight for, no matter what?
- Do you anticipate a mediated settlement, or a legal battle?
- What would you consider a satisfying outcome?
The Stakes in a Divorce
Divorce is often the result of a marriage that breaks down. The last thing anyone wants after their marriage ends is an unsatisfying divorce outcome. That has the potential to keep you reeling long after your divorce decree is issued.
You don’t want to end up:
- in a more difficult financial situation than you’d planned for,
- with a tone-deaf child custody ruling, and/or
- saddled with other disadvantages that keep you rooted in place while your ex-spouse thrives.
What determines this? Well, it could just be the hand you’re dealt, or it might be a result of the attorney you hired.
The point is, even if you’re not holding a royal flush, the right attorney can be an ace up your sleeve.
The Right Attorney for Your Case
So, how do you find the right one? It can be confusing with so many lawyers out there. You may feel tempted to just hire the first one who seems affordable and available. However, not all family law attorneys are the same. Even one with a sterling reputation can be wrong for your particular matter.
Fortunately, there are certain qualities almost all great family law attorneys have in common. I’m going to share them with you here, with a few real-life examples of the difference good counsel can make.
Five Qualities to Look For in a Family Law Attorney
I’m starting with integrity because you should expect it from any attorney who is taking your money. A lawyer with integrity is ethical in practice and objective about the strengths and weaknesses of your case. He or she will set reasonable expectations for you, even as they strive for your best possible outcome.
Here’s why it matters: Clients going through divorce aren’t always at their best. They’re stressed, often lonely, and sometimes overcome with emotion. These clients need clear-eyed, calm, and consistent representation, not a paid shoulder to cry on.
Unethical family law attorneys aren’t common — but they are out there. A dishonest one will talk a good game in the initial consultation, and keep their client on a sugar high of false confidence all the way until the disappointing outcome that only the lawyer saw coming. By then, it’s too late to take back all those billable hours.
You’re probably asking, “How am I supposed to measure the integrity of a lawyer I haven’t met yet?” Word of mouth and internet reviews help. Another way is to look at the attorney’s previous experience.
Some lawyers — family law specialists included — began their careers working as prosecutors or even district attorneys. Not only does this imbue them with an invaluable sense of right and wrong, it instills a pragmatic, no-nonsense approach that works particularly well for emotional family law cases.
At Robinson & Henry, we are fortunate to have several former prosecutors on our Family Law team. A few are pictured below.
It always helps to have a family law attorney who has been around the block a few times. Knowledge is power, as they say. Knowledge plus experience equals expertise, which can be extremely helpful in complicated matters. All of Robinson & Henry’s family law attorneys focus only on family law, deepening their level of expertise on issues like divorce, child custody, property division, and more.
Here’s why it matters: As we noted above, the stakes can get pretty high in a divorce, or any family law matter. A lawyer who has worked on similar cases to yours isn’t easily surprised. In fact, the depth of knowledge a veteran attorney brings might catch the other side off guard in a contentious hearing.
Let’s look at a real-life example from our firm’s case files:
Your lawyer should accept your perspective and genuinely care about your case. However, compassion alone is not enough. Your attorney should act on that compassion and seek the best possible outcome. That is advocacy.
Here’s why it matters: Compassion is at the heart of good people skills, and family law attorneys tend to have it in spades. Compassion means your lawyer doesn’t just hear you, but gets you. Family law issues can get rough. You need an attorney who understands your goals and works toward them.
Sympathy gets retainers. Advocacy gets results. Here are two stories from the Robinson & Henry case files to illustrate what I mean:
Every Case is Unique
Every family is unique, and Colorado’s statutes cover most known family law situations. However, there’s no predicting how major events can turn routine matters into necessary legal battles. Let’s examine how one of our partners resolved one such case.
What if the difference in your family law case came down to how hard your attorney worked on it? Consider this question before you put your money in a retainer, not after. Diligence is persistent, focused effort to see a thing through. You need an attorney who will go that distance for you.
Here’s why it matters: Some cases appear so difficult that they challenge a lawyer’s willingness to even take them. These matters require more effort, more perseverance than 80 or 90 percent of others. If your situation seems sticky, time consuming, and hopeless, you need counsel that’s unafraid to take on such challenges.
You need someone like Robinson and Henry Family Law Partner Nicola Miller. Here’s a case to illustrate why:
You’ve probably heard about the attorney who finally comes down from the clouds to speak one-on-one with their client. They fast-talk a blur of Latin and legalese, leave an invoice, and disappear again. This is an exaggeration, of course, but exaggeration exists for a reason.
Nowadays, more firms appreciate the importance of accessibility. You should be able to meet with your lawyer, to understand the process and have your needs understood. Robinson & Henry has made customer/client service the core of our practice since 1990.
