Choosing the right divorce lawyer for you is an important step in the divorce process. The first meeting is important, but can be a very stressful step.
Prepare to Build a Relationship
Communication is key when building an attorney-client relationship. Make sure you feel very comfortable and secure in that relationship. If you have doubts or something doesn’t feel right, you should check with other attorneys. Your divorce lawyer wants to help you through this difficult process, but that also depends on you providing all the relevant information that is required for them to properly assess the situation within a legal context.
Being candid will help prevent problems in the future and will give your attorney the opportunity to plan in advance how to deal with an unfavorable fact. Lack of preparation may result in you looking unnecessarily bad to a judge, and that may cost you.
Discuss Your Hopes and Desires
Outline what you want at the conclusion of the divorce proceeding and bring it up with your attorney. It may be impossible to know your exact expectations prior to your consultation, so this list may not be all-inclusive. However, it is important to convey to the attorney your current expectations regarding the division of marital assets, custody, and parenting time. For example: school costs, transportation needs, insurance, job training, retirement plans, debts to pay, housing, etc. Think about your long-term needs and wishes.
Bring a List of Questions
Writing down your questions is one of the best things that you can do to prepare for your meeting. Divorce matters can feel overwhelming and may be emotional, which can lead you to forget to ask important questions that you might want to discuss. Bringing a list will also help you streamline your concerns by keeping you on track so that you can make the most out of your consultation. Here are some questions you might want to consider:
How can I resolve custody issues?
How can I protect money in shared accounts?
What are my legal rights?
Can I resolve my legal matter through mediation or negotiation?
What are the next steps I should take?
Is there anything that I should not do?
Are my expectations realistic?
What will my costs be?
How long does this process take?
Don’t be afraid to ask your questions or be honest. Everything you tell your divorce lawyer is protected by confidentiality and attorney-client privilege. This means that your lawyer cannot share your information with anyone else.
Bring Available Financial Documents
Before getting a divorce, you need to understand your family’s assets and debts. Your lawyer will use this information to help you decide what your ideal settlement would look like. For instance, bring copies of:
Bank statements from each account in either spouse’s name (joint or individual)
401k, Pension, and IRA statements
Social Security or Veterans Administration benefit statements
Pay stubs for both spouses’ income
Tax returns, W-2s, and 1099s for at least the last three years
Property deeds or leases
Wills or estate planning documents
Loan statements (including car loans, student loans, and credit cards)
Balances of any other debts such as medical billing, personal loans, or utility payments
Lists of any important or valuable personal property (such as collectibles, guns, jewelry, etc.)
While it is helpful if you have this information when you first meet with your lawyer, it is not required to have it all at the introductory stages of the process.