Although the Census Bureau reported a drop in rates in 2021, divorce remains a common occurrence. The decision to file for divorce is never an easy one. Divorce can bring about a wide range of emotions and struggles for you and your family.
As one of the divorcing parties, it is natural for you to have questions and uncertainties about the legal process. What are your primary concerns?
Consulting one or more family law attorneys can help you gain clarity and understanding about your situation. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through what to expect during your first meeting.
The Importance of the Initial Consultation
During initial contact with the law firm, perhaps by making a phone call or filling out an online form, you may briefly discuss your situation with a legal assistant who can gather basic information: your name, contact details, and a brief overview of the divorce circumstances. You will then be able to pick a date and time to schedule your consultation with the divorce attorney.
The initial consultation with your divorce attorney is an opportunity to lay the groundwork for the legal proceedings. It is also a chance to get to know your attorney, discuss your situation, and outline your goals and expectations. The lawyer should also give you an idea of what to expect in the coming months and advise you on the best course of action.
This meeting helps you understand your legal options, rights, and even the entire divorce process. Additionally, you can set the tone for the future working relationship between you and the attorney.
Preparation Before the First Meeting
Before you step into your divorce attorney’s office, there are a few ways to get ready. For instance, you will have to prepare yourself to discuss the details of your divorce as well as your questions about the divorce process.
Prepare to discuss the personal details of your divorce
One of the most difficult things about your first meeting with a divorce lawyer may be expressing the struggles of your marriage to a stranger. You may have to prepare your mind and heart to discuss the details of your situation.
Prepare yourself to discuss uncomfortable topics like substance abuse, infidelity, or domestic violence. No matter how difficult it may be, be sure to tell your lawyer as much as you can; it’s important to be as honest as possible when explaining the details of your situation. Do your best to stay calm and open-minded during your first meeting with a divorce lawyer.
Remember, the divorce lawyer is ready to provide legal guidance and support. Providing him or her with as many details as possible means that the lawyer will have a better understanding of your divorce case – which is essential to developing an appropriate legal strategy.
Prepare a list of questions to ask the divorce attorney
During your initial meeting, the divorce attorney will no doubt have questions for you. You should likewise prepare a list of questions to ask the attorney. The questions should address your concerns. You should ask about issues like child support, alimony, or property division.
You should leave your consultation with a better understanding of the divorce process. And when you choose a lawyer, you should feel confident in his or her abilities.
Some examples of questions you could ask are:
- What is your legal background?
- Do you mind providing testimonials from former clients?
- Can you guide me through the Utah divorce process?
- Have you had any cases like mine, and how did they turn out?
- Can you provide an estimate of the cost of my case?
- Are there options for funding my case if I cannot afford your costs?
- Do you prefer to settle or litigate the majority of your divorce cases?
- Who will handle my divorce case, and what is best for us to stay in touch?
- How long do you think it will take to resolve my case?
- Is there anything I should think about doing or avoid doing?
- What is the best course of action if I decide to go ahead?
- Based on your initial analysis, will I be eligible to receive temporary spousal support?
- What should I think about while creating a parenting plan?
- What information should I share with others (including my ex-spouse)?
It is important to ask questions that align with your goals. Consider the outcome you want to achieve and inquire about the best way to achieve it. The decisions you make throughout the divorce process can have a long-term impact on not just you but on your children as well.
Good questions can help you prepare for possible obstacles and assess the long-term implications of divorce decisions on your family and finances. What you ask will help you make informed decisions and choose the right divorce lawyer to handle your case.
Gather relevant documentation
Aside from the questions you will ask the lawyers, there are several documents you may need to gather before your first meeting with them. For instance, you might collect records related to your marriage and finances. While you may not be required to bring this information to the initial consultation, having relevant documents ready can speed up the process.
Providing your attorney with as much information as possible will give him a better understanding of your situation. This will ensure that you receive the best advice for your unique circumstances.
Consider gathering the following documents in advance:
- Marriage certificate: Confirming the existence and date of your marriage
- Financial records: Bank statements, tax returns, pay stubs, debts, and a summary of asset values as well as who owns them
- Post-nuptial or prenuptial agreement: If you have a pre-existing legal agreement, bring a copy for review
- Documentation related to children: Original copies and photocopies of birth certificates and child custody agreements
- Communication records: Text messages and emails with your spouse that may be relevant to your case
Remember, you should not go through your spouse’s papers to find information. When coming to the meeting, only bring what you already legally have access to; avoid bringing any documents that do not belong to you.
What Happens During the First Meeting?
Your first meeting with a Utah divorce lawyer is a two-way conversation. It is an opportunity for you and your attorney to get to know each other and determine whether you are a good fit to work together.