Here’s why it matters: When you’re in the middle of an emotional family law matter, you need to feel that you are more than another case file. You are a person experiencing sleepless nights, and you need help. A good lawyer knows they can’t help unless they really listen. We can’t listen if you can’t reach us.
Take a stroll through our team page and click on various attorney bios. You’ll soon notice how many of them — in every practice area — take pride in being accessible to their clients.
Size of the Firm: Does it Matter?
Which way should you go? Do you want the backing of a ginormous firm with extensive resources and a prestigious reputation? Or will you put your faith in a small-office attorney who wins the day with common sense and down-home charm?
The reality is that a law firm is only as good as its individual partners and attorneys. Small firms have their pros and cons, as do larger ones.
Let’s take a closer look.
Pros and Cons of Large Firms
The American Bar Association classifies any firm with 350 or more attorneys as “large.” However, this figure takes into account national law firms with branches in multiple states. It is also skewed a bit geographically by larger practices based on either coast, or in Chicago.
For example, a firm with 150 or more state-based attorneys would be among the five largest in Colorado, yet not even rank in the Top 20 in New York, Illinois, or California.
Three Advantages of a Large Law Firm
- Efficiency: Larger firms can hire numerous paralegals, administrative assistants, and other staff to handle important, but routine, tasks. This way, your lawyer is not encumbered with work that takes time away from your case.
- Expertise: Larger law firms are able to have their attorneys work together on teams, which means you’re attorney will be able to consult other legal minds about creating the best strategy for your case. An attorney who works at a large firm also generally focuses their practice on one area of law, like family law. Because of this, they’re able to gain more experience in that practice area.
- Reputation: Large firms didn’t grow by accident. They’ve built an enviable track record and earned a strong reputation that enables them to attract the best of the best. A lawyer from this kind of firm adds heft and gravitas to your case.
Three Disadvantages of a Large Firm Attorney
- Expense: While lawyers from larger firms have the ability to devote more time to their cases, they can only do so because there is a strong team of support personnel behind them, which is very expensive. Salaries and overhead have to be paid through billable hours.
- Inaccessibility: While law firms are trending toward more accessibility, many larger firms haven’t read the memo. If the firm does not have a solid workflow, your case file could get lost in the shuffle as it’s passed around between intake, paralegals, and junior associates.
- Caseload: This ties back to that hard-won reputation. Once a firm has “made it,” it must protect its record. Some larger firms encourage their attorneys to settle “routine” matters and move on, even when they should keep fighting for their client.
Pros and Cons of Small Firms
Generally, a firm with 15 or fewer attorneys is considered small. However, even that is relative. A firm with 12 to 15 attorneys could be a county powerhouse in a rural area. The same-size firm in Denver or Colorado Springs would be a start-up or a boutique firm specializing in one or two practice areas.
Two Benefits of Small Firm Attorneys
- Accessibility: A small firm can feel cozy and inviting. Your first meeting is likely to be with the attorney who’ll handle your case. He or she might have only a handful of cases at any time and can give each client ample representation.
- Affordability: I hesitate to use this particular word, because “affordable” is a relative term when it comes to retaining legal counsel. On the whole, though, smaller firms have lower overhead costs and can pass those savings on to their clients.
Two Disadvantages of Small Firm Attorneys
- Fewer Resources: Smaller firms have limited support staff, or no staff at all beyond a receptionist or appointment clerk. This leaves some small firms ill-equipped to take on bigger, more complex cases. Family law matters can start small and become quite complex. An attorney without support or adequate resources might struggle to meet important legal deadlines.
- Multitasking: The less staff or resources a firm has, the more non-lawyer tasks its attorneys must complete. Attorneys at smaller firms may have to devote too much time to marketing, billing, client intake, and filing routine motions and paperwork, which takes away important time from their cases.
What if There’s a Goldilocks Option?
Imagine retaining the prestige and resources of a larger firm while receiving the personal attention of a small one. What if you could reap the benefits of both without the disadvantages?
No law firm is perfect. Still, a select few have become thought leaders on maximizing the advantages of growth without diminishing the all-important attorney-client relationship. Robinson & Henry is one of those firms.
Why Growth Matters
Satisfied clients equals success. Success equals growth. Robinson & Henry was Colorado’s 26th largest law firm in 2021. By the end of 2022, it was the 15th largest — and we’re still growing. How do we do it?
Depth and Breadth of Knowledge
Robinson &Henry has roughly 70 attorneys spread across a dozen practice areas, from family law and intellectual property to elder law and civil litigation. Our attorneys do not dabble in five different practices at once, though several certainly could. We do have lawyers who specialize in two or three practice areas as cases will cross over.
For example, a complex family law matter can include issues related to business law, estate planning, or even criminal defense. When our family law attorneys need guidance on issues outside their wheelhouse, they have experienced colleagues they can turn to for advice.
A Team Approach
At Robinson & Henry, the lawyers work on teams focused on their area of law. This way, they benefit from each other’s perspectives and experiences. Each R&H legal team consists of one partner, two or three associates, and two or three paralegals. The partners lead their teams.
