Your first meeting with a divorce attorney can be a great a source of comfort, despite the often overwhelming emotional and logistical hurdles that most decisions to divorce might bring about. There are several things you can do to make your first meeting the most productive and efficient use of your time and money.
First, don’t necessarily choose a lawyer just because he or she offers a free consultation. The most experienced divorce lawyers and law firms usually do not offer free consultations, and often you get what you pay for. Spending a few hundred dollars on a consultation now can save you thousands in bad decisions and bad representation later. Consider it an investment, not an expense.
Second, pick an experienced attorney that specializes in Family Law. A Certified Matrimonial Law attorney may also add a level of comfort and expertise. There is no reason to trust your unique circumstance to a general practitioner.
Third, gather some important documents. While bringing a shopping bag or briefcase of paperwork to that first meeting is not productive, several key documents can be very helpful. If there are any court orders or “pleadings” that have already been filed or signed by a Judge, those are essential. In addition, a recent tax return or two as well as W-2’s, 1099’s, and a current bank and investment account statement are all informative. This will give your attorney a “snapshot” of what your financial picture might be. Copies of these things are fine, we do not need originals, so you can make a copy a put the original back in the home or your personal files so it does not appear “missing.”
Third, think about bringing a friend. While there are issues of attorney-client privilege that have to be carefully discussed when bringing a third party into the room, the emotion and sheer volume of the information you will receive at the consultation may make it beneficial to have another set of ears in the room. A trusted friend or family member may be source of help or comfort, and a voice of reason.
Fourth, if you are sure you are going to proceed with a divorce, think about opening a new email account just for the purposes of communication with your attorney and divorce related emails. This way no one can obtain access to the information and you can easily identify urgent or important communication. Also think about a private mailbox or post office box for the same reason, especially if you continue to share a residence with your spouse.
Finally, prepare questions and bring an open mind. Write down your questions regarding the process, possible outcomes, costs, and options. Define your priorities so that we know what is most important to you. And listen to the answers carefully. You are paying for experienced legal advice, and the opinions offered in response to the questions will help to focus time and energy on the things that matter.
The consultation is designed to help eliminate the fear of the “unknown” and define the path ahead. You will have lots of decisions to make and resolutions cannot be found in an hour meeting, but we can certainly give you the knowledge and information to move ahead confidently.