Meeting with a family law attorney doesn’t have to be unpleasant and stressful. The more you know about what to expect at the initial consultation, the more comfortable and prepared you’ll be for it.
The goal of the initial consultation is to identify the issues in your case, discuss your objectives, and help you make a plan to best reach your goals. An initial consultation will last about an hour and a half. Given that we provide information and advice during this time, we charge a modest fee for the consultation. Before the meeting, think about how you will explain why your marriage is in trouble. You may draw comfort from the fact that we are used to hearing about a couple’s private affairs. You should also review your financial records so you can provide information about your and your spouse’s incomes, expenses, assets, and debts. If you have children, we will inquire about their ages, schools, particular health issues, and how they’re coping with the marital strife or separation. If a court case has already been initiated, you should bring all the court papers you have received in the case. They will help us understand the nature of the issues in your case and pinpoint the posture of the litigation.
After obtaining this information, we can identify and assess the relevant issues. They might include whether alimony will be a factor, what is to become of your assets, how retirement and investment accounts may be divided, a range of possible child custody arrangements, and the appropriate amount of child support. We may also recommend that you consult with other professionals, such as an appraiser to value assets, a forensic accountant to look for unreported income or hidden assets, a health care professional to evaluate custody issues, or a vocational counselor to assess your or your spouse’s employability or earning capacity.
We will also discuss your objectives and offer our thoughts about possible outcomes in your case. Depending on the degree of cooperation or level of acrimony between you and your spouse, or whether there is a reason to seek emergency relief from a court, we may recommend immediately filing for divorce, referring you and your spouse to a mediator, or engaging us to prepare a comprehensive settlement agreement. Finally, we will also discuss our fees, billing practices, retainer policy and estimate the cost of our representation. These will vary depending on what course of action you choose to take.
If we have done our job, you will walk away from the initial consultation with an understanding of the issues facing you, the process of resolving those issues, and the range of possible outcomes. Hopefully, getting this information will reduce your anxiety about what to expect.