Visitors to the Hance Wickham website will note that we offer two different approaches to a first meeting. Like many other family law firms, we offer a traditional one-hour meeting (consultation), which is a chance for someone thinking about divorce to come in and talk with us. It’s a good opportunity for someone to see if they want one of us to represent them, to learn some about the possible options, and to be able to make a somewhat more informed decision about divorce.
But because of the complexities of divorce and how quickly an hour meeting goes, I find that the traditional meeting doesn’t provide the information that prospective clients need and deserve. That’s why our practice offers a second, more in-depth, option for the first meeting – the Divorce Assessment.
The Divorce Assessment allows our lawyers the chance to get to know more about a person’s personal and marital history, reasons for the divorce, and what he or she wants moving forward. By investing up to three hours in the assessment process, prospective clients who opt for the assessment can gather a complete picture of where they’re at, if divorce is truly the right move for them, and if so, what approach is best going forward.
The assessment process begins with intake. We learn the history of each couple’s relationship and what issues are leading them toward divorce. We ask about their children, how well the couple interacts as parents, and what concerns they have about their children should the divorce proceed. We ask about finances, determining their assets and debts, and gauging how important specific assets are to them (like a house, a retirement fund, or an individual investment).
For clients choose to have one of our lawyers represent them, the assessment provides the information that will be used throughout the case to shape our strategy. If a client opts for collaborative law, knowing what’s important to our client is vital to negotiating with the other party. If a client opts for litigation (or has no choice), the information helps us build our case if the divorce process leads us to court, while allowing us the potential to negotiate a favorable settlement before we actually need to go to court.
For clients who’ve already talked to, met with, or hired a divorce lawyer, the assessment can serve as a second opinion on several fronts. If a client has concerns about the divorce lawyers he or she is currently represented by, we can help determine if it’s a good fit, and if that lawyer has enough expertise to handle the level of complexity of the case. We encourage many clients to continue with their lawyers, but give them a lot of insight to help in their communication with them, and in improving the management of their cases. And when we think the client is not being served well by the lawyer, we’re not afraid to tell them that, and take the matter on ourselves, or refer them to someone we believe is a good fit.
We’ve crafted the assessment based on our experience of helping our clients through divorce, through listening to their concerns, and through factoring in what we’ve encountered at the negotiating table and in the courtroom. We believe it to be worth the investment.
(In Part Two of this article, coming next week, we’ll talk about what our clients leave our office with at the conclusion of their assessments.)