10 Tips For Choosing A Divorce Lawyer In Singapore | How To Choose A Divorce Lawyer In Singapore
Divorce in Singapore
Getting a divorce can be taxing both mentally and emotionally. Obtaining a divorce will not be easy on everyone in the family, especially if children are involved. Divorce should be the last resort, after all efforts for reconciliation fail, unless your life is in clear and present danger. Once you have decided that divorce is the only way out, finding the right lawyer to represent you in the divorce process will be critical.
Choosing a divorce lawyer – what are some of the considerations? Not sure how to choose a divorce lawyer? Here are some tips for your consideration:
1. Keep it to yourself (for the time being)
Keep your search from your spouse till you have gathered enough information and know your obligations and rights. This is to prevent your spouse from siphoning or diverting assets in anticipation of the divorce.
2. Family and kids focus
If you have kids, then it’s not just a two-person affair. The lawyer you choose should be experienced in divorce and family law and preferably, could refer you to experts in counselling and other specialized areas that will take care of your children as well as your own well-being.
3. Seeking assistance and doing your preliminary research
Check with family and friends if any of them have been through a divorce and seek their advice and recommendations
Use the Internet to gather information about divorce procedures, divorce lawyers, etc.
You can make an appointment with AWARE’s (Association of Women for Action and Research) free legal clinic for advice (http://www.aware.org.sg/support-services/legal-services/) or check out these free legal clinics in Singapore (http://legalclinics.sg/)
4. Support mechanism
Though you may wish to keep your affairs private, getting support from your family, friends and support groups is crucial in this mentally and emotionally taxing divorce process. Having someone or a group which you can turn to, in confidence, could greatly reduce the stress.
You can also make use of helplines from Aware Counselling (http://www.aware.org.sg/support-services/counselling/) and National Council of Social Service (http://ncss.gov.sg/documents/LIST%20OF%20HELPLINES%20200513.pdf)
5. Be clear on your needs
Know what you want out of the divorce. Are you divorcing on amicable terms or it’s expected it will be messy and hostile?
Do you have any preference as to the divorce lawyer who will be representing you? For example, gender, age, personality, experience, etc. You need someone who empathize with your situation to represent you.
Recognise your divorce lawyer is not a therapist – get a therapist to heal the emotional wounds and not the lawyer as he / she is too expensive. Pick the right tool for the right job.
Be realistic about what you can expect from your divorce lawyer.
If you still have disputes with your spouse regarding the divorce, consider counselling to resolve the disputes to avoid a contested trial, which will be more lengthy and costly.
6. Sourcing and further research
Don’t hastily select the first divorce lawyer you managed to get your hands on as this may affect a very critical decision of your life.
From your initial research and recommendations given by family, friends and concerned parties, select at least 3 potential lawyers for further consideration.
Check the lawyer’s biography: does the lawyer specialize in family law, has the legal knowledge and experience you need, aids your understanding of the divorce process, communicates and negotiates well and solves issues out-of-the-box?
Check the lawyer’s access to resources that could be relevant to your case (e.g. financial experts, forensic appraisers, etc.).
Check whether there is a free consultation.
If you could not afford a lawyer and you passed a Means test that ascertains your financial position, you may apply to the government-run Legal Aid Bureau for assistance (www.lab.gov.sg).
7. Ask questions
Ask lots of questions and clear all doubts. Always remember, there is no dumb or stupid question, just ask whatever comes to mind. Whatever information you gather helps. It’s better to be over-informed than under-informed.
Typical questions to ask are: years of experience, types of clients and cases dealt with in the past, what are the most important considerations in a divorce case, how’s the divorce process, etc.
Communication is key. Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Withholding the slightest information might jeopardize your divorce case
Try to meet with the colleague or associate who will be handling the day-to-day issues related to your case as well.
8. Look for red flags
Make sure your lawyer adheres to established code of conduct and ethics of the profession and treats you with respect, dignity and attention. If he / she divulges other clients’ confidential information, bad-mouth other lawyers, then he / she will likely do the same to you.
9. Budgeting and cost
If you do not qualify for free legal aid, it is important that you check the expected costs involved: is the divorce lawyer charging on a per-hour basis? Or fixed price? Any retainer (or advance fee)? Are there any other costs to be considered (e.g. statutory fees)? Any hidden costs – for example, if it is a fixed price, is this price tagged to certain number hours of work?
Make a budget so that you can set aside the necessary funds to start and complete the divorce process and keep track of the costs incurred and monitor the progress.
10. Stay focused
Your ultimate goal is to get divorced, without major sacrifices to your current lifestyle. Don’t let your emotions run rampant when negotiating over material things. Consider adopting a “Take some give some” approach whenever possible.
Take note that the longer you drag the divorce process, the more costly it will be and this unpleasant experience will be prolonged.
The divorce lawyer you choose to represent should be professional, knowledgeable, attentive, responsive, communicates well and has your best interests at heart. This person is someone you can trust and feel comfortable with. He or she supports your basic inclination towards divorce, with a style that suits you. This lawyer places your children in the first place and will not make unreasonable child support demands or custody arrangements. He / she provides value for money and does not induce you to incur unnecessary costs and take unwarranted risks.
Divorce is very personal and emotional and the outcome can have a significant impact on your life. This is a life-changing decision. Though there are no guarantees in the divorce process but by doing due research and selecting the right divorce lawyer, we can approach the divorce process with greater confidence.