Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney at a Consultation
You are “pretty sure” you want a divorce but you have no idea how to get started … or maybe you don’t 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 when it comes to blowing up a marriage? Or protecting your rights? How do you manage your anxiety and ask questions of a divorce attorney at a consultation?
Don’t worry, we’ll help you. The key is walk in prepared. A suggestion as well, is if you can, take a good friend, a family member, or a divorce coach with you. S/he can help you brainstorm questions in advance, go through the threshold with you, take notes and listen objectively, and afterward, give you valuable feedback on what she heard, what she noted, what she liked and did not. Before you meet with the attorney, let him/her know you’ll be bringing someone and who it is so the lawyer can discuss confidentiality with you.
As for your questions, use these here to get started. They center on what facts you should learn and what questions you should ask before, during and after a consultation with a divorce lawyer. We will also share a few thoughts with you, because we are familiar with what may be going through your head.
If you are worried about the meeting (before you even get there), 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. The lawyer can’t help you unless you are really honest. Remember, it’s confidential so be open and tell him/her everything you can.
- Most 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 documents would be good for you to bring. Many lawyers suggest you bring copies of the last 3 years of tax returns.
- 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, check out our piece “Best Advice on Custody for Divorcing Moms”.)
- Division of your assets (Check out our piece on “CommunityProperty States vs. Equitable Distribution States”.)
- Support (child support and/or spousal support)
- The attorney’s fees
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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? (For child support, spousal support, protecting my IRA, etc.)
- How will you keep me informed about developments in my case if I choose to work with you?
- 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 how to pay for divorce if I have no direct access to money?
- What is the best way to communicate with you (email or phone)?
- What are the best ways for me to keep costs down with your firm?
Finally, reflect on the experience afterwards. Ask yourself:
- Do you like him/her? Trust him/her? How did you gut react?
- Did you walk away understanding most of everything you talked about?
- Did you get a chance to ask questions?
- Did you feel like you were heard? That you got to say everything you wanted?
Think of this initial meeting simply as research. You are there to find out information about getting a divorce (or a legal separation or a post nuptial agreement), as well as getting a sense of the divorce attorney. Could you potentially work with him or her? We promise, if you walk in prepared, you’ll walk out feeling more knowledgeable and confident in yourself — and what you can do if you must.
What does the wife need to bring to the attorney after one is chosen.
/ Tax returns and???
Thank you for your question, Lisa. Okay, so you’ve made it through the interview process, you’ve evaluated the chemistry, the modus operandi of each lawyer, and how you’ve hired one. What else should you bring to that meeting besides your tax returns? We suggest a trusted friend or ally accompany you, because it’s hard to take in and understand everything that is said at these meetings. If you bring a friend, family member or divorce coach with you, you will each hear different things and be able to consult and confer later as you process the legal information. Remember it’s normal to feel triggered in these meetings. Preparing yourself for that, reminding yourself that you are the boss (and the lawyer works for you), going in with specific questions and paper to take notes, and being supported by an ally is the best way to start. Thank you for reading and good luck as you start down this path. We will be thinking of you, Lisa!
I like how you suggested asking the question about what is your worst and best case scenario. My best friend is preparing to hire a lawyer. I really appreciate your article on questions to ask a divorce attorney.
Being prepared before you go in lessens the stress. You are a good friend!
Thanks for suggesting that we ask potential divorce attorneys what their preferred communication style is. My husband and I recently decided to get a divorce, and I’m currently looking for a divorce lawyer. I want to make sure their communication preferences match my needs and expectations, so thanks for suggesting I ask them about it!
Thanks for mentioning how a divorce lawyer will keep the meeting confidential so that the client can open up and be honest about their situation. A good friend from work just mustered the courage to seek help from us for the domestic abuse that has been going on in her house. I will be sure to share this piece with her so that she can be really comfortable detailing the abuse to her lawyer.
Thank you for pointing out that you need to ask what documents you need to bring for the lawyer. My husband and I are getting a divorce after 4 years of marriage and I need to find the right attorney. I’ll have to do some research and find the best lawyer possible near me.
I think it’s a good idea to meet with an attorney prior to deciding to call off of a marriage. It’s always good to know what your options are and know that you are in a safe space to find our legal options. Thanks for the advice.
I’m glad you talked about how meetings are confidential and you should be completely honest with the attorney. I’m thinking about getting a divorce but not 100% sure. A friend suggested I go see an attorney to talk about my situation and see how I feel afterward.
I like that you said that meeting with an attorney is about getting information. My brother is currently separated from his wife and they are contemplating what their relationship should be like. I’ll recommend that my brother talks to an attorney so he can learn what his options are.
