You’ve taken the first step and made an appointment with a divorce attorney. So now what??? Going to your first appointment with a divorce attorney can be extremely nerve wracking. Being prepared for this meeting will help to reduce some of your anxiety as well as making the meeting, and the divorce process, as smooth as possible. You are the most important part of the process. Here’s how you can positively impact the preparation and outcome of the meeting:
- DON’T make any major decisions before seeking the advice of an attorney. It is completely understandable that once you have made the decision to divorce that you will try to begin thinking into the future. It is important to keep in mind that some decisions you make may have legal ramifications, such as making a move out of the marital residence, closing bank accounts, cutting off any financial support to your spouse. In fact, there are rules in some counties in Missouri that prohibit you from doing certain things. Consult with an attorney prior to making any major decisions.
- DO understand your financial situation. What is your monthly income? Your spouse’s? What are your monthly expenses? How much money do you need to support yourself and your children? What are your assets? And your debt? These are questions you should try to answer before seeing an attorney. If your spouse takes care of the finances, try to obtain bank, credit card, and other financial account statements. This will help you to get an idea of the monthly inflows/outflows. Copies of tax returns are also very useful to give to your attorney.
- DO seek out a professional to seek advice on how to tell your children. Children want to feel as though, even though their parents are separating, that their lives will remain calm. Often times a therapist can be a helpful tool in deciding when and how to tell your children of the impending divorce.
- DO be 100% forthcoming in your initial meeting. You, as the client, are the most important member of your case moving forward. Even if you fear that there are certain facts that you do not want your spouse to find out about, your attorney needs to be fully informed of those facts. In most cases, even negative facts can be managed if your attorney has adequate time to prepare your position.
- DO bring a list of questions to ask. That first meeting often provides you with an overwhelming amount of information to digest. Making a list of questions beforehand will help keep you on task and make sure you get answers to all of your concerns.
- DO interview several attorneys. The attorney/client relationship is a very important once. The person you hire to represent you will be privy to your most personal details. You have to have the utmost trust and confidence in the person you hire. Most attorneys are qualified to provide competent representation; however, personality conflicts do arise between the attorney and client. Making sure you hire someone you can get along with and who will help the process go smoother.
- DO ask about billing. For many people, a divorce is simply not affordable. Make sure you get complete information on how much your attorney charges for a retainer, how much he/she charges per hour. Do they bill for paralegal time, secretarial time, copies, postage, travel and gas? Having a clear idea of how much this will cost will help you manage the finances going forward.
Your preparation prior to the meeting is sometimes as important as the meeting itself.