Your Divorce Consultation Checklist – Get the Most From Your Meeting
If you’re considering getting a divorce and seeking guidance from a family law attorney, you’re likely wondering what to expect from your initial divorce consultation.
We’d like to help ensure you’re prepared.
Our divorce consultation checklist will help you get the most out of your time – and ensure you hire the best divorce lawyer for you.
Your divorce consultation checklist
1. Collect information that will help the attorney assess your case
Generally, it’s not necessary to bring lots of documents to your initial divorce consultation – there’s no need to arrive with boxes of financial statements. Rather, what attorneys need to gather is typically:
- General information regarding your children and their current living situation
- Your finances, such as salaries, the value of your residence, the approximate balance in your bank accounts, a good estimate of your retirement assets, and the approximate amount of debt that you have – for both you and your spouse
- Additional information that may impact the divorce, such as criminal records or a history of domestic, drug, or alcohol abuse
- Any written agreements between you and your spouse
- Any legal documents related to your case, such as a summons, complaint, or a letter from an attorney
2. Prepare the questions you’d like to ask the attorney in advance
You probably have lots of burning questions, and the first meeting can be overwhelming for some. That’s why we suggest you jot those questions down in advance and bring them with you to your divorce consultation.
Be sure these questions are on your list:
- How long do you take to return phone calls?
- How do I get a hold of you if there is an emergency?
- What do you consider to be an emergency?
- What is your hourly rate and your staff’s hourly rate?
- Will you be my day-to-day contact, or will I be working with another member of your staff?
When you’re able to describe your needs in detail, the attorney will be better able to address your concerns – helping ensure you’re satisfied with the outcome of your appointment.
3. Make sure you’re meeting with the divorce attorney who will handle your case
At some law firms, your first meeting will be with a consultation attorney – not the attorney that you will be working with directly.
Unfortunately, if you don’t have the opportunity to consult directly with your attorney before making a hiring decision, you won’t be in a position to determine if that person is a good fit for you.
4. Determine the attorney’s family law experience
There really is no substitute for experience when it comes to practicing law. That’s why it’s important to learn how long your attorney has been practicing family law, specifically, not just any kind of law.
Having a divorce attorney that knows the local courts, judges, opposing attorneys, and local rules is a huge asset.
It’s also important to ask about trial experience; however, as most family law cases do not go to trial, don’t become overly focused on this possibility.
At the end of the day, a good attorney will have a balance of trial and negotiation experience and will be focused on concluding your case without going to trial. All too often, divorce attorneys that are hyper-focused on taking a case to trial are doing so because they can collect more fees – not because it’s good for you.
5. Request an estimate of the divorce attorney’s fees
No attorney can promise an exact fee for an entire family law case. Every case is different, and each client has different needs. An experienced attorney, however, will be able to explain the types of things that will drive up your legal fees and also give you advice on how you can avoid those situations.
For example, the total cost of your representation will depend on how willing you and your spouse are to compromise. (Unfortunately, an opposing party that is unreasonable or unwilling to negotiate can be the single biggest factor in the cost of a divorce.)
You’ll also want to get clarity on the attorney’s retainer. The retainer is an up-front payment of money from which the attorneys and staff members will bill their time at their hourly rates. When you pay a retainer, your money is kept in a separate client trust account that the firm bills against when fees are earned by the attorney and staff working on your case.
Keep in mind that a retainer should not be confused with an estimate of your total divorce costs. It is very unlikely that the retainer amount will cover the total cost of your case.
6. Assess whether the attorney is a good fit for you
Getting a divorce is traumatic. You may not be thinking clearly and you may have difficult things to share.
The ability to communicate effectively with your divorce attorney is a critical part of the process. If you’re not able to speak freely with your lawyer, it makes the job of getting you an optimal outcome that much more difficult.
Your initial divorce consultation is the time for you to gauge this connection. Your lawyer is someone you will be working closely with; you don’t need to be best friends but feeling comfortable with your lawyer is vital to the success of your case.
Getting a divorce in Arizona with Anthem Law
We know your first meeting with a divorce attorney is coming at a time when you’re already worried, emotional, and stressed-out. Often, people are nervous about their first attorney meeting, which is understandable.
We want to assure you that you don’t need to be worried or embarrassed about the details you’ll share with us – we’ve seen and heard it all and we’re not here to judge you, we’re here to guide you.
At Anthem Law, you’ll be meeting with Nichole Oblinger; she is the attorney that will be handling your divorce case, from start to finish.
During your initial divorce consultation with her, it’s your time – you should feel free to ask questions and speak freely about your concerns.
As most clients have no idea how the divorce process works in Arizona, we will give you a “Divorce 101” overview so you understand the way your divorce will make its way through the Arizona court system.
At the conclusion of your meeting, you’ll be provided with a retainer amount that is based upon the complexity of your case. You’ll also receive an intake packet that will ask more detailed questions about your situation, including details about your children, finances, assets, and debts. (If you would like to get a copy of our intake packet prior to your consultation, we will gladly provide you with one.)
In the end, we hope that you leave your divorce consultation feeling like you’ve been heard and understood. We want you to feel assured that we will be attuned to your specific needs throughout the divorce process and that we will stand up for your rights during this stressful time.
For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact us by calling 623-551-5457 or completing our online form.