Divorce is messy, exhausting, stress-filled, and sometimes costly. So while someone may want to be divorced, no one really wants to go through a divorce. This post will share recommendations for making the most of your initial consultation with a divorce lawyer.
If you are going to legally separate, you want it to be as efficient and painless as possible, and meeting with an attorney is a very good idea. Here are some important things to discuss with your divorce attorney at the first consultation, what you can expect, and how to make the most of this meeting.
What Will the Divorce Lawyer Want to Know?
When first meeting with a divorce lawyer they will have three objectives for your family law meeting:
- They need to understand your case and the major issues—property, finances, child custody, etc.
- To explain to you the process of divorce in Texas.
- Share the anticipated timeline and cost of a divorce in Texas.
Normally, family law meetings will be in-person. But in the midst of a pandemic, you may want to meet online. Either way, you can expect the first time to last about an hour until you have established an attorney-client relationship that will not involve legal advice. NOTE: Sabelhaus & Lynch law firm offers a no-cost 20-minute initial meeting case review to help you decide if we are the right family law firm to represent you.
Also, while divorce can be like surgery, meeting with a divorce lawyer is not like going to see your doctor; you will not be sitting in a waiting area filled with other people, and you probably will be welcomed into the attorney’s office very quickly. And you won’t have to wear a hospital gown that is open in the back, either.
What Should I Bring to the First Meeting?
If possible, try to provide the following family law evidence:
- Three months’ of paystubs
- Recent two to three months’ of bank statements
- Two or three months’ of credit card statements
- Tax returns from the last couple of years
- If either of you is self-employed, bring documentation regarding the business
- Social Security and/or passports numbers for you and your kids
- Information regarding debts and/or liabilities
- Information regarding the value of your home
- Current financial information
If you don’t have all this information, don’t worry: you can estimate these values. Documents can be provided at a later time, or they may be acquired from the other party.
If you have a prenuptial or separation agreement, you should bring that as well. And if you were married previously, you should bring your previous divorce decrees.
Bring Relevant Evidence with You to the Consultation
Family law is always concerned with what is best for both adults and children moving forward. Therefore understanding what has transpired in the relationship is important. This might include photos, written messages, videos and social media posts. It might also include credit card statements or receipts documenting excessive purchases or medical records. If you have friends who saw your spouse abuse or witnessed related issues or other types of incidents, you should provide their contact information. Remember that anything you share with your attorney is confidential and protected by attorney client privilege.
What to Ask a Attorney in Order to Make a Good Decision
When meeting with a divorce attorney for the first time, in addition to answering questions, you also can expect to have time to ask some. Here are five first time meeting questions to ask your family law attorney ats your initial consultation:
- How much experience do you have with cases similar to mine?
- Who else will be working on my case, and what are their qualifications?
- How is your fee structured, and can you estimate my total cost?
- How will you communicate with me, and how quickly?
- What is your estimation of how long my case will take?
But you want to make sure you are picking the right attorney, so don’t stop there.
Seven more questions to ask your divorce lawyer:
- How much courtroom experience do you have?
- Is divorce mediation or collaborative divorce an option for me?
- Other than your fee and the court fees, do you anticipate any other costs?
- In the event of an emergency, how do I reach you?
- Explain your expectations for me as a client?
- What can I be doing now to help my divorce case?
- What are the next steps?
If you are expecting your spouse to make the divorce difficult, you might also ask about the attorney’s experience with these types of cases—for example, “How quickly can you duck from a thrown object?”
How to Prepare for the Initial Meeting with Your Divorce Attorney
If possible, take a little time to organize your thoughts. Do you know if you’re really ready to get divorced? What outcomes are you hoping for? Do you think what you want is fair?
Try your best to make sure your expectations for the divorce are reasonable. And while presenting your information clearly does not ensure you will get everything you want, it will help your attorney–and that, in turn, can help you.
Incidentally, if your spouse has already filed a case, be sure to say so, along with the name of the attorney (if you know it). And if you have discussed possible settlement arrangements with your spouse, be sure to share this information as well. While everyone wants “their day in court,” sometimes, you don’t need it.
Can I Handle My Divorce On My Own?
Maybe you’re thinking you can save some money on your divorce. Or maybe you’ve been through it before. But doing your own divorce is usually a bad idea. The legal process is complex, and each divorce is different. And you might find out that your inexperience wipes out the money you saved—and more.
We understand that it can be intimidating to call an attorney; it makes the divorce more “real.” Even so, our recommendation is: Do not put off talking with an attorney.
The longer you wait, the more work you might create for your attorney. This can add to your cost; you might waste some of your time, too. All those fortune cookie messages you’ve been saving for evidence? They can’t be used. But at least now you’ll get back all that closet space.
What’s the Most Important Thing to Bring to the First Meeting with Your Divorce Lawyer?
Paystubs, bank statements, and the like all are very important. But probably the most important thing is to be ready to tell the truth.
No one likes to talk about the skeletons in (or out of) their closet, but it’s essential that you do so. Withholding critical information makes the divorce attorney’s job harder and can hurt your case; in the worst scenario, your deception may end up causing you to lose an asset.
Have you been abusive in the past? Do you have a drug or alcohol problem? Do you have an additional property you’re concealing from your spouse — or maybe an additional spouse you’re concealing from your property?
Tell your attorney the whole, sordid story now—because you can be sure your spouse’s attorney is going to hear about it.
What Makes a Good Divorce Attorney?
Divorce may be the most difficult thing you’ll ever go through. And it adds a unique wrinkle: At some point, your spouse probably was your best friend, the person you turned to for support during difficult times. Now you will be going through this very difficult time without this person at your side. Your friends and family can provide emotional support, but they are not lawyers.
That’s why your choice of an attorney is so important. You’re going to want an experienced divorce litigation lawyer. But you’re also going to want a divorce attorney who understands the emotional side of divorce—someone who is sensitive to the stress, worry, and fear you might be experiencing. Simply put, a good attorney is someone you can feel comfortable with and can have confidence in.
We are Stephanie Sabelhaus and Sean Lynch, Sabelhaus + Lynch. We are an award-winning family law firm serving Tarrant and the surrounding counties, offering extensive experience in Texas divorce law.
But we’re not just legal experts; we’re also attorneys who care. We will listen to you, explain the divorce process to you in simple, clear terms, and guide you. We’ll also be honest and objective with you, even if it is something you may not like. And with our innovative, flat-fee approach, you’ll know how much you owe before you ever see a bill (and you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at how affordable we are).
As we said, going through a divorce is hard—often, much harder than going through surgery. Like a good surgeon, we’ll do everything we can to make the divorce experience as smooth and comfortable as possible for you, and we’ll try to get you back on your feet in no time. Whether your spouse has already filed for divorce, you are ready to file, or you are considering a separation, attorneys Stephanie Sabelhaus and Sean Lynch are ready to serve you—efficiently, affordably, and compassionately. Contact us today.