Should I meet with an attorney? And how do I prepare?

Published May 30, 2019

It is a smart idea to meet with an attorney at least once if you are going through a divorce or considering one.  These meetings are called consults or initial consultations.  You likely will have better direction and understanding of the divorce process and laws and options relevant to your circumstances after the initial consultation.

Is the consultation free?

Attorneys structure initial consultations differently.  Some attorneys offer a relatively brief but free consultation either by phone or in person.  Other attorneys charge a fee for a consultation but devote the time necessary to understand your situation and provide information and advice.  I highly suggest the latter type of consultation because you want information and advice specific to your circumstances.  This kind of information and advice is valuable and a fee is appropriate.

Make the most out of your consultation

To make the most out of your consultation, consider the following:

1.  If the attorney uses intake forms, ask for them in advance.  Complete them before your appointment and devote the actual time in the appointment to discussing your situation.

2.  Bring any documents the attorney asks you to bring.  Really.  There is a reason the attorney wants to review wage stubs, tax returns, financial disclosures or account statements.

3. Be prepared with a written list of questions you want answered.  Yes, write the questions down.  It is easy to forget all the concerns or issues you want addressed when your emotions and stress level may be high.

4.  Make sure you have something to take notes on whether that is a device or a notepad and pen. 

5. Review attorney’s website before the consultation.  You may discover information about the attorney that will provide you with an introduction to him or her.  The website may also have information or resources for the divorce process.  What you review on the website may assist you in developing questions (see #3).

6.  Consider bringing another person with you to the consultation.  A divorce can be a very emotional time for a person.  Having someone sit in on the consultation to provide support and pay attention to the information shared can be helpful.  However, the attorney-client privilege only protects conversations that take place between the lawyer and client.  If a third party is present, the privilege is waived.  Keep this in mind if you want to discuss sensitive issues that you do not want disclosed to your spouse.

7.  If the attorney charges a fee for the consultation, know what it is before you walk into the office.  You do not want to be surprised and you should be prepared to pay the fee.

Summary

An initial consultation will be productive if you prepare for it in advance.  Complete the intake forms, develop questions and gather any requested documents.  Make sure you take notes during the consultation and, if needed, bring a third person with you to help you retain information after.