09 Jul How to Prepare for an Initial Consultation with a Divorce Attorney
Divorce is not often a comfortable topic of conversation for many people. In fact, letting others know that things are not all right in paradise can be revealing and leave people feeling exposed. Privacy and confidentiality are of the utmost importance to you, and if your attorney values your business, he or she will do whatever it takes to maintain that confidence.
In keeping with confidentiality, when you call your divorce attorney, the receptionist or attorney will often ask your name and contact information before they get drawn into conversation with you. This is normal and done to protect clients. The last thing you want to do is find out that you spilled the beans to an attorney your soon-to-be-former spouse already called and hired. Obviously, you both cannot have the same lawyer—it would be a conflict of interest. Don’t be shy when he asks for your name—the privacy of other clients are just as important as yours and the attorney will do everything to make sure private information stays under wraps.
When you arrive, expect a comfortable environment. A visit to a lawyer’s office stands in high contrast to a visit to a doctor’s office. There will not be a room full of people, and no one is going to open a door and summon you with a loud, booming voice, stating the reason you are there. Divorce attorneys attempt to keep waiting times to a minimum; they do not wish to run the risk of having two clients, especially new clients, being in the same room at the same time.
People do not often bring anything with them during their initial consultation. Items of interest are often gathered during the pendency period of the case. However bringing relevant items to this first meeting might save time and effort later. Consider bringing recent tax returns, pay stubs, and bank statements you may have within arms’ reach.
Your initial consultation with an attorney will cover five distinct topics, if applicable.
– What to expect from the divorce process
– How a divorce takes minor children into consideration
– The division of your net worth, both assets and liabilities
– Monetary support—alimony (spousal support) and child support
– The compensation of the attorney (attorney’s fees and costs)
The real skill of a lawyer is comparable to a choreographer. This is the person who will provide you with a plan of action to get you from where you are to where you want to be. Truth be told, your attorney will need access to all sorts of private information in order to do this. Any information you withhold is akin to tying their hands. Every detail is important, even if it seems small and irrelevant.
If your lawyer is prepared, one of the first things he or she will do is hand you a questionnaire. This is all part of the information-gathering process. The more he or she knows, the better equipped they will be to handle your case. Don’t be surprised if the questionnaire spans over 30 pages in length.
The attorney will only move to gather information if you already hired him. As you answer the questions, remember that the attorney-client privilege protects anything and everything you write down. This means that an attorney cannot and will not repeat any information to anyone, unless someone’s life or safety is in immediate danger—which is usually not the case.
The first part of the questionnaire relates to hard facts—names, addresses, social security numbers, birthdates and places of birth, and family relationships. The hard facts of family relationships define how the family is related, like who is married to whom, who are the parents of the children, etc. This is possibly the most important of all information. It helps the attorney make sense of the events that led to a divorce decision. The contact details for everyone will also be gathered.
The next heading on your questionnaire might pertain to your history. The details of your current marriage and any prior marriages are all relevant, including location of marriage ceremony and dates. Next, the questionnaire will ask about any children and how they play a role throughout the entire process. The most drawn out portion will be your assets and liabilities. Every record that has any money amount on it is relevant; bills, timeshares, income property, etc. Your attorney will use every bit of information you provide to get a handle on your situation.