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How to Prepare for Your Initial Divorce Consultation

Goldberg Jones Divorce, Featured Posts Leave a Comment

It’s a topic of some debate, but when it comes to ending a marriage, it’s usually in your best interest to hire a divorce lawyer. That in itself can be a daunting proposition. How do you find the right attorney? What do you ask them? How do you prepare?

It can be tough to find the right divorce lawyer—especially the right divorce lawyer for you, your case, and your needs. No two situations are the same, so what’s best for one person might not be best for you. That’s an important idea to keep in mind.

And once you’ve found a potential candidate, that’s only the beginning. Then you have to meet with them. That’s also daunting, but there are ways to prepare for your initial consultation with a divorce lawyer, things to look for, and questions to ask.

Related Reading: Pro Se Divorce: Should I Represent Myself?

Applicable Experience

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, make sure to ask the divorce lawyer you meet with about them.

Related Reading: What to Expect from Child Custody Hearings

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: Ballpark: What Will this Divorce Cost?

What to Bring to Your Initial Consultation

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 initial consultation with this information in hand.

  • Basic information: Divorce lawyers need the basic personal information about you, your spouse, and any children. This includes names, addresses, birthdays, social security information, employment histories, and more.
  • Financial records: 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, organize your thoughts. 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 especially 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.

Related Reading: How Will Washington Handle Jeff Bezos’ Divorce?

Meeting for First Time

Remember, during the initial consultation, you’re both meeting for the first time. This is the chance for you and a divorce lawyer to make sure this is the right fit. Divorce has a huge impact, it’s important to hire someone you trust to protect your best interests.

Make sure you can communicate with each other. A divorce lawyer can’t help you achieve your goals if they don’t know what you want. This is someone you’ll work with closely. You don’t need to be BFFs, but it’s important to feel confident you can accomplish that. It may be quick, but the initial consultation gives you the opportunity to evaluate that potential relationship.

Related Reading: How Long does Divorce Take?

After the Initial Consultation

An initial consultation with a divorce lawyer is 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. If you do hire an attorney, he or she will help you navigate all of this, but there are things you can do to cut down costs and help smooth out the process.

  • Organize: If you brought your important documents to the initial consultation, you already have a head start on this. Assembling and organizing information and paperwork saves time, effort, and hassle down the road. If you gather it all together, your attorney doesn’t have to spend billable hours tracking it down.
  • Know when to fight and when to walk away: Is fighting over your extensive matchbook collection more important than working out a favorable custody arrangement? Probably not, but people fight over just about anything in divorce. Take a moment to honestly assess what’s most important to you and focus your energy on that. Don’t be a doormat, but know where you’re willing to compromise if necessary. Save the fight for what matters so you don’t spend $500 in fees bickering over things of little consequence.
  • Not your therapist: Your divorce lawyer is not your therapist. Sure, they’re on your side, fighting for your best interests, and know intimate personal details about your life. But don’t treat their office like a therapist’s couch. That gets expensive and it isn’t their job. If you need help, there are plenty of other outlets, but that’s not why you hired a divorce lawyer in the first place.
  • Education: It’s a good idea to educate yourself about the divorce process and what to expect. Mediation, arbitration, trial, they all come with different considerations. You might be able to do some leg work yourself. If nothing else, having a clear idea of what’s going on and what’s expected of you can help ease stress and strain during a difficult time.

Just because you have an initial consultation with a divorce lawyer doesn’t mean you’re obligated to retain their services. Nor does it mean you hired them. It’s the chance to meet a professional and see if they’re the right fit for you and your case. If they are, great; if they’re not, now you know, and you hopefully have a better idea of what you want and need out of an attorney.

Meeting a divorce lawyer for the first time can be stressful, but it’s important to go in prepared. Organize your thoughts and paperwork, know what you want out of your divorce, and ask the questions you need answered. This is by no means everything you can do ahead of an initial consultation, but it’s a start and hopefully provides an idea of what lies ahead.

Related Reading: The New Tax Plan and Divorce

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