The LGBT community has made incredible gains on the civil rights and liberties front within the last 10 years. Because of this, many LGBT folks I know shy away from any talk of family law, and would prefer to project to the straight community that there’s no such thing as divorce cases for LGBT couples.
Well, this is simply not the case. Just as 10% of the population identifies as LGBT, 10% of the total U.S. population will also go through a divorce. What’s more, it’s even more important for those of us in LGBT marriages to get a good divorce lawyer when the worst occurs. A good litigation attorney will help to reduce conflict throughout the next year of your life as you sort through the divorce bureaucracy and make sure all your interests are being looked after. Below are some things to look for when you’re searching for a good divorce attorney:
1. Does the attorney call your state of residence “home base?”
If you have the means and are going through a particularly nasty divorce, it might be tempting to go all out and spend the money on a flashy attorney from out of state. However this is something we advise against if you’re part of the LGBT community due to the piecemeal way LGBT marriage, adoption, and domestic partnership laws have been adopted at the state level over the past few decades. An attorney based in state will know their way around the complex and often conflicting state and federal statutes.
2. Does the attorney have extensive experience with LGBT issues?
This too will be helpful in the divorce process because an attorney who has had to review LGBT case law multiple times will have a better idea of the precedents set by local courts as well as how far they can push the envelope when it comes to your case. If however you can’t find an attorney that fits this description, make sure at the very least that you hire one with a good reputation for careful research and a lot of experience with divorce in general.
3. Is your attorney charging you a reasonable price?
The average cost of a divorce (and this does vary state by state), is $15,000 to about $30,000. This amount will also probably be on the higher end if you and your ex have a lot of assets or there are custody issues involved. It’s important to remember that oftentimes, negotiation of an attorney’s retainer is possible. We encourage you to make a list of the relevant features of your divorce case (assets, fault, children etc.), and call around for free consultations to compare price points before committing to anyone. This puts you in a bargaining position of strength and will familiarize you with the subtle differences in the professional landscape.
4. Does your attorney respect your LGBT status?
I’m sure many of you workaholic gays are probably rolling your eyes right now and thinking to yourself “It’s not personal, it’s business. Who cares?” Well, you should care. Not all lawyers are able to so seamlessly separate their personal biases from their professional efforts a la Denzel in “Philadelphia.” In fact, even people who explicitly agree with LGBT rights could have implicit biases they are unconscious of. Before starting a professional relationship with an attorney, you need to make darn sure that you and they are on the same page when it comes to your lifestyle.