Visiting a divorce attorney for an initial consultation can be a difficult and intimidating proposition. For some, it is the realization that their marriage may be over. For others, it is simply the discussion of such deeply personal matters with a stranger.
Nerves or trepidation aside, the main purpose of the initial consultation is to learn about the process and understand what your rights and obligations could be. The law is never black and white but has many shades of gray. A good consultation will explain the black and white and touch upon the relevant areas of gray.
The initial consultation is also important because this process lets you interview your potential counsel. Not only is it important that you find the attorney you plan to hire to be competent and best able to represent your interests, but its important that you also like your potential counsel. Sounds trivial but keep in mind that your divorce lawyer is someone who is quickly going to learn the good and the bad of you and your most personal relationship, your marriage. Secrets aren’t helpful and a level of trust is required.
So what can you do to make sure you get the most out of this initial consultation and at the same time provide counsel the relevant and important information needed? Here are some suggestions:
1. While tempting, the initial consultation may not always be the appropriate time to divulge the day to day history of your 20 year relationship with your spouse. Use the time wisely. We ask prospective clients to complete an initial questionnaire providing us with relevant information. This questionnaire serves as a road map so the important facts are not overlooked.
2. Be honest. Answer all questions honestly remembering that the answers you provide will guide the attorney’s responses.
3. Be familiar with your finances. Bring, or at least review, your last 3 tax returns, pay stubs, W-2’s, K-1’s, business tax returns (or at least know the names of business entities), and if possible, create a list of assets and debts.
4. Think about your main concerns before the meeting. Consider writing down those questions you feel you need answered before you can proceed. This will help you to get that information you are meeting with an attorney to receive.
5. Keep an open mind. Attorneys are not magicians. Not every question may be answerable at the initial consultation. Sometimes further information or research is needed. You don’t just want an answer, you want the correct answer.
6. Be prepared. Not all facts will favor your case. Part of the initial consultation is to learn the strengths and weaknesses of your position and what may lie ahead in the divorce process.
A good initial consultation will be informative and comforting. You should walk away having questions answered and armed with information that will hep you decide your next steps. The attorney should walk away with the same. As the process unfolds, more information will be revealed and/or strategy may change. Working together, you can ease the stress that divorce will surely bring.