Meeting with a divorce attorney is both an extremely stressful and extremely important event. As with any other important event, you should prepare well for it. And in order to prepare, you need to know a little about what to expect.
What to expect:
- Most family lawyers insist on an initial meeting in person, except where the prospective client lives out of town or there is some other reason that an in-person meeting can’t happen.
And even if the attorney doesn’t insist on this, the client should, because the character of the attorney and the “human fit” for the client is so critical, and is most easily determined in person.
- Most good, busy family lawyers will require a fee for the consult. This is because not doing so would be a financial burden on the firm as all of the attorney’s time would be spent talking to prospective clients who may or may not hire the firm.
- Most consults last about an hour, so you will normally pay for about an hour of the attorney’s hourly rate.
- The main purpose of this meeting is for the client and attorney to decide if they are a fit for each other. Good attorneys can’t take every client, and some attorney’s personalities are not a good fit for some clients.
What happens at the meeting:
- Most lawyers will ask the prospective client to provide some background information so that some level of immediate advice can be given. However, since the purpose of the meeting is to decide if the two are a good match, this is fairly limited. The detail work and information gathering will happen after the decision has been made to engage the firm.
- After hearing the background information, the lawyer will have some questions and then begin to provide some big-picture information about the law, processes, and recommended steps for the client to take after the meeting.
- At the end of the meeting, the client and lawyer will normally decide if they intend to work together beyond this initial meeting. Or either may want to take time to think about this decision.
How to prepare for the meeting:
- Knowing what to expect and what happens at the meeting, you can now be better prepared.
Here are some things you should do:
- Do some homework about the attorney or law firm before you go so that you don’t waste time and money on someone who might not be a good fit. Know what the costs will be for the consult, and how long it will last.
- Start a list of questions to ask the attorney, and add to it as you get closer to the meeting. These can be about your circumstances, about the law or about the attorney and his or her approach to client representation and preferred methods of reaching the client’s goals.
- Plan ahead so that you arrive on time, as the attorney may not be able to extend the meeting to make up for the amount of time you’re late. This may result in your really not getting the information you need.
- Bring a simple summary of your financial information: a list of assets, liabilities, and income available to the family (if you have a financial advisor, have them help you put this together). You don’t need to bring bank statements, etc., for this meeting, but if you have a pre-marital or post-marital agreement, you should bring an executed copy of that.
- If you or your spouse has filed pleadings in a divorce, you should bring a copy of those documents.
- If you’re the beneficiary of a trust, you should bring a copy of the trust if possible.
If you take the time to prepare as set out above, you should have a good, productive meeting with the attorney and be prepared to take next steps to reach your goals–whether that is pursuing the divorce, or working on the marriage with a renewed perspective on what divorce might look like for you.
About the Author
Larry Hance is managing partner and founder of the Dallas law firm Hance Law Group. With more than 35 years of experience in family law, Mr. Hance uses his experience with the legal system, judges and other lawyers to help clients achieve the best possible results.