Top 5 Tips for Your First Meeting with a Divorce Lawyer
How do you prepare for your first meeting with a Divorce Lawyer? Being prepared can help you get the most of your meeting.
FIRST: EXPECT A CONFLICT CHECKIf the lawyer or the lawyer's firm has represented or consulted with anyone on the other side of the case, he or she may have a conflict and may not be able to represent you.
If you have spoken with a divorce attorney about your matter, that attorney may be prevented to talking to your spouse about your matter.
Remember the episode from The Sopranos when Tony and Carmela contemplate divorce? When Tony goes to divorce attorneys in the area and reveals information that ethically prevented those attorneys from representing Carmela when she came to them seeking a divorce lawyer? First, I am not suggesting that you do what Tony did. I am just suggesting, that there is a reason why your attorney will not speak with you before getting names of all the parties involved.
Before you get too far into a conversation with a Michigan Divorce Lawyer, the attorney will need to identify the participants, in order to determine if there is a possible "conflict of interest" in continuing with the conversation.
If a lawyer meets or talks with you without asking your name and the other side's name, be wary of that lawyer, as he/she is violating the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct.
SECOND: EXPECT TO PROVIDE INFORMATIONIn order to evaluate your case, your attorney will need to know background information about you, your spouse, your kids and your finances.
Sometimes, a Michigan Divorce Lawyer may send you a questionnaire to fill out filled out and return in advance of your meeting. Be sure to fill out the questionnaire the best you can.
The type of documents that your Michigan Divorce Lawyer will want to see:
-Current statements for all assets and debts.
-Most recent tax returns.
-Most recent payroll information for both spouses.
-Retirement funds documentation
-Legal documents related to your marriage, such as
-legal documents relating to the matter
-adoption documents for your children, and
-restraining orders or personal protection orders you may have taken out against your spouse.
-If you used another attorney for any of these other proceedings, bring his or her name and phone number to the meeting.
Also bring with you to the meeting COPIES of any available documents that may be requested in the questionnaire. Make sure it is copies. You do not want to pay your attorney to make copies of your documents!
THIRD: EXPECT TO KNOW WHAT YOU WANTYou should have an idea of what your goals are in your divorce. Before you meet with a lawyer, think about what you want when your divorce is over.
These are the areas to keep in mind:
-How do you want to divide your property?
-What kind of parenting time arrangements do you want?
-What type of child support / spousal support arrangements are you thinking about?
Have an idea of what you want BEFORE you meet with a Michigan Divorce Attorney. The attorney will want to know what is most important to you.
FOURTH: EXPECT TO ASK QUESTIONSMake a list of questions and write them down. Like:
WHAT IS THE COST
-Ask the specifics about the divorce attorney's fees
-What's the billing rate for attorney and staff
-How does the attorney bill their time blocks
-Is there an estimate of a final cost
ASK ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCE
-About the attorney's experience in divorce law.
-How much of the attorney's practice is devoted to divorce / family law.
-If your case is in a county the attorney normally practices in.
ASK ABOUT HIS/HER APPROACH
-If he/she usually takes a combative/aggressive approach or cooperative approach when it comes to dealing with your spouse's attorney.
-How often the attorney's divorce cases go to trial.
-Remember if you are hoping to keep down the costs, avoid conflict and want to "settle" your divorce quickly, you will want to be wary of combative attorneys.
-However, you do not want a divorce attorney that will not fight for your rights if your divorce starts to get nasty.
ASK ABOUT THE POTENTIAL OUTCOME OF YOUR CASE
-Ask what you should expect regarding a property settlement.
-Ask what you should expect regarding alimony.
-Ask what you should expect regarding parenting time.
-Ask what you should expect regarding support obligations.
FIVE: EXPECT TO RECEIVE NO GUARANTEES ON THE OUTCOMEA divorce attorney that does not tell you the POTENTIAL outcomes of the above is either too inexperienced or is afraid to tell you the truth, especially if it is a type of outcome that might not work in your favor.
However, you need to be concerned if a Michigan divorce lawyer GUARANTEES you a specific result.
There is no way to provide you with a guarantee of a specific result at your first meeting as the Michigan divorce attorney does not yet know what your spouse may have to say (or what evidence your spouse may have), which could change the whole analysis of your case.
Also, family law has many "grey areas" areas that are not clear cut and are up to the judge to decide.