Divorces are difficult. It’s important to have a legal advocate you trust to help with important issues, such as dividing assets and child custody. ConsumerAffairs researched the best divorce lawyers in San Diego to help find an attorney to provide reliable representation during your legal process.
Divorce settlement has a long-lasting impact. It’s crucial to have representation that advocates for your best interest when deciding the terms of the divorce.
California is a no-fault divorce state, which means the party filing for divorce only has to claim irreconcilable differences to have the divorce granted. If the divorcing couple agrees to all terms of the divorce, including the division of property, alimony and child custody agreement, the divorce is considered uncontested. Uncontested divorces are often simple and straightforward.
If the divorcing parties do not agree on the terms of the divorce, however, they must go through the legal system to finalize the conditions. Some of the most common ways to reach a contested divorce agreement in San Diego include:
Collaborative divorce is a legal process that requires both parties to hire attorneys. The divorcing couple and their representation enter an agreement to settle the divorce terms out of court. If they are unable to agree and choose to litigate, the divorcing parties are required to hire new attorneys.
Mediation uses a family law professional or attorney as a neutral third party to help the divorcing couple come to an agreement that is fair to both parties. This is usually a less-expensive solution that works when the couple may not agree on terms but are still amicable.
Arbitration also uses a neutral third party, but an arbitrator can make binding decisions on issues regarding child custody, the division of property and other divorce terms. This lets a couple finalize a divorce without resorting to litigation.
Litigated divorces involve having attorneys represent the divorcing parties in court, where a judge makes the final ruling on the divorce terms. Litigation is usually the most contentious and expensive divorce option.
The cost of divorce in San Diego
Attorneys typically charge an hourly rate for divorces. In San Diego, the average price for an attorney is $325 an hour, though that cost ranges from $75 to $800 an hour or more depending on the attorney’s experience. The average divorce in California costs $17,500, but complicated, contentious divorces that go to trial could cost up to $40,000.
Factors that can increase the cost of getting a divorce in San Diego include:
Having a high net worth
Owning multiple properties
Having numerous financial accounts and investments
Divorces that involve child custody and child support
Many attorneys in San Diego require a retainer, which is an upfront sum of money the lawyer uses to pay expenses as the divorce proceeds. Some attorneys break down the hour into minutes and bill six-, 12- or 15-minute increments. Before hiring a divorce attorney, ask about payment expectations and how the firm bills clients. Be aware of labor charges for office staff, court fees and research time.
How to choose a divorce lawyer in San Diego
When researching lawyers in San Diego, find out if they charge an initial consultation fee. Some family law attorneys offer free consultations, which give an opportunity to see if the attorney would be a good fit for your case. The lawyer you hire should be a fit for your divorce — if you and your spouse plan to decide terms amicably through mediation, your lawyer shouldn’t specialize in litigation.
Before hiring a divorce attorney to take your case, ask about that person’s background and training. Inquire about their experience in specific areas that pertain to your situation, including:
Child support and custody
The California Board of Legal Specialization grants certification to lawyers that pass a series of tests and meet certain requirements. Though the organization does not make referrals, the website provides a tool for consumers to search for family law certified professionals.
Other questions you might consider asking attorneys during a consultation include:
How much experience do you have?
What is your hourly rate?
Are there any other anticipated costs?
Will anyone else in your office be working on my case?
What is your strategy for my case?
How will alimony and child support/child custody will be determined?
How often will you update me on my case?
How quickly do you return phone calls or emails?
Talk with the lawyer to make sure you are personally compatible, as you’ll be going through a difficult process. Although it’s tempting to use cost as a deciding factor, choosing the least expensive attorney is not always the best option. Hiring the attorney that’s the best fit for you and your case reduces the stress of your divorce.
Divorce Attorneys San Diego
This firm has offices in downtown San Diego and serves most parts of the county, including military bases. Its services include litigated divorce, mediation, contested or uncontested divorce and child custody cases. The firm focuses on bringing an ethical, business-like approach to divorce. San Diego customers appreciate the firm’s professionalism.
Yelman & Associates Family Law Attorneys
Yelman & Associates specializes in family law and has an office in Mission Valley. Attorneys at the firm have experience with all types of divorce, child custody and division of assets/debts. The firm offers a free telephone consultation. Clients in San Diego appreciate the caring, professional representation through a difficult process.
Wilkinson & Finkbeiner Family Law Attorneys
Attorneys at Wilkinson & Finkbeiner are certified in family law. The firm has offices in Mission Valley and Escondido and provides free consultations. The company’s website offers resources to explain the process of divorce and what to expect. San Diego clients praise the firm for its understanding approach and competitive rates.