Meeting with a divorce lawyer for the first time can be a daunting and stressful experience. Following these guidelines can help ensure that this initial encounter will be as smooth, efficient and productive as possible.
Bring Important Documentation
Ask the attorney to provide you with a list of documents to bring to the first appointment. You may not be able to gather everything for the first meeting but make a serious effort. When divorcing, there will be many legal and financial issues that will have to be resolved. Your divorce attorney will need access to all essential documents. Documents could include compensation documents, bank and savings account information, tax returns, prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, retirement plan documents, mortgage, and title information, and more! The materials should be photocopied. It will probably be less expensive for you to do this yourself instead of having this done by your divorce attorney.
You can find a good divorce document checklist here.
Get Clear on Your Goals and Concerns
Craft a list of questions in advance of the first meeting. Your attorney needs to get an understanding of what your priorities, preferences and goals are. Do you want the divorce to resolved by mediation? Are certain assets of primary importance to you? Will child custody be contested? How will spousal and child support be calculated? Think about and write down as many details as possible before going to the appointment. Being detailed and thoughtful will assist the attorney in formulating a plan.
Create a List Of Questions About the Process
Some questions might include: What is the hourly rate for their services? Will a retainer be required? How much will the retainer be? Based on your circumstance, how long will the divorce process take? How will communications with the attorney and staff be handled? Are there things you do yourself to keep the cost down? How much experience does the attorney have? Is the attorney a Certified Family Law Specialist? Will your case be handled directly by the attorney or by another associate in the office? Much of this information may be available on their website. Don’t use critical appointment time asking questions you can get answered for free!
Manage Your Expectations
Don’t expect to walk away from this meeting with everything answered or resolved — or with a guarantee of success. Some questions and outcomes may be straight forward, but you need to realize that the attorney can often state likely outcomes, they can not make guarantees. Depending on the complexity of your situation, the ultimate result will be contingent upon numerous factors that will develop as the process moves forward.
This initial meeting will lay the groundwork for a successful outcome. Block out enough time for the first meeting. Do not be rushed. Make sure you have taken care of all circumstances that could interfere or add stress to the meeting. As needed, get a baby sitter, find someone to walk the dog or pick up your children from school, and clear your calendar of urgent business meetings or obligations that are close to the appointment. You want to show up focused, purposeful and as relaxed as possible under the circumstances.