Preparing for a divorce or separation is never an easy task. However, retaining an experienced family lawyer to guide you through the process and take action on your behalf can considerably help to reduce your stress. The first meeting you have with your lawyer will be important to give them a big-picture view of your circumstances and help determine the best course of action as you move forward. This meeting will be much more productive and helpful to you and your lawyer if you have the information on hand that will be most helpful at the start of the process.
Below, we will review various steps family law clients can take in advance of this first consultation, from gathering information to considering their goals and thinking about how they’d like to see the process move. These steps may involve some time and research on your part in advance, but it will help to ensure a productive first meeting that can also help save you time and expense moving forward.
When meeting with a family lawyer for the first time, it can be common for clients to feel some degree of stress or anxiety, which can make it easy to forget important details or issues that are important to them. For this reason, it can be helpful to make notes summarizing your legal situation and the steps leading up to it. For example, make note of the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage or common-law relationship or the reasons you’re looking to change an existing parenting arrangement. The notes don’t have to be extensive, so long as they include details you think could be important or helpful for your lawyer to know.
One of the most helpful conversations to have with your lawyer early on is a discussion of your goals in the matter. Make notes of what outcome you’re looking for, whether securing a certain amount of spousal support, keeping possession of the matrimonial home, or reaching an amicable parenting plan with your former spouse or partner. It’s helpful for your lawyer to know what you’d like to work towards and may assist them in helping you to set realistic expectations. Your lawyer will be able to let you know how best to achieve what you’re looking to accomplish and, perhaps most importantly if any of your goals are unrealistic or unlikely.
A family lawyer will need to review a lot of documentation early in the process. Most importantly, any documents relating to financial and legal matters impacting both you and your former spouse should be examined immediately, as they can each significantly impact the next steps and the overall strategy, whether you’ll be pursuing litigation or an alternative dispute resolution method.
If there are any agreements in place between you and your spouse, such as a cohabitation or marriage contract, or a parenting plan, bring a copy along to your first meeting with your family lawyer. They will need to review the terms as they may determine how net family property is divided or set out obligations and entitlements with respect to spousal support. In addition, if you and your spouse have been through any legal processes already, such as mediation or previous court hearings, bring along any documentation related to those proceedings, such as court orders or mediation notes.
Finances will play a significant role in many issues post-divorce, from the division of property to the calculation of child and spousal support, so it is important for your lawyer to have an accurate and complete picture of you and your former spouse’s respective financial statuses. This should include the following:
It is likely you won’t have access to all of this information as it pertains to your spouse, but include the information you do have and make note of what will need to be obtained through discovery.
If you have concerns that your spouse may underreport their income to lessen their support obligations or dispose of certain property to avoid sharing in its value, make your lawyer aware of this in your initial meeting. There are certain steps that can be taken to prevent or address financial non-disclosure, and the sooner your lawyer is aware of the possibility, the better.
Lastly, make note of your ongoing monthly expenses and special expenses related to your children, such as school tuition, medical and dental expenses, and extra-curricular activity fees. This information will be necessary when it comes to the determination of support.
You will no doubt have a lot of questions for your lawyer when you first meet, which your lawyer should be happy to answer for you, to the degree that they can. It is good practice to write your questions down, so you don’t forget them and to help you keep your thoughts organized during the meeting. This first meeting is also an ideal time to raise any specific concerns or challenges that could affect the resolution of your dispute, such as a high-conflict relationship with your ex or issues relating to domestic violence. Making your lawyer aware of these issues at the beginning will help inform the advice they provide and the strategies they recommend to represent best and protect your interests.
Whether a divorce is low-conflict or highly contentious, simple or complex, Mincher Koeman aims to ensure that our clients are steered toward the most efficient and cost-effective resolution. Our family lawyers are committed to treating your matter with empathy and skill, putting our considerable experience to work for you. Please contact our office to make an appointment to discuss your matter with one of our divorce lawyers today by calling us at 403-910-3000 or by contacting us online.
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