Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Divorce - What to expect from an initial consultation

The Holiday season is over and for some is was a wonderful time of year.  For others, it may have been a touch time of year.  If you are one of those who had a tough holiday season and are thinking about speaking with an attorney about the divorce process, here is what to expect from an initial consultation:

1) How much does it cost?
Some attorneys offer free or discounted rates for initial consultations.  Some attorneys put that information on their website.  If it's not available online, a quick phone call to their office will typically answer that question.

2) How long will the meeting last?
Ask this question when scheduling your initial consultation.  Most attorneys tend to schedule their initial consultations for 30 min. or 1 hour. 

3) What do I need to bring?
While it would be great for you to bring a lot of documentation, it is hard at the beginning of the process to locate all of the documentation.  Some of the documentation that attorneys will need to begin representation are: financial documents showing your assets, how they are titled, etc., any written agreements you and your spouse may have entered into (pre-separation, post-separation, pre-nuptial, etc.), information related to your children (age, gender, etc.).  Most attorneys have a client information form they will ask you to fill out which will provide them with the majority of that information.  The documentation backing up that information will be needed at some point, but not necessarily at the initial consultation.
NOTE: If you do not retain the attorney you meet with or have not yet decided whether you will retain that attorney, you should ensure that you keep originals of your documents and let the attorney keep copies for their records. 

4) What questions should I ask?
You will want to gather as much information about the attorney at your initial consultation.  You should ask questions about fees and charges, who much money is required up front (retainers), what all is covered by those fees and retainers, how long the process is expected to last, how quickly the attorney responds to communications from clients, how they typically approach divorce cases (do they tend to encourage settlements or do they tend to fight it out in court?), etc.  It's best to ask questions at the beginning to ensure you and the attorney understand each other and agree on how to proceed.  Communication is extremely important in litigation, especially in divorce cases.

5) What should I expect after meeting with an attorney?
The answer to this depends on how the meeting went.  If you retained the attorney and paid the retainer fee, you should expect communication in the near future about what additional information and documents the attorney may need.  If this is the case, you should ensure that you and the attorney understand what the next step is and when that step will be taken.
If you did not retain the attorney, the attorney will likely follow up with you to determine if you have decided to proceed with your divorce.  It may be helpful if you let the attorney know a time frame within which to touch base with you.  If you know at the end of the consultation that you do not intend to proceed with that attorney, you can let that attorney know your intentions to avoid any follow up calls. 
NOTE: Remember, you always have the right to fire your attorney and seek alternate representation.. There may be consequences to doing so depending on the stage of your divorce.  You always have the right to seek independent advice. 

Initial consultations can be intimidating if you do not know what to expect.  These are just some of the basics that many attorneys follow but is not a guarantee.  You can always call the attorney's office and inquire as to that attorney's initial consultation practices before making an appointment. 

If you would like a consultation with our office, please call (804) 447-0146 or email us at clbaudean@baudeanlaw.com.