Going through a divorce or custody battle is difficult enough. But it can be even more stressful if you don’t know what to expect at a consultation with a family law attorney. And as the saying goes, ‘fore-warned is fore-armed’. Knowing what to expect will enable you to hire the best attorney to represent your case. Feel more confident at your first meeting with our tips on what to expect at a consultation with a family law attorney.
Your first meeting with a family law attorney is what lawyers refer to as an initial consultation. Most attorneys will charge a fee for this first meeting. It can be their hourly rate, a reduced rate, or sometimes a flat fee.
Some attorneys will offer free consultations. While this may seem like an attractive option, ‘you get what you pay for’ is a common saying for a reason. If an offer seems too good to be true, it just might be. Free consultations can sometimes be a red flag, but this is not always the case. So be sure to check your attorney’s reviews and record to make sure they are the right attorney for you.
Your attorney will also discuss how their fees work, to include how and when you will need to pay these fees. Some lawyers will require that you pay a retainer. This fee secures your lawyers services in advance of them representing your case. Your attorney should also come prepared to discuss any other potential expenses that may be outside their ability to control. This might include court and filing fees.
Next on our list of what to expect at a consultation with a family law attorney is documentation. There may be important documents your attorney will need to review as part of your first meeting. This may include tax returns, any pre- or post-nuptial agreements, bank and credit card statements and recent pay stubs. If your case involves child support or an existing child custody agreement, your lawyer will want to review those documents as well. There may be court orders, summons, or other official documents they may need to review as well.
You may also need to bring copies of any contact you have had with the other party or their attorney. Keeping a record of all contact can help your lawyer in preparing your defense strategy.
This documentation may not be necessary at the first consultation. However, it can save you a lot of time if you ask ahead of time to see what documents, if any, you should bring with you.
A first consultation serves two primary purposes.
Allow the client to determine if they would like to hire this attorney to represent their case, and;
Allow the attorney to determine if they would like to take the case.
To determine this, you will need to discuss the facts of your case. This process helps your attorney identify potential issues, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of your case. Potential issues might be matters of jurisdiction and where you will need to file. The strengths and weaknesses of your case are what lawyers refer to as the ‘merits’ of your case. These are facts that can either help or hurt your chances of a favorable outcome. This will help your attorney decide if you should seek the services of another attorney, or what strategy to take when representing you. Your answers will also help your attorney determine the merits of your case. ‘Merits’ refers to the pros and cons, or more specifically, the facts that can help or hurt your case.
Open and Honest Communication
At Illaraza Law we understand that such pointed questions can feel invasive. You may feel tempted to hold back on some private matters until you are more familiar with your lawyer.
Please know that it is not our intention to pry. Your answers can have a significant impact on your chances of a favorable outcome.
It is true that an experienced attorney can roll with any unexpected developments in a case. However, being completely truthful at this step in the process can only help you. To prepare an appropriate strategy your attorney will need to understand the full scope of your case, and that may mean opening up about topics you find difficult to discuss.
If you are ever unsure of how the question relates to your case, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Your attorney should be able to explain why this information matters and how it can impact your outcome. Remember, this meeting and any information you share is confidential. This information cannot be shared with anyone else except under very specific circumstances. If your situation is one of those rare situations, your lawyer will explain this to you.
Education and Empowerment
Your attorney will also review your rights and what outcomes you might be able to expect. They should be open and honest with you about your next steps and which outcomes are most likely. Unfortunately, you may not like the answers you get but you should leave knowing your rights and feeling empowered to take the next step.
Illaraza Law Can Help
We know that divorce is a difficult process that will bring up a lot of different emotions for you and your family. We strive to understand the wants and needs of our clients to better serve your interests. We do our best to settle divorce and family disputes through mediation and by encouraging cooperation. This helps reduce both the financial and emotional cost of divorce proceedings. Mediation also puts the power to choose in the hands of the client. However, we understand that mediation is not always possible. When litigation is necessary, you can rest assured we will help reduce the stress and strain on your family. We will assert your rights and fight for the best possible outcome, even in the most adversarial of cases.