Ending a relationship is difficult. There will be sadness, grief, and some long nights to endure. Friends and family can and will provide support during this difficult time. As much as you will need your family and/or friends, you will also need someone to help you cut through the fog and think realistically and logically. You may need to listen to the things you just don’t want to hear.  For example, if you have children, joint assets, joint debts, and/or rights to the benefits of your spouse or significant other, it is worth the time, cost, and energy to find an attorney that will work with you, educate you, and likely give you a much needed strong dose of reality.

Interview attorneys.  That is what a consultation is for.  Some attorneys advertise that they are “aggressive” but that usually means that they will charge you a huge amount for every second spent developing an issue that you didn’t even realize needed to be resolved.  Some attorneys will take any case that walks through the door regardless if they are familiar with an area of  law or not and leave files and clients sitting for weeks or months without any resolution to the case.  Then there are attorneys that actually  listen to your concerns and proceed with services after consulting you and after obtaining your authority.  Again, interview attorneys. You need to know how that attorney approaches cases and you will need to know that you  feel comfortable with your attorney.

In Illinois, parties and attorneys must sign an engagement agreement for family law services.  Some clients do not what to do this, I am not sure why.  This agreement spells out how your attorney will be handling your case, the cost of services and a retainer agreement, and how and under what circumstances your relationship with your attorney will end.  All important things for the client.   Read the agreement.  Most clients/attorney disputes or misunderstandings could have been avoided if the client read and reviewed the engagement agreement.

There are no rules that the engagement agreement cannot be modified.  Discuss the agreement with the attorney. If you want to hire the attorney but your financial circumstances are problematic, discuss a possible reduction in the hourly rate of the attorney or a modification of the retainer amount.  Do not be afraid of the engagement agreement.  Use it as a tool to get to know the attorney, his/her work ethic, and whether or not you and the attorney are compatible.