Been married for 31 years, My husband is a workaholic, with no balance in his life, does not turn the phone off, I am done being ignored and alone, travels several day a week and I have no idea if he is having an affair, regardless I’m ready to Divorce. What should I expect in spousal support after 31 years
You made an interesting point when you talked about how it is important to be completely honest when you are meeting with a divorce attorney. I’ve never been through this process before, but I can imagine that it can be an emotionally taxing one. If I ever find myself in this situation, I will be sure to find a divorce lawyer to work with.
I found it interesting how you described an initial meeting with an attorney as just getting information, not necessarily an actual divorce. A close friend of mine has been going through a lot of difficulties with her husband lately and might end up wanting to get a divorce. If she decides to just look around and start researching lawyers, then the actual divorce process might be easier on her if it gets to that.
It was interesting when you talked about how we should leave an initial meeting with a lawyer with a confident understanding of everything that was discussed. I want to work with a lawyer to help me divorce my husband of five years because we have two kids together and will need to sort out the custody arrangements for them. Thanks for teaching me what factors to consider as I start the search for the right lawyer to help me through this process!
How in the world do I go about finding a GOOD female divorce attorney in Orange County, California? I have asked friends and they all had somewhat amicable divorces. I am expecting something far less friendly unfortunately and need to have someone help me with forensic accounting as we own a business and my partner has hidden the finances from me for years. Help?
I am so glad to stumble on to your invaluable site to educate women about divorce.Your advice and checklist is great. I have been practicing family law in Georgia for over 35 years and can attest that lot of money and time can be saved and stress avoided by doing some homework before meeting a divorce attorney. The homework is collecting all finance related documents e.g. income sources, tax returns, loans, debts, bank account information, credit report, mortgage, monthly expenses etc. ( the entire financial history). The less time attorney has to spent in getting these documents during divorce process, the lower would be attorney fees for you to pay. Cases in Georgia and many other states require filing of financial disclosure statement and that is good place to start. Again Congratulations to SAS.
It helps a lot when you mention how you should be honest when speaking with a divorce lawyer since everything you say will be kept private. My sister is interested in getting a divorce but needs to make sure that she gets full custody of her children since her husband recently developed an alcohol addiction when he lost his job last month. She should find a professional that will listen to any concerns that she may have.
Great tip about making sure you have your documents when you are booking your appointment. I need to get a lawyer to defend my sister Clara. She is trying to get a divorce from her husband.
I like that question …. to ask your family law attorney about worst and best-case scenarios in a divorce.
Thank you for explaining that you should ask what documents you should bring with you when you make your appointment. My sister is thinking about hiring a lawyer to help with her divorce. I’ll be sure to share your advice with her so that she goes to the meeting prepared.
Go through the threshold with you, take notes and listen objectively, and afterward, I’m so thankful for your helpful post!
Thanks for the info about divorce. My friend wants a divorce. I’ll share this info with my friend as she looks for a divorce attorney.
Thank you for explaining some of the things you can expect to be discussed at the meeting. My sister is really confused about this whole process. I’m sure sharing this post with her will help her to figure out what kind of questions she should ask.
You make a great point about booking someone on a retainer. I need to get a lawyer to help my sister with her divorce. Her husband is trying to get all of the assets.
It really helped when you said that we can brainstorm questions in advance with a friend or family member before we see and interview a family law attorney. I think my dad is the best person to take with me to find the best lawyer that I need to hire. He is the smartest guy I know, so he can think of questions to ensure that the attorney is the right fit for the situation in my marriage at this moment.
It makes sense to ask potential lawyers if they have experience with situations similar to yours. My older sister is getting divorced this fall, and she wants to get custody of her two children. I will recommend that she look for a family lawyer that has worked on many child custody cases in the past and has been successful.
Thanks so much for talking about what to expect and ask about in a family lawyer consultation and future visits. My aunt and uncle are getting a divorce and they’ve been trying to figure out kids and asset custody. Knowing how to talk to a lawyer and what to make sure to know will be a huge help in moving their case along.
It’s good to know that you should bring your tax returns when meeting with an attorney. My close friend was at my house yesterday afternoon for lunch, and she told me about how she plans on seeing a lawyer for her divorce, so she wants to make sure she does everything right. I’ll pass these tips along to her once she finds a lawyer that can help her.
I love how you point out that a lawyer cannot help you unless you are honest with them about your situation. My aunt and uncle have been considering divorce and they aren’t sure what steps to take to help them come to a conclusion. We’ll have to look into getting them to meet with a divorce attorney who can help them figure out what they need for their relationship and their kids.