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Facing a divorce? Choose your lawyer with care.

This article appeared in the January 2011 edition of Profile magazine.

A man was driving home and realised that it was his daughter's birthday and he hadn't bought her a present. He drove to Meadowhall and ran to a shop and asked the store manager "How much is that Barbie in the window?"

The Manager replied, "Which one? We have 'Barbie goes to the Gym' for £24.95, 'Barbie goes to the Nightclub' for £24.95, 'Barbie goes shopping' for £24.95, 'Barbie goes to the beach' for £24.95, and 'Divorced Barbie' for £499.00".

"Why is the Divorced Barbie £499.00, when all the others are £24.95"? Dad asked surprised.

The Manager replied "Divorced Barbie had a good lawyer so she comes with Ken's car, Ken's House, Ken's boat, Ken's dog, Ken's cat and Ken's furniture."

Itís an amusing joke but it does raise the good divorce lawyerimportant question of how to tell a good divorce solicitor from the mediocre ones? The selection of a good solicitor can significantly influence the outcome of your divorce settlement, including your resulting financial position.

Here are my tips for what to look for when choosing a divorce lawyer:

1. Choose a specialist. A solicitor who mixes divorce in with other types of work may not have the same level of expertise as one who only deals with family law. Check out a prospective solicitorís website to get an idea of how they operate and their level of professionalism.

2. Find someone who is good in and out of Court. Many divorce settlements can be negotiated without the need to resort to Court proceedings, but some will inevitably end up in front of a Judge. Your solicitor needs to be both a good conciliator and a strong voice in Court when the need arises. Hiring someone who has only one of these skill sets could cost you dearly if their approach is at odds with your needs.

3. Experience. An experienced divorce solicitor will provide invaluable advice and guidance on how your divorce should be handled. During a divorce, people are often in a highly elevated emotional state which can lead them to making decisions which they may regret in the long term. This can manifest itself in a number of ways such as the adulterer husband who is willing to walk away from his marriage with nothing to try to ease his feelings of guilt, or the rejected wife who wants to Ďgo for the ballsí regardless of the impact on the rest of the family. A good divorce solicitor will help you to come up with an intelligent and appropriate strategy.

4. Meet them. Arrange an initial consultation to get a feel for their level of professionalism and to see if they are someone you feel comfortable working with. You should come away from this meeting with a clear idea of how you stand legally, of what the solicitor can do for you and also a general estimate of the costs involved in handling your divorce.

In my 16 years as a divorce solicitor, I have handled all types of family cases involving divorce, children and finances. I offer a free initial consultation to all new clients and I also undertake legal aid work.

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