How to Prepare for, and What to Expect from, an Initial Consultation with a Family Law or Divorce Attorney.
Why an initial consultation?
People make an initial consultation with a family law attorney for many different reasons. Some folks, who are not ready to divorce, meet with a family law attorney simply to help better evaluate all of their options. Others, whose marriages have been troubled for a long time, may be thinking about calling it quits, and want to know the legal implications of doing so. Or it could be that a parent is concerned about how his/her dysfunctional marriage affects the children and their emotional well-being, and wonders whether divorce would be a better option than continued conflict.
Regardless of the reason, everyone needs information, direction and advice about their situation. But, where to start? What is the first step for a divorce or other family law issue?
What is an initial consultation?
How to schedule your initial consultation.
The first step is to contact a family law attorney for an initial consultation. An initial consultation is the first meeting you have with an attorney you are interested in hiring to represent you. Scheduling an initial consultation does not mean you are beginning a divorce. Rather, you are collecting information to help you decide which attorney – if any – you will need to hire. Most family law attorneys give free, or reduced-cost, initial consultations. You can call or email their office to request an appointment.
While making your appointment, the attorney’s office will likely ask for your full name and your spouse’s full name (or the other person’s full name) so that a conflicts check can be run. Knowing that confidentiality is extremely important, attorneys often ask for this information to ensure that no one at their office has communicated with your spouse in the past and that no one will in the future.
How many initial consultations should I schedule?
There is no set number that I could recommend. You may find your attorney during your first consultation or at your fifth. As a reference point, many of my clients report they met one to three attorneys before choosing to hire.
What happens during an initial consultation? What should I expect?
Each attorney has their own individual style of conducting an initial consultation, so I encourage you to ask the attorneys you plan to interview:
- What do I need to bring to the consult?
- How long does the initial consultation last?
- What topics are covered in the initial consultation?
Let’s look at my typical initial divorce consultation as an example:
- When making the appointment, I reassure the you that you don’t need to bring anything to the meeting. Just yourself, and that can be hard enough sometimes!
- The consultation lasts about an hour. So, plan to arrive five or ten minutes prior to our meeting, and budget drive time in addition to our meeting time.
- During the consultation, I will begin by finding out about you and your family. With this information, I can discuss basic process options (negotiation, mediation, Collaborative Law and litigation) that may be appropriate, and give you an overview about how the big issues in your case (i.e., kids, support and property/debt) are often handled. I also talk about attorney’s fees, and answer any specific questions that you may have. Finally, I leave my prospective clients with a packet, which is full of helpful additional information and resources. I also answer any follow-up phone calls or emails (for free), if you need a little additional guidance.
Tips for your initial consultation
Scheduling and meeting with an attorney for the first time can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. After reading this article, you already know more about initial consultations than you did ten minutes ago!
Also, please remember that many attorneys have chosen their profession so that they can help people – just like you – successfully navigate the legal system.
I have developed a free downloadable and printable kit for initial consultations called “Find the Best Divorce Attorney for You ”. It is also helpful for finding family law attorney to represent you for many matters in addition to divorce.
Find the Best Divorce Attorney for You:
Here’s what you’ll find in the kit:
- An instruction sheet for how to use the kit
- An excerpt from the award-winning book Marriages End. Families Don’t. Divorce Wisely. The essential guidebook to navigate the process of divorce. specifically addressing how you can find your best attorney match.
- An Attorney Evaluation Worksheet: A worksheet that can be used to prepare for the initial consultation, track information provided at the initial consultation, and evaluate the attorney or law firm. This includes a list questions to ask the attorney, checklists and fill-in-the blanks for notes during the meeting, and a rating scale for the attorney and the law firm.
- Access to my monthly/semi-monthly newsletter The Wise Word, where I provide additional information, my best blogs, free downloads, notice of educational events, and more.