This approach keeps each team focused on its clients, while insulating them from the bloat and churn of larger firms.
Our Family Law roster currently has 24 attorneys, 11 of whom are partners.
Relationships with Lenders
Just because someone needs a lawyer does not mean they can afford one. This is why we work with area lenders who can offer clients financial flexibility. Everyone should have an opportunity to retain top-notch legal representation when they need it.
Publishing Blogs and Legal Guides
Robinson & Henry wants your business as much as all the other law firms. However, we also believe you should know what you’re getting into before you talk to an attorney. For this reason, we have an extensive online library of blog posts that cover all of our practice areas, especially family law.
Common Matters in Divorce and Family Law
When divorce looms, the uncertainty about what happens next can be incredibly stressful. You can count on our online resource center for general guidance. Chances are, whatever your family law situation is, we have at least a couple of articles about it.
These articles are written for folks who aren’t lawyers. Many of them are quite comprehensive, but they’re also easy to understand and navigate. We hope these guides demonstrate that we are here for you, even if you don’t ultimately choose us.
Let’s take a quick tour of common family law and divorce matters we have covered.
This is the most common type of family law case. According to the CDC, about 18,000 marriages in Colorado end in this manner every year. That’s about 48%. Divorce comes with many considerations, as this handy primer explains.
If you have children, custody and child support will be major concerns. Alimony may also be involved.
“Child custody” is mostly a layman’s term nowadays. It means the “care and control of a child,” including the ability to make decisions about the child’s upbringing. The Colorado legal system now calls custody “allocation of parental responsibilities” and divides it into decision-making authority and parenting time.
Divorcing parents can either mediate parenting time and responsibilities on their own, or let the court decide. We cover all the Colorado custody basics in this fairly comprehensive legal guide.
Parenting time is what used to be known as “visitation.” It is the time a child spends in the physical care of a parent or guardian. As shown in case examples highlighted above, parenting time issues can be contentious — especially when one parent seeks to restrict the other’s time with their child or children.
Whether you expect to pay or collect child support, you need a plan you can live with. This is why it’s crucial to have an attorney with deep knowledge of how Colorado child support is calculated. After all, every family law case is unique in some way.
Alimony and Maintenance
What are your feelings about continuing to support — or relying on support from — a spouse you are no longer married to? Whatever your situation, there is a lot you should know about Colorado alimony as you consider divorce.
Odds are, unless both you and your former spouse will be able to maintain your current lifestyles after divorce, one of you will be paying “alimony” for a while.
How does the court divide your marital property once you and your former spouse are no longer sharing it? This is a huge concern many of our clients have as they begin the divorce process. Who keeps the house? How much of my retirement savings will my ex be entitled to?
Was domestic abuse an issue in the marriage? If so, it could be an even greater danger during the divorce process. The last thing you need at this time is to feel unsafe. You will want an attorney who understands how to put a civil protection order in place, whether it will be temporary or permanent.
Change is inevitable. As your post-divorce life begins to take shape, it might be necessary to ask the court to change certain orders. All the items mentioned above, from child custody to alimony, may be modified as circumstances change.
For example, what if it one parent wants to move out of state with the children?
Have You Planned for a Successful Outcome?
This is no time to “just muddle through.” If you’re going to hire a lawyer, hire the right one for your particular family law matter. Do your due diligence. Talk to friends and acquaintances who have worked with a family law attorney in recent years. Check Google reviews.
Should you consider costs? Of course. However, many folks saddled with bad outcomes probably wish they had considered costs over the long term. For example:
- the cost of paying, or not receiving, higher child support or spousal maintenance from month to month,
- the emotional toll of a bad parenting time arrangement, and
- the cost of going back to court to try modifying a bad outcome.
If you roll the dice today on a budget attorney, you might wish for a re-roll down the line. Nothing is more expensive than a cheap divorce lawyer.
Seize this Opportunity
Maybe your various divorce issues can be resolved in mediation. Or perhaps there’s a stalemate, and the divorce goes to a final orders hearing. Either way, the process in front of you right now is the best opportunity to address your top priorities.
Child custody? Alimony? Who keeps the house? Decide what’s important to you, then use the advice discussed here to find the best family lawyer you can.
Once everyone has signed the final decree of divorce, it becomes a court order. You and your ex-spouse will then have to abide by it.
Make sure you come out the other side with a divorce you can live with.
Get the Best Family Law Attorney for Your Divorce
If you need an attorney, you need one who will take a tailored approach to your case. Hopefully, this guide has given you a strong foundation as you begin your search. Whether you treat your divorce as a cause for celebration, or simply wish it never came to this, you need good counsel. Our award-winning family law attorneys are ready to help secure the best outcome possible for your circumstances. Call 303-688-0944 for your case assessment.