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Here’s What Happens During the Initial Divorce Consultation
Updated: Dec 9, 2019
The end of a marriage is the end of a very important relationship. But, as this relationship is ending, an important new one is about to begin—the one between you and your divorce attorney. This meeting could possibly be the most important one of your entire divorce proceedings.
No one goes into a marriage with the expectation that they’ll ever find themselves sitting in an office with an attorney discussing the most intimate details about their lives and finances. But, when your status quo shifts dramatically, you need to be prepared and know what to expect each step of the way.
Here are a few things that will happen at your initial meeting with your prospective new attorney.
1. Are We a Good Fit?
The most important part of your first meeting is knowing that this person is the right person for you. Your attorney is the most important professional on your divorce team. You need someone who’s willing to do the hard work of digging deep to find out what is really important to you, beyond the words you say initially, works with you to help you understand your goals and make you feel comfortable.
Keep in mind that every individual has their own needs and circumstances; it’s your attorney’s job to find out what they are and develop a strategy with those things in mind. Think of it as a job interview, and just like a human resources department meets with more than one candidate to find the best fit for a job, you may want to meet with several attorneys before choosing the perfect match for you and your needs. Someone whose focus is on litigating your matter to the bitter end or doesn’t seem interested in finding out about you and what is important to you and your family may not be the right fit.
One note of caution: Some law firms charge a consult fee and some don’t. It’s true that you get what you pay for, so take the cost of a consultation and the value received during that meeting into consideration if you choose to meet with multiple attorneys before making your selection. Smedley Law Group charges a consultation fee, as we feel that it’s important that our potential clients feel that they’re receiving our full attention to their issues and are not distracted by “losing money” during the time of your meeting.
Your divorce attorney will be your strongest advocate during this trying time, so make sure you both agree that you’re the right fit. Ask friends or relatives for recommended attorneys, contact your local bar association, check out local business directories, or do an online search, paying close attention to any posted reviews on each attorney. Choose an attorney who offers more than the basics of competent representation.
2. Come Prepared for the Meeting
When you set up your initial consultation, your new attorney might ask to come prepared with certain documents and paperwork, items such as; your marriage certificate, pay stubs, tax returns, any prenup or separation papers that may exist, and birth certificates for your children. Make sure you bring everything on the list.
Plus, it’s a good idea to bring a pen and paper to take notes. While the focus of your consultation with us is to assess your current situation, identify the problems you’re experiencing and provide clarity on solving those problems, you may also be asked questions about your finances, any children you may share, specifics on your shared assets, and personal questions about the cause of the divorce.
Remember, this is also a chance for you to ask any initial questions that you have. Jot down questions beforehand and make sure that you get the answers you’re looking for during this crucial meeting. Be sure that you’re honest with your prospective attorney so he or she can offer you the best advice.
3. Know Your Resolution Options
There’s no “one-size-fits-all divorce.” Each case is different, and your attorney will help you decide what might be the best resolution for you. In this initial meeting, your attorney will review information and any documents you provided, and give you their recommendation on how to proceed with your case, which could include litigation, alternative dispute resolution methods and/or settlement. Smedley Law Group will use the wealth of experience available to guide you toward the best option for you, taking the goals you identified in your initial meeting into consideration.
4. Understand Your Financial Expectations
The last thing you need to stress about during this trying time is money. Most people have no idea what kind of fees to expect from a divorce attorney. At this first meeting, you should discuss fees and any payment arrangements available to you. Does this attorney charge a flat rate or by the hour? Is there a retainer required for your case? There may be upfront costs like court and filing fees that you may need to pay before your attorney starts work. Be sure you understand what’s expected of you before you leave the meeting. As the retainer required for every matter is determined by the complexity of the case and work necessary, we don’t provide retainer quotes until your initial meeting. There’s no way an attorney can accurately provide that information without knowing more about you and your unique situation. Anyone who tells you otherwise is willing to risk making an assessment of your case without sufficient information to do so.
5. Have an Open Mind
You’ll most likely come into this meeting with goals for your divorce settlement, and you should have a list of them ready to discuss with your divorce attorney. But, also know that divorces can get messy and complicated, so also bring an open mind. If your attorney doesn’t believe your goals are realistic, you’ll want him or her to be honest with you upfront. Their job is to take your goals and make them achievable, along with your expectations. You need to start your divorce proceedings with a realistic picture of what the outcome will look like.
If you need assistance with a family law matter, our attorneys at Smedley Law Group can provide you with the professional advice you need to make an educated decision. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today if you’re facing a divorce. We also offer divorce coaching services.