Before your appointment, prepare a list of questions regarding your situation. The most frequently asked questions we encounter are 1) How long will my divorce take; and 2) How much will it cost. Do not be afraid to ask any questions, even if you think they are silly or minor. Be prepared that the attorney may not be able to answer all of your questions immediately. Many of the answers will depend on the information you provide. You may not like all of the answers you receive. If you get the sense that an attorney is only telling you what you want to hear, it is probably not the right attorney for you.
Take some time to review your finances before your appointment.
If you have been the spouse to maintain the household finances, make sure you have a general idea of your marital assets (e.g. house, cars, bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks/bonds, etc.) and marital debts (e.g. credit cards, personal loans, lines of credit, mortgage(s), etc.). If you have not had access to this information, your attorney can request that the other spouse provide the information. Try to gather details regarding both party's incomes (e.g. copies of paystubs, prior years tax returns, etc.). Finally, be prepared to discuss a budget of what your combined household expenses have been vs. what you anticipate your expenses will be after separation. Do not hold back information - an attorney cannot effectively represent you without full, accurate information.
Arrive a few minutes before your appointment is scheduled
Usually, attorneys will expect you to complete intake paperwork prior to the start of your appointment. If you can request this paperwork in advance, you can save some time. Otherwise, arrive early and make sure you have basic information such as both parties' full names, contact information, employment and income information, dates of birth and social security numbers. Further, if you have children, you will need their names, dates of birth, and addresses for the past 5 years.
Bring any paperwork that has been filed
If you have already been served with paperwork, bring it with you so your attorney can review it and provide you with specific information rather than having to speculate based on what the papers "might" say. Further, if you have been served, make your appointment as soon as possible. There may be deadlines for responding to the paperwork and if you fail to meet the deadline, your rights may be affected.
Ask your attorney to discuss a budget for your case
Unless you are quoted a fixed/flat fee (unusual in divorce cases), it is impossible at the first meeting for an attorney to definitively say how much the case will cost. Every case is different, and there is no way to predict how complicated a case might become. Nevertheless, there are certain steps that will occur in any divorce action, and your attorney should be able to give you a sense of how much time should be involved in each of these steps. If you have limited resources, be sure to make this clear to your attorney so you can have the "money" conversation before it becomes an issue down the road.
If you don't get a good feeling, this is not the lawyer for you.
You must feel comfortable with the person you choose to represent/advise you. Your attorney will know everything about your life and will be counseling you on how to conduct yourself during the course of your case and beyond. No matter how highly recommended someone comes, if you don't think it is a good "fit," move on to someone else.
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