What to Expect When Divorcing: The Initial Consultation
Divorce can be an extremely stressful experience, but often the best way to stay calm is by preparing yourself with as much information as possible. When first setting up an initial consultation with a divorce attorney, a staff member from the attorney’s office will need to run a “conflict check” to ensure that there is no pre-existing reason that would prevent that attorney from representing you in your family law matter. If there are no conflicts, you will be contacted to set up an appointment for an initial consultation.
At an initial consultation, you should be prepared to discuss the circumstances of your case. This part of the process is simply a conversation between you and a potential attorney. You should be the one doing the majority of the talking at the initial consultation, and the attorney should be listening to you, and taking notes. The attorney will also be asking you questions to make sure they have all of the necessary information about your circumstances.
The attorney will first need to gather your basic contact information, such as your cell phone number, home address and email address, as well as background information, such as your date of marriage, the names and ages of children, both spouses’ employment information, and incomes, assets and liabilities. Your assets include accounts, retirement accounts, vehicles, stocks or bonds, collections, etc., while your liabilities would include mortgages, credit card debt, student loans, etc. You should be prepared to discuss these issues and have knowledge of approximate account balances and income information. The attorney will also ask whether you had a prenuptial agreement, whether either party had any premarital assets and whether either party received an inheritance during the marriage.
The attorney should next discuss with you the potential issues that they foresee may be present in your case, including custody and parenting time, as well as the financial aspects of a divorce, such as alimony, child support, college expenses, equitable distribution of bank accounts, liabilities, real estate, etc. They should also discuss with you whether he or she believes that any expert witnesses may be necessary.
The attorney should also discuss the different forms of Alternate Dispute Resolution, which are methods of resolving your divorce through mediation, arbitration or collaborative divorce. The attorney should also discuss with you the pros and cons of each of these methods as compared to traditional divorce litigation. They should also be able to explain the court’s procedures and timeline if traditional litigation is pursued.
Finally, the attorney should discuss with you the financial arrangements required, should you choose to retain that attorney. You should know how you will be charged for the attorney’s services, their hourly rates, the amount of the initial retainer that will be required, and how often you will be billed.
Most importantly, you should feel comfortable with your attorney and share a common view toward your case. It is absolutely necessary that you and your attorney are on the same page with respect to your goals of the divorce case. Your attorney should be honest and frank with you regarding your chances of realistically obtaining your goals, as unrealistic expectations are one of the main reasons for protracted divorce litigation.