No one expects or looks forward to meeting with a family law attorney to discuss a divorce, but if you have reached the decision that it is time to make this transition in your life, it is good to be prepared for that initial consultation. With the emotions and stress associated with divorce, having an idea about what will be discussed can alleviate some of the unknowns, and provide confidence during an unsettling time. Additionally, having a sense of what should be discussed during your initial consultation can help you better decide if the lawyer you meet with is the right fit, based upon how that initial visit is handled.
Below are a few topics that you should expect to discuss at your first meeting with a divorce lawyer.
Child related issues: If you and your spouse share children, be prepared to answer questions regarding this, especially if you have not reached an amicable resolution with your spouse prior to the consultation. Your lawyer will ask for facts such as names and ages, and will want to know what the status quo has been during the children’s lives. Who was the primary caregiver for the children? Who scheduled and took them to appointments? Who spent more time getting them ready for school, and putting them to bed at night? What is the relationship between the children and each parent? When it comes to deciding custody or allocation issues, the court will look at many factors, so a lawyer will want details as to the status quo in the home.
Financial issues: If you are meeting with an attorney for the first time, expect to be asked “what is in your estate”? If you have a lot of property, whether it be real estate, accounts at financial institutions, investments, valuable personal property, or otherwise, make a list so that you do not forget to bring these up during your meeting with the lawyer. The more information you are able to provide, the less you will spend on investigating and conducting lengthy discovery to obtain a complete picture of the estate, and what there will be to divide in the divorce.
Likewise, it is a good idea to bring your tax returns when you meet with the attorney, so that if there is child support or maintenance (alimony) component to the divorce, the attorney is able to get an idea as to the income of both parties and what kind of resolution would be appropriate.
It is also important to understand that any conversation you have with a lawyer is confidential, and you should feel safe in expressing your personal and difficult issues. At the conclusion of your meeting, you should have a sense as to whether this professional is the right fit for you and your situation. The attorney should demonstrate compassion, professionalism, and a knowledge of the law. You should never feel pressure to retain a lawyer that you are not certain will work well with you, under your specific set of circumstances.