For many people, their first meeting with a family law attorney may be the first time in their life that they have had to engage the services of a lawyer. They are already experiencing a range of emotions whether they are the one initiating or reacting to the divorce or other situation. Here are some tips for what to expect and how to make the most out of your consultation. Also, check out our blog post on what to bring with you so, you are even better prepared.
Expectation 1: Expect to tell your attorney your story
Before you go for your initial consult, think about what you want from your case. If you are getting divorced, maybe you just want to have it over. If you are fighting over custody, maybe having parenting time is more important to you then the financial issues. You have to think about what is most important to you and let your attorney know. Clearly, communication is key. The more information you can provide at your initial consultation, the more you will take away from it.
Before your initial consult, think about your goals and priorities. You alone know your perspective, family and situation. What is your philosophy? Is your top priority just to finalize the divorce and move on? Is parenting time the most important thing to you? Are there any belongings that you simply must have? Be prepared to tell your attorney what the most important things are to you. Also, be prepared to be candid and honest with your attorney about any potentially negative aspects of your case. You know the good things and the bad things that your spouse may say about you. There is confidentiality with your attorney except in very limited situations involving serious criminal intentions. Even if a situation is embarrassing or unorthodox, please inform us. We will not be judgmental. It is better for your attorney to be prepared than to be surprised in the future. It is important that we have a complete picture of your philosophy, goals, strengths and weaknesses so, we can develop an appropriate strategy to obtain your best possible life.
Expectation 2: Expect to get to know your attorney
You are the client and you need to get to know this person and see if you would like to work with them. Does the attorney limit her practice to family law? Family law is personal and emotional, but it is also financial. Your attorney needs to be able to provide with you emotional support and compassion while also providing you with fiscal advice and expertise. Ask yourself whether you would trust this person’s knowledge and skill with regards to both the emotional and financial aspects of your case. Also ask questions about the attorneys, hourly fee, expenses and engagement costs. Feel free to question your attorney about her experience, practice and ideology.
Expectation 3: Don’t expect to leave with a number
Many clients want to know exactly how much alimony/spousal support or equitable distribution (division of assets and debts) they will receive. Unfortunately, the law is not black and white. We can provide a range of possible outcomes; however, there are many factors that go into each calculation. In fact, in the same county with the same facts on the same day, different judges may order different amounts of support and different lengths of time. Therefore, your attorney will likely not be able to provide you a hard number at the initial consult stage. Even the child support guidelines, there are multiple factors including visitation, income, childcare, health insurance that are subject to negotiation in calculating the child support number by the guidelines. Your attorney will most likely not be able to tell you a hard number at the initial consultation stage so you should not expect one.
Finally, how does your attorney make you feel? Did your attorney take the time to truly understand your situation, your family and your goals? Did your attorney explain the process and answer your questions in plain English? Is your attorney focusing on their own bottom line? If you are not comfortable with the lawyer, trust your instincts.