What to Expect in an Initial Consultation with a Divorce Lawyer
More often than not, deciding to end a marriage is accompanied by significant stress and other hardships. From serving divorce papers to hiring a divorce attorney to opening separate bank accounts in your name, filing for divorce can feel like a never-ending list of chores.
Fortunately, hiring the right family lawyer can make all the difference. It’s important to do your due diligence when interviewing potential family lawyers, as a qualified legal advocate can help take some of the stressful items off your plate and collaborate with you to make the divorce proceedings as quick and pain-free as possible.
Scheduling an Initial Consultation with a Divorce Attorney
All family lawyers set up initial consultations with prospective clients to determine if the attorney-client relationship is a good fit. Legal consultations are intended to accomplish the following goals:
Provide a detailed overview of pricing.
In an initial consultation, the attorney should provide a comprehensive breakdown of their pricing. Family lawyers can bill in various ways (such as flat fees, contingency fees, and hourly fees), making it all the more crucial for you to have a clear understanding of estimated costs if you choose to retain the divorce attorney’s services.
Discuss the client’s legal needs.
Initial consultations are intended to be an open conversation in which prospective clients can and should express their goals, expectations, and other preferences for legal representation in a divorce. The attorney may also invite you to share a bit about yourself (such as your marriage, employment, educational history, etc.) to get a better idea of your situation.
Discuss legal solutions and strategies.
More often than not, divorce attorneys go into initial consultations with a preferred legal strategy in mind for a client’s case. A good family lawyer will take advantage of your time during the initial consultation to discuss this with you in detail. The lawyer might recommend a certain legal approach, tell you how they intend to advocate on your behalf, or share potential solutions for your case.
Because every divorce is different and each client has unique needs (for example, divorcees with children may want to focus on child custody and visitation, whereas a childless client with high-value assets may be more concerned with finances and property division), it’s worth hearing how an attorney plans to represent you in court and how they intend to prioritize various elements of your case.
Answer the client’s questions.
It’s normal to feel anxious or overwhelmed at the thought of an initial consultation. Filing for divorce can set off a chain reaction of events that makes the process feel rushed and demanding.
Given the gravity of the decision to end a marriage (not to mention the gravity of legal expenses), it’s only natural that prospective clients have a lot of questions for a potential divorce lawyer. An initial consultation is an excellent time to get all of your questions and concerns off your chest.
Review the legal process.
While some clients may already be familiar with the divorce process, many are not. An initial consultation is an opportunity for the divorce lawyer to offer insight and provide an overview of legal processes and divorce proceedings to the client.
This will give you a better idea of what to expect when it comes to asset distribution, child custody, and other divorce-related topics.
Establish a personal relationship.
The attorney-client relationship is integral to the divorce process. While selecting a qualified divorce lawyer with adequate experience is a must, it’s also important to choose an attorney who “gets” you.
Does the relationship feel comfortable? Does the lawyer seem dependable? Divorce is often an emotional time with stressful ups and downs, making it all the more vital to find a legal advocate who is compassionate, supportive, and understanding of your needs.
5 Tips to Prepare for Your Consultation with a Family Lawyer
Preparing for a divorce can be daunting and emotionally draining. For some, setting up one or more initial consultations with a potential divorce attorney can be exhausting and anxiety-inducing, especially if you’re unsure of what to expect in your first meeting.
Choosing a family lawyer can feel like a high-stakes decision for many couples, as divorcees often feel pressure to choose the “right” legal representative to avoid kicking themselves later and/or regretting the final outcome in court.
Rest assured that initial consultations are an excellent way to regroup, recover your peace of mind, and help you feel prepared and organized for the upcoming divorce proceedings. There are several things that you can do ahead of time to prepare for your initial consultation with a potential divorce lawyer, including:
- Draft a list of questions for the attorney ahead of time. So much happens during a divorce. Many divorcees are behind on sleep while navigating an emotional rollercoaster, making it understandably easy to forget things. When preparing for an upcoming consultation, listing your questions and concerns ahead of time can restore your sense of control.
- Gather relevant documents. Bring copies of your court documents with you to an initial consultation. Additionally, you may also want to consider evidence and documentation that may be useful to your case, such as bank statements, birth certificates, marriage certificates, text message transcriptions, call histories, and other relevant information.
- Make copies of all documents beforehand. Most attorneys know it's unwise to accept original copies of documentation, and you will save yourself time and money by making copies to give to the attorney ahead of time.
- Consider bringing payment just in case. Even if you’re still on the fence about which divorce attorney to hire, you’ll likely know relatively early on in the consultation whether the lawyer is the right fit. There’s a good chance that something will “click” when you meet the right lawyer, and if this is the case, you’ll want to retain their services as quickly as possible. If you intend to retain their services with cash, make sure you visit the ATM or bank on your way to your appointment; otherwise, make sure you bring an alternate form of payment (such as a checkbook, money order, or credit/debit card).
- Prepare a written summary. While this step may be tedious, it’s crucial to the divorce process. You can save yourself and a potential lawyer time by drafting basic information that an attorney will require, such as 1) your spouse’s full name address, phone number, email, date of birth, and social security number; 2) your children’s full names, dates of birth, and social security numbers; and/or 3) you and your spouse’s employers, occupations, and annual income.
Are all legal consultations free?
No. While many California divorce lawyers do offer free initial consultations (often with a specified time restriction in place), some family law firms do not.
Why do some divorce lawyers charge for consultations?
Paid legal consultations can be a logical means to dissuade prospective clients from seeking legal advice with no intention to retain the divorce attorney’s services. While some family lawyers charge a fee for consultations, the cost is typically a small one.
Benefits of paid initial consultations include obtaining answers to specific legal questions, receiving professional legal advice, and jumpstarting the process to achieve your legal goals (such as drafting a contract and getting the ball rolling in preparation for the divorce proceedings).
100+ Years of Collective Family Law Experience
Our compassionate divorce attorneys at Burch Shepard Family Law Group are proud to serve Orange County families in need. We understand that divorce can be complex and emotional for many couples, and the last thing you need during life’s toughest seasons is the added stress of inadequate legal representation. That’s why our dedicated team is here to help guide your steps with wisdom and integrity.
With an exclusive focus on family law, our experienced divorce lawyers possess the specialized legal knowledge and skillset to advocate on your behalf in court while keeping your best interests top of mind. Divorce is a life-altering decision with lasting consequences. When it comes to building a better future, it’s essential for Californians to turn to a family law firm they can trust. We offer free initial consultations to best serve our clients in Orange County.
Filing for divorce in Orange County? It’s critical to retain legal representation to obtain a favorable outcome in court. Call (949) 565-4158 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation.