Six Things You Should Bring to Your Initial Consultation with a Family Lawyer
Making the decision to consult a Family Law attorney regarding Divorce, Child Custody and/or Child Support can be both emotional and intricate. Planning for your initial consultation should be neither of those things. If you review the following article, you will arrive to your initial consultation properly prepared to have an informative discussion that will provide you with guidance going forward.
Just like an appointment at a doctor’s office or with an accountant, when you arrive to your initial consult, you will likely be asked to provide some basic information about yourself, your partner and your dependents, if any. From your personal contact information to employment history, arrive to the appointment prepared with basic information about yourself and your family.
1. Your List of Questions and Concerns
A disruption in your family life is a disruption to your comfort zone. When family conflict is ongoing or imminent, you will certainly have developed many questions, concerns and fears. Documenting these concerns in advance of your initial consultation is critical to making sure that you are maximizing the use of your time during your appointment with your family law attorney. The role of the attorney in this meeting is to answer your questions and help you to achieve the best outcome for your specific case.
In preparation for your initial consultation, it may help to write down a timeline that accurately represents the big moments of your relationship. This can help to avoid wasting time during the appointment trying to determine dates of such milestones. The timeline should include moments such as the date of the marriage/relationship, the date(s) of birth(s) of a child(ren), the date of the purchase of a home (or other sizeable asset), the date that the topic of divorce or separation was raised, employment histories, health history and sensitive confidential issues, i.e. criminal histories and/or drug and alcohol issues . A timeline helps to illustrate details of the relationship or marriage and the present state of affairs. Your attorney will assess this information and it’s relevance to your case and keep your history confidential.
3. Financial Documents
In addition to emotional anguish, ending a relationship or marriage has significant impact on personal finances. Another purpose of the initial family law consult is to review your income/finances. In advance of your consultation, collect and arrange your financial documents. Develop a list of assets and debts that are in both your and your spouse’s names, a list of both assets and debts in your spouse’s name only and a list of assets and debts that are in your name only. Also, compile a three month snapshot of paystubs – a set of your paystubs and a set of your partner’s paystubs as well as a three year snapshot of personal tax returns.
4. Legal Documents
Over the course of time, a marriage will likely acquire legal documents. You should plan to bring them with you to your initial consultation. Examples of legal documents include prenuptial agreements, marriage certificates, social security cards, wills, powers of attorney. If you are in receipt of any letters or pleadings from an attorney representing your spouse, bring those along, too.
You should plan to bring any documentation or notes you have received from your partner regarding your situation that may be relevant to your specific case. It may be helpful to have voicemail messages, text or written notes that relate to your case with you at your initial consultation.
6. Open Mind
When you arrive for your initial consultation with your family law attorney, attend with an open mind. A family conflict is personal and often inflicts tremendous emotion for the involved parties. A separation and/or divorce is rarely seamless and requires patience and persistence. Maintaining an open mind at your initial consultation is critical to succeeding in your end goal: moving toward an independent life while maintaining your family’s best interests.
If you spend some time and pull this information in advance of your initial consultation, you will reduce the stress of answering intricate personal questions about your relationship and you will maximize the time you have to discuss your personal matter with an Eastburn and Gray family law attorney.
Exceptions to this Rule
There are situations where you may not have access or control of these documents and you might be able to provide them at a follow up consult with your attorney or your attorney could assist you in obtaining these records. In those situations, moving forward to promptly schedule an initial consult, to get your questions answered about protecting your legal rights in the case of separation and/or divorce, without bringing your records with you, may be the appropriate step.
By: Judy Hayman, Esq.