What Can I Expect From My Divorce Consultation?

Never met with an attorney before? If you’re getting divorced for the first time, you’re not alone. For many, the initial divorce consultation is their first experience with lawyers and the legal system. The prospect of digging into the details of your marriage with a stranger isn’t something a lot of people look forward to. Couple that with high emotions and all the questions racing through your mind and it can be difficult just to pick up the phone and schedule an appointment. But meeting with your lawyer doesn’t have to be a painful experience. In fact, finding council you can trust and creating a game plan for proceeding with your divorce can help bring a sense of structure to an often chaotic and uncertain time in your life. Let’s go over what to expect and what to prepare for your first meeting. You’ll find that going into your appointment with a plan of your own will help you focus on what needs to be said and the questions that need to be asked.

What Should I Bring?

Preparing for your meeting can help you feel more comfortable and confident discussing your situation. Most consultations don’t last much longer than an hour—thoughtful preparation will allow you to make the most of your time. You’re not obligated to bring anything to your consultation, however, the more details you can share about your case, the better your attorney can understand everything your case will entail, and the more accurate their price estimates will be. Bring the following items with you to your meeting: o Basic personal information sheet with you and your spouse’s names, dates of birth, SSNs, and contact information. o You may find it helpful to write out a narrative of your marriage—this will help you to remember all the details, and keep your conversation with your attorney on track. o Make a list of any questions you have. Just like the narrative, it will help you stay on point during what could be an emotionally charged conversation. o Financial info (copy of tax returns, pay stubs, real estate titles, list of monthly expenses, liabilities, etc.). o Relevant legal documents such as prenuptial agreements.

Honesty Matters

Open dialogue is essential to ensuring that your attorney has everything they need to best represent you. Be truthful and don’t leave out any crucial details. Remember—everything you discuss with your attorney is strictly confidential. Don’t let embarrassment keep you from disclosing important details that your spouse is likely to share with their attorney. What will we talk about? o First, they will gather your basic personal information. o If you have children, you will discuss custody and child support. o Joint and separate assets and liabilities. This may lead to a discussion about alimony and spousal support. o While we live in no fault state and you don’t need to provide a legal case to have your divorce granted, behavior like marital infidelity or spousal abuse can impact how assets are distributed after the divorce, or how custody is awarded. For this reason, it’s necessary and important to get into the personal details of your marriage, even if they are difficult to talk about.

What Will My Attorney Recommend?

At the end of your consultation, your attorney will give you an idea of how they normally precede with a case like yours. Keep in mind that divorce is not a short or simple process. Because it may take a year or longer to finalize everything, there’s a lot of time for circumstances to change. Think of the plan your attorney presents you as fluid—not set in stone. Your attorney should also provide you with a rough estimate of costs and fees. The more information your attorney has on your case, the more accurate the upfront estimate will be.

What Should I Ask A Prospective Attorney?

Most of the discussion will focus on you and your situation; however, don’t forget that you are also there to interview a prospective attorney. You will be working with them for an extended period of time, so it’s essential that you choose someone you trust and want to work with. The following questions can help you gauge whether or not your prospective attorney is a good fit for your case: o What experience do you have handling divorce? Have you worked on any cases similar in scope to my own? o What is your strategy when approaching a case like mine? o Will others in your office assist you in my case? How involved will they be? What kind of experience do they have? o What kinds of resources can you offer to help me through my divorce? o How will I be charged? What other costs could potentially be involved? After your attorney discusses how they would proceed with your case, you should also ask if there is pressing legal action you need to take immediately. This may include filing restraining orders, freezing accounts, and making arrangements for custody.

The Next Step: Making Your Decision

Although it’s easy to feel rushed to choose your attorney, don’t make a hasty decision. Do your research, interview a few different attorneys and take time to select the one that’s right for you and your case. Take notes during your consultations and review them before making your decision. Were you satisfied with their answers regarding experience, their approach to your case, and their costs and fees? Do you feel like there is professional chemistry? Do you communicate well? Don’t take your decision lightly. Factor in their experience, their strategy, their enthusiasm, and most importantly—how well you think you can work together.