We are frequently asked what individuals should do to prepare for their initial consultation with a divorce attorney. In order to make the most of your time together, you should review your finances/assets before you meet with your lawyer as the attorney will need to have an understanding of your finances in order to effectively represent you in your divorce. Depending on the circumstances, your attorney may also need to know some of your personal information so now is not the time to hide things, as failure to disclose information to your attorney may be detrimental to your case in the end.
Review Your Financial Information:
Make sure you review your family’s household finances as the information will be invaluable to your attorney and will lay the groundwork for how best to proceed on your behalf. If you do not have access to information, your attorney can request it once the proceedings have begun.
You can help facilitate the divorce process considerably if you are able to gather and bring relevant documents with you to your first meeting with your divorce attorney such as financial statements relating to assets and debts, regardless of how titled, tax returns, W-2s, pay stubs, bank records and statements, credit card statements, 401(k) or other retirement plan statements.
You should also bring with you copies of any paperwork that has been filed with the court or that you may have received from your spouse or their attorney, such as a divorce complaint, prenuptial/postnuptial agreement, custody agreement, pleadings, motions, orders or any other documents/court orders related to the parties involved or for the matter in which you are seeking legal assistance.
During your first meeting your divorce lawyer should explain what you can expect as you go forward with a divorce. You can review your goals and priorities for your divorce and your attorney can provide you with a straightforward and realistic evaluation of your goals and the likelihood of success for each one. Approximate costs and fees associated with the legal proceedings will also be discussed.
Advocating for what is in the client’s best interests is a collaborative process between yourself and your attorney, so it is important to be organized, as it will help minimize your attorney fees and will enable your attorney to focus on the legal proceedings.
There is usually preliminary paperwork that you will need to complete at your first appointment so it is helpful if you arrive a few minutes early for your appointment so your meeting with counsel can start at the designated time.
Prepare a List of Questions:
Emotional reactivity is often increased for individuals in the beginning stages of a divorce, separation or custody dispute, and clients can be overwhelmed with the wealth of information reviewed during the initial consultation. As a result, it is helpful to prepare a list of questions before your appointment so you don’t forget to ask your most important questions. Don’t be afraid to ask your questions and you should not hesitate to ask about your attorney’s knowledge and expertise. You should also bring a notebook to take notes if helpful to you. While you shouldn’t hesitate to ask questions, you should be aware that your divorce attorney may not be able to answer all of your questions at such an early point in your divorce without a review of additional information. It can be difficult to predict a certain outcome, as it is often dependent upon the parties themselves, what issues are contested, and how willing each party is to exchange information and compromise.
Written by Attorney Lisa J. McCoy.