Most people have limited contact with lawyers. The average American is not likely to cross a lawyer’s path other than when buying a house, settling a loved one’s estate or contesting a traffic ticket. Meeting a divorce lawyer for the first time is often a difficult and emotional process. Questions swirl in your mind as you try to make sense of the process and seek to learn how it all works. You need to make a lot of important and life altering decisions during a divorce proceeding. To make those decisions you need good information about the law, your rights and what you can expect. You also need to decide if you will be represented by an attorney and who that attorney will be.
The need to have valid information to make those decisions will prompt you to make appointments to speak to attorneys to answer your questions. When you have these interviews, you should also be considering if the attorney is the right choice for you. The more information you bring to your initial meeting with the attorney the more fully will the lawyer be able to answer your question and give you a realistic expectation of how the process will unfold. Divorces result in the resolution of economic issues such as property distribution and support, as well as issues revolving around the care and custody of your children. You should be prepared at that initial meeting to outline for the attorney family income over the past few years and how income was spent. Income and lifestyle figure heavily into the matrimonial calculus. A listing of all of your marital assets and liabilities will help the lawyer understand the economics of your marriage and allow him/her to make a reasonable estimate of what a property distribution would look like.
If you or your spouse own a business, it is important to know how and when the business started. Premarital property is generally not distributable in divorce but if a premarital business has appreciated during the marriage that appreciation may be distributable. If you or your spouse brought assets into the marriage, be prepared to discuss those assets and how they were used in the marriage. If you or your spouse have inherited money or other property, it is important to identify and trace the funds, and indicate if they were kept separate or commingled with marital money. The more information you bring to that meeting regarding assets and liabilities, income and expenses, the more knowledge you will acquire.
Regarding your children, come prepared to discuss how you envision each of your roles with the child(ren) post-separation and how that relates to how the children have historically been raised.
If you have specific needs or wants you need to come ready to discuss those as well. Do you want to return to your home state or home country? Do you want or need to go back to school in order to obtain more education or job skills? Do you or your children have particular medical needs? You should come prepared to discuss these issues. Like any meeting of importance think about what you want to learn in the meeting and ask questions.
During the process you should get a feel for the lawyer and how the lawyer approaches problems. Does the lawyer’s style sync well with your own? Was the lawyer informative and respectful? Did he/she understand you and what your needs were? You will likely work closely with your lawyer so you should determine if the one you are speaking with is someone you could work with, Lawyers are tools. They know the law but they do not know you or your spouse. By arming yourself with pertinent information you allow the lawyer to predict the outcome of your divorce. Also, remember that the lawyer is a facilitator and not the solution. You need to navigate your own life and armed with information about the law and how it addresses your wants and needs prepares you to make intelligent decisions that will affect your and your children’s lives.
It is wise to take notes during your interview so that you can review the information and consider the ramifications of predicted outcomes on your family. For most hiring a lawyer is the first step towards a successful outcome in your matter. You should chose someone who you believe will give you good advice. Keep in mind that good advice is not promising you the outcome that you want. Good advice is telling you if the outcome you want is obtainable under the law and, if what you want is not obtainable, what are the likely outcomes.
We at the law firm of James P. Yudes, A Professional Corporation, are happy to meet with you to discuss your divorce and guide you through this process.