You are “pretty sure” you want a divorce but you have no idea how to get started…or maybe you do not know if a divorce is what you want at all, but you are desperate for information. Either way, you think maybe you’d better speak to a lawyer, but that idea is terrifying. How will you know what questions to ask a divorce attorney at a consultation?
Don’t worry, we’ll help you. The key is walk in prepared. If you can, take a trusted friend, family member, or seasoned professional (such as a divorce coach) with you. He/she can take notes and listen objectively on your behalf and give you valuable feedback after the meeting.
Use the list below to find out what facts you should know and what questions you should ask before, during and after a consultation with a divorce attorney.
Worried about the meeting before you even get there? Don’t be. Consider these 5 facts:
- Meeting with an attorney is simply about getting information. It does not mean you are definitely getting a divorce.
- These meetings are confidential. He/she can’t help you unless you are really honest. Remember, it’s confidential so be open and tell him/her everything you can.
- Some attorneys charge for a consultation and others do not. When you call to schedule your appointment, be sure to ask if there is a charge, and if so, how much, so you aren’t surprised.
- When you make your appointment, ask what kind of documents would be good for you to bring. Many lawyers will suggest you bring copies of past tax returns (typically the last 3 years).
- If possible, walk in knowing what your assets (what you own) and liabilities (what debts you owe) are.
It will help if you understand what will be discussed at the meeting. In general, the attorney should touch on these 5 basic themes:
- The divorce process itself
- Child custody (if applicable)
- Division of your assets
- Support (child support and/or spousal support)
- The attorney’s fees
Bring your questions. Here are 5 to get started, but be sure to add your own:
- Do you have experience with_________________ (Fill in the blank with anything unique to your situation)
- What is my worst-case scenario? Best-case scenario?
- How will you keep me informed about developments in my case?
- What is your retainer and hourly fee? Will I be notified when the retainer is almost gone? What other costs should I be aware of? And if I have no access to money directly, how can I pay?
- What is the best way to communicate with you (email or phone)?
Finally, reflect on the experience afterwards and ask yourself:
- Do you like him/her? Trust him/her? Have a good gut reaction?
- Did you walk away understanding everything you talked about?
- Did you feel like you were heard? That you got to say everything you wanted to?
- Did you get a chance to ask questions?
Think of the meeting simply as research. You are there to find out information about getting a divorce, as well as to get a sense of the divorce attorney to see if you could potentially work with him or her, should you decide to. We promise, if you walk in prepared, you’ll walk out feeling not only more knowledgeable, but more confident as well.
You may also wish to speak with a certified divorce mediator to find out if you and your spouse are good candidates for mediation. If so, the questions above are still relevant. Bear them in mind as you seek out the best information.
At SAS, we provide women with everything we wished we’d had during our own divorces — someone who had been there, someone to turn to who wouldn’t judge us, and someone who could guide us. From making all the decisions involved in a divorce to navigating the changes that come with being single again, we provide education, support, and a safe place where you can gain control and build your future.