A successful first meeting not only sets the stage for productive collaboration. It also helps you feel confident and reassured as you embark on the legal journey. A few things to expect during the initial meeting with a family lawyer are outlined below.
Introduction and sharing information
The meeting will begin with introductions. The introduction is when you will share information about your background. You will also discuss the marital challenges you are facing with the family law attorneys.
Understanding your right to confidentiality
You will discuss sensitive personal information during your initial meeting with your divorce attorney, but the attorney-client privilege protects confidential information during these discussions. This means anything you share with your attorney cannot be shared with anyone else without your consent.
Sometimes, a spouse may not be sure whether he or she wants to divorce but would like to explore prospective options. It is reassuring to know that divorce clients will not need to worry about their spouses finding out.
Do not hesitate to ask questions or voice concerns you may have about legal services. Being honest and transparent establishes trust with your divorce lawyer.
Explaining the divorce process
An experienced divorce attorney will explain how family law works in Utah and can give you an overview of divorce procedures. This includes the legal requirements, timelines, and potential outcomes of your case.
This knowledge is a valuable resource that allows you to confidently navigate the divorce process. It gives you a clear understanding of what to expect concerning court orders, filings, and mediation. You will also be prepared for trial preparations and post-divorce matters.
Discussing your goals and concerns
One of the primary objectives of your initial meeting is to discuss your expectations of and concerns about the divorce process.
For instance, your initial consultation gives you the opportunity to share your thoughts on aspects such as:
- Child custody and visitation: If you have children, you will express your desires and concerns about custody arrangements and child support
- Property division: The divorce lawyer will help you understand how Utah’s community property laws may apply to your assets and debts
- Spousal support: If applicable, you can discuss your needs and concerns related to alimony or spousal support
- Divorce process: The attorney will explain the different options for divorce (such as mediation, collaborative divorce, or litigation) and help you decide which approach is most suitable for your situation
Legal assessment and potential strategy
After an initial assessment, your attorney will outline potential legal strategies for your case. He or she can help you understand the legal aspects of your situation, including the grounds for divorce and the relevant Utah laws that apply.
Divorce mediation is where both spouses work with a neutral mediator to reach mutually agreed-upon solutions. During mediation, decisions are made on key divorce issues like child custody disputes, asset division, and spousal or child support.
Mediation aims to promote open communication and compromise, allowing the couple to maintain greater control over the final decisions. Divorce litigation, on the other hand, is where each spouse hires an attorney to represent their interests in court. A judge will make decisions on contested issues.
If your divorce lawyer believes mediation is best for your case, he or she will help prepare you for this process. On the other hand, if your case seems like it will require litigation, your lawyer will begin preparing you for what to expect in a courtroom.
Fee structure and legal costs
Some family law attorneys may offer a divorce consultation, while others may charge a fee for the first meeting. Additionally, the attorney may discuss the possibility of hourly rates, flat fees, or retainer agreements.
The fee structure is an important matter to address. Familiarizing yourself with the potential costs can help when planning your legal strategy.
Guidance on the next steps and action plan
By the end of the meeting with divorce lawyers, you should have a clear plan for the next steps. If everything is to your satisfaction, you can start proceedings with the lawyer if you choose to do so. But keep in mind that you still have the option of consulting someone else.
If you decide to hire an attorney, you will discuss the terms of the attorney-client relationship, including confidentiality and expectations from both parties. Before concluding the meeting, you will consider the next steps in handling your case.
Consider couples counseling
Divorce can be emotionally challenging. If needed, seek emotional support through counseling or therapy to help you navigate this transition.
It is important to note that counseling may not be effective or appropriate in all situations, particularly in cases of abuse or contested divorces. However, it offers a valuable opportunity to explore alternatives and improve communication. This can also make the divorce process more manageable for the family, especially when children are involved.
For couples with children, counseling can assist in developing a co-parenting plan. This ensures that both parents are on the same page regarding certain expectations for child-rearing. Such discussions can contribute to smoother co-parenting relationships after divorce.
Schedule an Initial Consultation With Brown Family Law
In summary, your attorney will outline the divorce process and provide you with an action plan, which may include these steps:
- Gathering additional documentation or evidence
- Initiating negotiations with your spouse and his or her attorney
- Preparing and filing divorce papers and other necessary legal documents
- Discussing potential timelines and milestones for your case
Going through a divorce can be emotionally and financially taxing on you and your family. At Brown Family Law, though, we understand how to navigate the emotional and legal procedures involving divorce. Our divorce attorneys strive to minimize conflict and facilitate a smooth transition for both parties.
Our law firm has experience mediating, negotiating, and litigating Utah divorce cases. We understand what you are going through and are here to help you get through this and move on with your life. Contact us or schedule a consultation if you have any questions or would like to meet with us to help you manage your family law matter.