Tips for Your First Meeting with a Divorce Attorney
Divorce is stressful, but the right attorney can help ease you through the process.
Your first meeting with a divorce attorney more than likely comes at a time when you’re stressed, worried, emotional, and, perhaps, angry. You may be nervous about your consultation, but don’t be—your attorney has seen and heard it all and is ready to assist you and put you at ease.
During this first meeting, remember this is your time—speak up and help determine the course of your consultation, advises Cristin Michelle Lowe, a divorce and separation attorney. The more detailed you are with describing your needs, the more satisfied you’ll be with the outcome of your appointment. If you have no idea about divorce proceedings, let the attorney know.
Be Ready for a Q&A Session
What should you ask a divorce attorney at the initial consultation?
- How long have you been practicing divorce law?
As someone in any profession will tell you, there’s no substitute for experience. Learn how long your attorney has been practicing divorce law—knowing the judges, the local rules, and opposing attorneys can be an asset to your case. Trial experience is also key for any attorney, as is experience drafting and negotiating separation agreements and court orders.
- How many cases of this type have you taken to trial?
Consider an attorney with a good balance of trail experience and out-of-court negotiating skills. The majority of divorce cases are settled without a trial, but, if the need arises, you want an attorney who’s well-versed in family law and will fight for you in court.
- What’s the best way to achieve my goals?
A good divorce attorney will have a road map or certain process he or she generally follows in divorce cases. While some cases will require a simple separation agreement and property settlement, your attorney should be equipped to handle all possibilities. Be sure you both understand the process that will get you from where you are now to where you want to be.
- How much will my divorce cost?
No attorney can promise an exact fee. Each case is different and each client has different needs, but an experienced attorney should be able to at least forecast a price range tailored to your needs and wants. If you’re worried about costs ask if payment options are available.
- What should I be doing to protect myself?
Now that you’ve decided to move forward with a divorce filing, ask for advice as to what to do about joint checking accounts, credit cards, medical insurance, and other financial concerns you currently share with your spouse. Your attorney will be able to suggest actions to be taken now that will save trouble—and money—later on.
You should also be prepared for questions your attorney may ask you. He or she will need to be made aware of much of your personal information. Don’t hide any pertinent information—your spouse’s representation could bring up facts your attorney is not prepared to deal with which can cause significant damage to your case.
Your attorney will need to hear your story so it may be helpful to write down all information related to your personal or business background before your first meeting. Include anything you believe would be important to your case. This may include:
- A timeline from when you married to the events leading up to the decision of divorce;
- Information on your children;
- Information on former marriages and divorces, if applicable;
- Key issues of the divorce, such as timesharing/custody, property issues, business ownership issues, etc.; and
- Other issues that may impact the divorce such as physical or sexual abuse, criminal records, drug or alcohol abuse, etc.
The information you and your attorney discuss is completely confidential so speak open and honestly about your situation.
Review your family’s finances before your first meeting, including savings and checking accounts, stocks, and debts. This information will be invaluable to your attorney and aid in preparing your divorce proceedings. If you don’t have access to this information, your attorney can request it. Be ready to discuss your current household budget and expenses and what you anticipate them to be after the divorce.
Be sure to bring your attorney copies of all paperwork he or she will need, including divorce papers or prenuptial agreements. There may be response deadlines he or she will need to consider during the process.
Most importantly, be open to full collaboration to ensure you get the most out of your relationship. Attorney Debbie Griffiths advises that, “Meeting with a divorce lawyer may seem overwhelming at first, but [his] job is to help you. The first meeting is a great opportunity to make sure you have a good attorney and to learn more about the divorce process.”
You should leave your first meeting with your attorney feeling you’ve been heard and understood—that he or she is tuned in to your specific needs and will stand up for your rights in the stressful time ahead.
For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact Greene Wilson Crow & Smith by calling (252) 634-9400 or visiting nctriallawyers.com.
(Sources: Divorce Magazine; Doyle Law Group; The Law Firm of Charles D. Jamieson, P.A.; Amaral & Associates; Nolo Network; and Cristin Michelle Lowe.)