To be well prepared for a divorce consultation:
- Identify your goals
- Write a summary of the case
- Prepare a list of questions
- Bring along a few important documents
- Be truthful, open, and stick to facts
Experienced and reputed divorce attorneys offer one free legal consultation to a potential client. Typically, a divorce consultation is a sales session that lasts about 20 minutes, and it can help you decide if the attorney is efficient enough to handle your case. So, as the time is of the essence, you need to be well-prepared and know what exactly to ask – and to be well-prepared, you need to:
1. Identify Your Goals
Determining your divorce goals depends on the circumstances of your case, and depending on what is going on around you, you need to prioritize things. Here is a list of common goals you can pick and choose from:
- To focus on immediate closure because you have been in an abusive marriage
- To save your children’s mental health from harm by keeping them away from divorce-related acrimony, and provide them the same standard of living that they enjoyed during the marriage period
- To get primary child custody
- To get at least $ ____as child support (based on your estimate), in case you are chosen as the custodial parent
- To ensure that the other parent shares the responsibility of raising the kids and pays adequate attention to all their physical and emotional needs
- To ensure that the other parent is supervised or denied child custody because he/she is not an ideal parent
- To live in a home that has the conveniences and space that your marital home did
- To at least maintain the same standard of living that you enjoyed during the marriage period
- To be financially secure
- To get a fair share of the marital property and ensure that your separate property stays separate
- To get a settlement amount that will help secure your future
- To resolve the divorce in a dignified manner, irrespective of what has happened in the past
- To make your spouse pay for the lying, cheating, or abuse that he/she indulged in during the marriage
And so on. Prioritize your goals and state them briefly when the consultation begins so that your attorney is aware of the outcome you desire.
2. Write A Summary
Summarize your divorce case and include basic details such as names of spouses and children, employment details of spouses, monthly income of the family, phone numbers, SSNs, email IDs, ages/dates of birth, children from a prior marriage, and the date on which you or your spouse physically separated. Also, write (briefly) why the marriage did not work.
This summary helps your divorce attorney become aware of all the parties (including the children) involved and the complications that led to the divorce. You can explain the details verbally during the consultation if time permits. Once the attorney is aware of your goals and has the case summary, he/she will be in a better position to guide you throughout the divorce process.
3. Prepare A List Of Questions
You can ask a few questions related to your case. Here are a few examples for you to pick and choose from:
- Who will handle your case? What are the firm’s processes?
- How will key developments be communicated to you?
- Can you contact your lawyer on a 24/7 basis?
- How much alimony can you expect to get?
- Can you get primary child custody?
- How much child support will you receive or have to share with the other parent?
- Will you get a 50/50 share of the marital property despite the laws followed by your state?
- Do you need a forensic accountant to discover hidden assets?
- How long will your divorce case take?
- What kind of settlement are you looking at?
Write down the questions as they apply to your situation.
4. Bring Along A Few Important Documents
Remember that there is not much you can discuss in a legal meeting that lasts about 20 minutes. So, chances are high that your documents will not be examined by the lawyer during the divorce consultation. In any case, keep the following documents handy:
- Marital property and debt documents
- Separate property documents
- IRS tax returns
- Bank statements
- Prenuptial agreement, if one exists
- SSNs, passports, children’s birth certificates
5. Be Truthful, Open, And Stick To Facts
Finally, be honest and straightforward during the consultation. Do not spin facts to turn them in your favor – just state the facts and leave their interpretation to your attorney. Also, be frank about what outcome you desire from the divorce, and be open if the attorney says that the law may not grant your wishes.
Typically, the consultation will help you judge the attorney’s experience and effectiveness, based on which you may decide to hire him/her.