What to Expect During a Divorce Consultation
If you’re thinking about divorce, the thought of telling details about your marriage and finances to an attorney is frightening. That’s why it’s important to know what to expect when you walk into a family law office and begin what can be one of the hardest and most emotional experiences of your life.
Be sure to do your research. Your next step afterward is to make an appointment for the initial divorce consultation with a reputable, trusted family law attorney.
When you call to schedule your appointment, an attorney assistant will ask for personal information that will help the attorney during the consultation, such as name, spouse’s name, address, marriage date, family information, basic financial information and other pertinent questions necessary for the initial consultation.
Another reason why the personal information is needed is to make sure the firm does not have any conflict of interests with your divorce. Please note that if a conflict does exist, the firm is not able to tell you what the conflict is due to ethical rules.
You’ll also be asked to bring the following information to the meeting:
- Details of real estate owned;
- Details about retirement accounts;
- Details of checking and/or savings accounts;
- Vehicle information;
- Details of stocks owned;
- Details of money market accounts;
- Details of other investments;
- Information about family income;
- Information regarding children and their needs;
- Information about insurance coverage and family medical needs;
- And an idea of when assets were acquired, before or after the marriage, their approximate value, especially if they existed before the marriage, and approximate value to date.
Be prepared to let the attorney know why you are considering divorce. Some lawyers may talk about it before you go over the technical, monetary and family information; others might wait until after. Either way, be prepared for the attorney to take all the provided information and calculate the appropriate guidelines for spousal and child support for illustrative purposes. Those guidelines will not always be the actual entire amount received/paid as the information is not definitive until verified by either a third source or the court.
Realistically, a thorough consultation will take at least 90 minutes, allowing the attorney and potential client to discuss the issues surrounding the divorce and the choices moving forward.
Clients going through a divorce usually have two options:
- Draft a settlement agreement in the form of a separation agreement, where terms are outlined; or
- Proceed with a contested divorce, which is any divorce filed with the court without an agreement of terms.
The uncontested divorce will generally be less emotionally and financially draining for the divorcing couple and their children if any.
A trusted, knowledgeable and empathetic attorney will go through a primer on the law in a consultation so that the potential client will best understand what will happen in front of a judge during a trial. This discussion will help determine the results they should expect even if the decision is made to draft a separation agreement.
During that initial consultation, the attorney will go through your different options, how the court will proceed with equitably distributing property and investments, child custody and visitation, among other issues.
It’s always advisable for the client to take notes during the consultation. There is a lot of information to process. Questions or subjects may get lost in the shuffle.
Experienced attorneys will also know if the time isn’t right for the divorce to proceed. Sometimes the attorney will suggest marriage counseling. It’s best to have a lawyer who is honest about your situation, leaving no stone unturned and no question unanswered. The attorney should already be strategizing the best way to handle your situation from the initial consultation, so working together is essential from that first meeting.
Finally, the attorney will quote a retainer – the estimated money it will take the attorney to commence the divorce. Remember, the retainer rarely covers the full cost but is the attorney’s best guideline as to how much will sustain representation for a good period. It will also convey the cost involved in a divorce.
Remember, your relationship with your attorney during a divorce is extremely important. Sometimes your attorney will tell you things you do not want to hear, so it is important that you have a good rapport with him or her so you trust what he or she is telling you. If this relationship does not exist, you will always question the result even if it was better than expected.
The family law attorneys at Mahoney & Richmond, PLLC have decades of experience fighting for our clients and their needs; M&R Law and its team of support professionals work with family law issues every day, it’s our chosen area of the law.