Maybe you’re considering divorce, or maybe your spouse has already started down that road. You’ve identified one or more attorneys that you plan to interview so you can decide who will be the best fit for your situation. Now what?
One of the most important things you can bring to your initial consultation is a list of questions. These could be questions about the attorney’s experience and philosophy, questions about the process or questions about the outcome you are hoping to achieve. Keep in mind that the attorney’s job is not to answer all of your “substantive” questions in the first meeting, but rather to help you identify all of the questions that need to be asked and answered during the course of your case.
If you have filed or have been served with court paperwork or if your spouse has presented you with a proposal or other summary of their position, please bring these documents with you as well. It will be easier for an attorney to evaluate your options and recommend a course of action based on what one or both parties is requesting rather than speculating on what their positions might be.
At some point, our attorney will need to obtain a great deal of information from you, but you don’t have to gather it all prior to the first consultation. At a minimum, it would be helpful to have a summary/spreadsheet of information regarding household income and expenses (especially expenses related to common children, such as child care and health insurance) as well as a summary/spreadsheet of the parties’ property/assets (e.g. house, retirement accounts, bank accounts, investment accounts, vehicles) and obligations/debts (e.g. mortgage, credit cards, personal loans, lines of credit).
What shouldn’t I bring?
If you have children, please do not bring them to a meeting with your attorney. It would be inappropriate to speak about the other parent or about the divorce process in front of your child, and it is difficult to communicate clearly if you are speaking “in code” so as not to allow your child to overhear this information. You cannot focus on what the lawyer is asking or explaining if you are tending to your child or trying to keep them from disturbing the attorney’s office. Law firm staff cannot supervise your child while you are in the meeting. If you must bring a child, please bring another adult who can supervise the child outside of the meeting.
The selection of an attorney is a very personal choice, and you must feel comfortable with the person you will hire. With a little advance preparation, you can make the most of your initial consultation.