You’re considering divorce. Or perhaps you already made the decision to end your marriage. Either way, you face a number of difficult challenges and a great deal of stress. A consultation with a divorce lawyer adds to this pressure.
While that’s often true, it’s also usually an essential step when facing divorce and serves your best interests. A family law attorney experienced in divorce, child custody, and other family law issues, will likely be your best ally on the road ahead.
An initial consultation with a divorce lawyer provides you with a number of opportunities. You get to meet and vet an attorney and determine if this is a person you can work with. It gives you the chance to explain the details of your case and for them to illustrate how they can help.
This can be an important meeting, and there are a number of ways to prepare ahead of time to ensure you get the most value.
What to Bring to an In-Person Consultation
You can make the most of your divorce consultation by taking these three steps to prepare:
In general, the more information a divorce lawyer has, the better job they’ll be able to do for you. They need access to various documents, papers, and the like. It’s a good idea to show up at your first meeting with this information in hand.
Divorce lawyers need basic personal information about you, your spouse, and any children. This includes names, addresses, birthdays, social security information, employment histories, and more.
Assessing and dividing assets is a big part of the process. As such, you probably want to arrive at your initial consultation with recent tax returns, a list of your properties, bank statements, credit card bills, loan documents, and retirement accounts. The more in-depth and complete, the better.
Questions and concerns
Divorce is often a confusing, complicated process. You probably have questions. Write them down and organize your thoughts ahead of time. You have a lot going on, you don’t want to get home and realize you have pressing concerns you forgot to address.
Basically, if it seems important, bring it to your initial consultation. This includes any existing court orders, prenuptial agreements, and more. It’s better to have the information and not need it than the opposite. This gives an attorney a full understanding of your case and helps ensure you get the information you need.
Related Reading: How the Division of Property Works in Washington
Make a list of Questions
We mentioned that organizing your thoughts in advance helps ensure the attorney addresses all the areas that are important to you. This is worth diving into in more depth.
Compiling your list of concerns will most likely raise additional questions. They can be specific or general, practical or more big picture. Whatever they are, write them down. Your attorney will be an invaluable resource in providing accurate and informative answers.
Who, what, when, where, and how. Common topics people have questions about include:
- How child custody is decided?
- Dividing assets and debt.
- Should move out of the shared home?
- How is child support calculated and who pays it?
- What about spousal support, commonly called alimony?
- What if you own a business?
- Is mediation or arbitration an option?
- Is this a contested or uncontested divorce?
Addressing these issues early in the divorce process gives you confidence moving forward and helps steer your strategy.
Related Reading: How is Child Support Calculated in Washington?
Attorneys can work in multiple areas, but most specialize. If you’re going through a divorce, you probably want a professional who focuses on that. However, family law covers a broad range of topics, so even then, there’s quite a bit of concentration. Your initial consultation is the time to ask about applicable experience in your area.
If you have children, you likely want to find a divorce lawyer with a background in custody cases. Have you been married for 20 years? The length of a marriage impacts settlements and comes with specific complications.
Age, health, military service, shared property, owning a business, all of these factors and many more shape your case. Whatever your specific circumstances, ask the divorce lawyer you meet with about them.
Related Reading: Pro Se Divorce: Should I Represent Myself?
How Much Will This Cost?
Divorce does not come cheap, but you should always know what you’re paying for and where your money is going. Part of deciding on the right divorce attorney is being able to pay the bill. The perfect time to address this is during the initial consultation.
Ask how the billing breaks down. Different lawyers bill differently. Some firms charge by the hour, half hour, or even 15-minutes.
Will you be charged for work the support staff does? What about making phone calls or returning emails? It’s important to know what you have to pay for. It’s also vital to keep that in mind. If every email costs you money, reconsider emailing your attorney 20 times a day.
Related Reading: What’s The Average Cost Of Divorce In Washington?
After the Initial Consultation
The initial consultation is an opportunity to get your questions answered and concerns addressed. This will help you better understand how your unique circumstances affect the divorce process.
An initial consultation with a divorce lawyer is also just that; it’s only the beginning. Afterward, you have a lot to do, from filing forms, serving your spouse, and otherwise preparing for the case at hand.
Just because you have an initial consultation with a divorce lawyer doesn’t mean you’re obligated to retain their services. Think of it like an audition or interview. You’re trying to figure out if you want to hire this person and if they’re a good fit for you and your case.
Meeting a divorce lawyer for the first time can be stressful, but going in prepared is important. Organize your thoughts and paperwork, know what you want from your divorce, and ask the questions you need answered.
Related Reading: How Do I File For Divorce In Washington?