Getting the Most From An Initial Consultation With A Divorce Lawyer
In my practice, I usually consult with two types of people about divorce. The first is the person that knows they want a divorce but they want information about what I can do for them and they need some direction about their case. The second is the person that is not sure they are ready for a divorce but they want information about their rights, the process and how to proceed in life.
Whether you are certain you want a divorce, or whether you are considering a divorce and just looking for information, we have prepared this article so that you can get the most from your initial consultation with a divorce lawyer.
- What to bring to the initial consultation.At our initial consultations, we usually tell clients not to bring any documentation with them. The only exception to this would be a Court pertaining to you and your spouse like a restraining order, a legal separation order or child support order previously entered against your spouse. Usually, we spend our initial consultation time talking to our prospective clients and trying to get a general idea of what the client wants to accomplish during the divorce. We offer guidance about how to handle situations specific to their case and we discuss a game plan for moving forward with the divorce. Since our consultations are usually limited to an hour, you will get more from your attorney during the initial consultation by talking about your case rather than having the lawyer review your mortgage paperwork, or look at all of your credit card receipts. If you aren’t sure what you should bring with you to the consultation, ask the receptionist prior to your appointment.
- Have an idea of what you want from the consultation.It is best to approach your initial consultation with your divorce attorney with a goal in mind. Do you want to know about alimony? Are you concerned about paying child support? Do you worry about how your 401K will be divided? Are you looking for information? Are you prepared to start the divorce immediately? Are you trying to figure out how to best protect yourself because your spouse has already filed? You should consider these questions and more before your initial consultation. Think about what you want to get out of the initial consultation. Many lawyers will give general advice during the initial consultation unless you explain to the lawyer what you are specifically trying to accomplish with the meeting.
- Prepare in advance for your initial consultation.Similar to having a goal for the initial meeting, you should prepare for the meeting in advance. Do some research on divorce laws in your state. Look up some basic information about child custody and child support if these are issues for you. The internet is full of legal advice about divorce – some good advice and some bad advice. Before you go to the initial consultation, you should prepare a list of questions you want answered. This will help direct the flow of the conversation and will get you the best advice from the attorney that is specific to your case.
- Be prepared for things you don’t want to hear.During almost every consultation, there comes a point where a prospective client is told something they don’t like. For example “you may have to pay some spousal support,” “yes, your spouse is entitled to some of your 401k,” “no, you cannot keep your spouse’s girlfriend from being around the child” and so on. In my opinion if you meet with a lawyer that tells you everything you want to hear during an initial consultation, either the lawyer doesn’t know what they are talking about or the lawyer is telling you what you want to hear just to get you to sign up. It is our practice to be honest, brutally honest, with every prospective client. It is our goal to explain the process but not to sugar coat it. A lawyer that isn’t honest with you during the initial consultation is one you should run away from as quickly as possible.
- Ask yourself how serious you are about a divorce before you have the initial consultation.Frankly, you will not get the most from an initial consultation, if you are not serious about getting a divorce and you are not prepared to pay for a divorce lawyer. Like we said at the beginning, there are usually two types of clients we meet with at an initial consultation – those that know they want a divorce and those that aren’t sure but just want information. It is best to be honest with yourself about which type of client you are before you meet with an attorney. If you really aren’t sure whether or not you want a divorce, you might consider spending your time and money on counseling rather than on a divorce consultation. Many lawyers will rush through a consultation, not give their best advice or even cancel the meeting once they know you aren’t serious about getting a divorce. Again, it is best to be honest with yourself before you spend time and money on a divorce consultation to determine whether you are really serious about obtaining a divorce.
- Come prepared with a litigation budget. You should expect the lawyer to discuss a retainer fee at the initial consultation, even at free consultations. To avoid “sticker shock,” be prepared with an idea of how much you are able to spend on a divorce before you meet with the attorney. Also, being prepared with what you are willing to spend will give you an idea of whether or not you can afford the lawyer you are meeting with. If you like the lawyer but their fees are not in your budget, ask if there is some other arrangement you can make. If the lawyer is not willing to work within your budget, ask the lawyer if they would be willing to make a referral to someone else. Most lawyers appreciate that you are prepared to spend money on a divorce, even if their services aren’t in your budget. Being prepared to retain an attorney shows that you are serious about your case and will help you get the most from the initial consultation.
If you or someone you know is in need of a divorce and would like to schedule an initial consultation, contact our experienced family law attorneys today. At Rosenblum Law Offices we can help.