Scheduling a consultation with a divorce or family lawyer is the first step toward relieving some of the stress in your life. Make the most of your time by following these four rules for a successful consultation.
1. Bring Any Necessary Documents: If you have a previous court order - bring it. If you were served with anything from the other party - bring it. If you filed anything at the courthouse on your own - bring it. If you have a receipt from child support or other payments - bring it. If you have a document you think may be important but aren’t sure - bring it. See the trend?
Your attorney can often sort through a stack of confusing legal papers much more quickly than you (we see them all the time!). When in doubt about a document - bring it. Failing to inform your attorney about some documents can result in getting incorrect information or missing an important deadline.
2. Know Important Family Details: Much like going to the doctor’s office, a visit to your family law attorney will usually require you to know some background information about your family. If you are not good at remembering specifics (i.e. your child’s birthday or the county where you married) write this information down before you come. In some instances, your attorney may need your social security number or the other party’s home address. No one expects you to know the maiden name of your ex-wife’s maternal great-uncle’s pet poodle - but you will need to provide basic information in most cases.
3. Listen: It surprises me how often people schedule a consultation just to talk. They come with no real questions. They interrupt their attorney. They don’t listen. They are only present to complain about an ex-boyfriend or talk about their cheating spouse. And, while some complaining is certain to happen (this is family law, after all!), at the end of the day lawyers are problem solvers. Lawyers are here to guide you toward solutions for your legal issues. We are not counselors, or pastors or therapists. Attorneys want you to get the best legal advice we can give, but we can’t give advice if you're not there to listen to it. I love it when my clients come to an appointment with questions already written down. It shows they are serious about solving their family law issues and ready to listen for the answers. You get very little from a family law consultation where you do all the talking. You are paying for answers, make sure you listen to them!
4. Come Alone: This tip can be amended to: Come Alone Or With One (And Only One) Other Adult Person Who Is A Close, Supportive Family Member Or Friend Who Is Comfortable With Sitting Quietly While You Talk.
I cannot stress the importance of this tip enough. It is extremely difficult to offer advice when multiple people are talking over each other or not on the same page. In some cases another person in the room is a violation of the confidentiality rights attorneys are expected to guarantee their clients. Under no circumstances should you ever bring the opposing party to a meeting with your attorney.
Some lawyers even have strict policies against other people sitting in on consultations. Personally, I understand that coming to a consultation alone can be scary or difficult. You may want some extra support or two sets of listening ears. If you do choose to bring a friend or family member with you, make sure this person is there to support you and your legal concerns. You do not want to bring someone who will commandeer the consultation with their own agenda and concerns. On a related, but equally important note: Unless your attorney specifically asks for you to bring your children to the appointment, it is always best to leave them with caregiver.