It can be difficult to take the first step when you decide to divorce your spouse. Scheduling the initial divorce consultations with a family law attorney will help you to understand the divorce process, what information you will need to gather, and the fee structure for your divorce lawyer. Bring a list of questions to your initial consult in order to be prepared for the time you have and read below to learn more about what happens in a consultation with divorce attorney:
What Should Happen at the First Meeting?
Once you decide to hire an attorney, you’ll sign an agreement that details the attorney and the client’s expectations. A retainer agreement should layout cost, billing procedures, and details about who will work on your case. For example, lawyers may have a team of associates and paralegals researching or filing documents in your case in large law firms. At the same time, the attorney may only appear in court on your behalf. However, in small law firms, your lawyer may be your only point of contact throughout the entire case. Once you have a contract, you’ll schedule your first meeting with your lawyer. What happens at your first meeting depends on what’s happening in your divorce case.
In some cases, clients hire lawyers after filing for divorce (or receiving divorce papers). In other cases, the spouses have already agreed to a divorce and pledged to use a collaborative divorce process rather than all-out “litigation” (meaning fighting it out in court). Finally, some clients face an emergency—their spouse may be draining bank accounts in anticipation of the divorce, or they may be the victim of domestic violence and need immediate protection from a court. The client’s circumstances control the initial conversation and the steps the attorney will take after the first meeting.
Typically, a client comes in with general questions about an impending or recently-filed divorce. Most lawyers will review the various divorce processes available (collaborative law, divorce mediation, or litigation) and describe the steps for each. From there, you and your lawyer can decide what steps to take next.
The attorney needs to get to know the client as a person and learn as much as possible about the client’s spouse and children (if any). You should expect the attorney to request a detailed client information sheet, which contains all the necessary information an attorney needs without extra phone calls or emails to the client. Because the attorney depends on the accuracy of the information you provide, it’s important to answer the attorney’s questions and questionnaires honestly and completely. An attorney should try to understand the client’s psychological and financial situation to make any necessary referrals to psychotherapists, divorce coaches, estate attorneys, or financial planners for specialized advice.
Many divorce attorneys work closely with other professionals to ensure the client doesn’t have any unanswered divorce-related questions. Remember, an attorney cannot act as a tax advisor or a psychologist, for example, so it’s essential that divorcing spouses hire the right professionals and keep their attorneys informed.
Review relevant divorce-related issues
It’s impossible to predict exactly what will “happen” in a divorce, but it’s best to address all the major issues that may come up, such as
- custody of any minor children
- child support
- alimony—whether either spouse should pay and if so, how much and for how long, and
- division of property and debts.
At the end of the first meeting, clients generally leave with homework, which includes learning as much as possible about the couple’s finances in terms of assets, liabilities, and ongoing expenses. In many marriages, only one spouse is in charge of the finances. However, before a judge can finalize a divorce, both spouses need to have a complete understanding of the couple’s incomes, assets, and debts. If you can provide the details about your finances at the first meeting with your new lawyer, the meeting will be much more productive.
Is the Meeting Confidential?
Yes. Sometimes, spouses aren’t completely sure that they want a divorce but want to know what they can expect if they go forward. The law protects all attorney-client communications, and a client’s right to privacy is absolute, so divorce clients shouldn’t have to worry about their spouses finding out.
Affordable Family Lawyer in Houston, TX
Our team proudly serves the Greater Houston area, including but not limited to Brazos County, Cypress, Fort Bend County, Galveston, Houston Heights, Houston, Humble, Katy, Kingwood, Memorial Houston, Montgomery County, Montrose, Richmond, Rosenberg, Spring, The Woodlands. All marriages are different, making each divorce equally unique with its own set of needs that must be addressed. Contact our law office to explore your options moving forward, and find out how we can help you.