Questions to ask a divorce attorney

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.

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 attorney. 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)
  • Division of your assets
  • 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?
  • How would 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)?
  • 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 the meeting simply as research. You are there to find out information about getting a divorce, as well as getting a sense of the divorce attorney. Could you potentially work with him or her, should you decide? We promise, if you walk in prepared, you’ll walk out feeling more knowledgeable and confident in yourself: what you can do if you must.

 

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6 replies
    • SAS for Women
      SAS for Women says:

      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!

      Reply
  1. Sutton Turner
    Sutton Turner says:

    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.

    Reply
  2. Amy Winters
    Amy Winters says:

    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!

    Reply
  3. Kit Hannigan
    Kit Hannigan says:

    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. https://www.michigan-lawoffice.com/practice-areas/family-law/divorce/

    Reply

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