When ending a marriage, in most cases people wind up hiring a divorce attorney. The Do-It-Yourself approach is easier and more accessible than ever, but it’s often in your best interest to have representation. This means at some point you’ll schedule an initial consultation with a divorce lawyer.
These meetings often feel intimidating or overwhelming. Divorce tends to make emotions run high, and people don’t always think clearly in these situations. But it’s an important step to finding the best divorce lawyer for your case. In order to make the most of your initial consultation, here are a few tips to help you prepare.
1. Collect Personal Information
This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how often it slips people’s minds. There’s a lot going on, and a lot to worry about, so sometimes the small things fall through the cracks. But during your initial consultation, a divorce lawyer needs all of the basic information regarding your case.
This runs the gamut.
- It means basic information for you and your spouse:
- phone numbers, and
- place of employment,
- Social Security numbers,
- birthdays, and more.
- You should collect:
- recent tax documents for the last few years,
- as well as bank statements,
- credit card accounts, and the like.
- A potential divorce lawyer needs information:
- about your finances,
- living situation,
- and children.
Basically, if it’s important, (or think it could be) to your case, bring it along.
2. Make a List of Questions
Divorce has an air of mystery around it. As such, you’ll probably come up with a laundry list of questions. Write them down and make sure you bring them up during the initial consultation with your divorce lawyer. These can be either big picture questions or specific issues that pertain to your case.
The cost of divorce and how long the process takes are examples of common questions. It’s important to have an idea of the financial investment as well as a general time frame.
But be warned, both of those depend a great deal on the specifics of your situation and vary case to case. The more complex and contentious, the more expensive and time-consuming.
Your initial consultation is also the time to address any other concerns. You can discuss child custody, the division of property and debts, and more. If you worry about retaining assets acquired before the marriage or keeping interest in a shared business, bring up these topics.
Talking to a divorce attorney during the initial consultation often takes some of the mystery out of the process. This can alleviate stress and help give you a clearer picture of what to expect in the days to come.
3. Know What You Want Out Of Divorce
Your lawyer can’t help you if he or she doesn’t know what you want out of your divorce. It’s important to give this serious thought ahead of time.
Maybe you just want it to be over and done with. That’s fine. But since divorce often has a huge impact on your life moving forward, really spend some time figuring this out.
- If you have a significant amount of shared property, think about how you’d like to divide it. Do you want the marital home, a specific car, or a cherished piece of furniture?
- When you have kids, consider what you want the parenting plan to look like. Do you want full child custody or regular visitation or is once in awhile good enough? Knowing what you want helps attorneys plan the best strategy for your divorce.
The initial consultation gives you the chance to get your questions answered. It provides an opportunity to make sure that a divorce lawyer is a good fit for you and your case. An initial consultation doesn’t mean you’ve hired a particular attorney or that you’re under any obligation to retain his or her services.