The following article was originally published in early 2020.
The decision to involve a lawyer in your family dispute may be one of the most difficult steps to take. It makes your situation more real and may start the process for major changes that would impact your family. Although this step is a hard one, visiting with an attorney may serve to create balance in a moment of chaos or confusion. It also could provide you with information that will allow you to make decisions regarding your particular situation.
In your first meeting with an attorney at our office, much of the conversation will focus on you. We want to hear your story. We may ask you about the issues in your relationship, your financial circumstances, and overall concerns and goals. If you are in the midst of a custody dispute, our discussion will focus on the issues you encounter while co-parenting.
THE LAW AND HOW IT APPLIES TO YOU
During your consultation, we will go through the law and how it applies to your individual situation. Some legal avenues we may address include divorce, equitable distribution of property as part of divorce, alimony, child support, physical custody, legal custody or protective orders.
The discussion about the law should serve as an opportunity for you to start developing a road map for your situation. It also opens an opportunity for you to ask us any questions about how your matter fits into the law, or about how the law works in general.
SOME IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER FOR YOUR FIRST CONSULTATION
Be Honest and Don’t Be Embarrassed. Your attorney cannot protect your interests if you are not forthcoming about all the facts of your situation. Although “telling all” can be embarrassing and uncomfortable, you are consulting an attorney to help you achieve your goals. An attorney cannot help you if he or she is not armed with all the facts.
- Bring Documents. Although you should not bring hundreds of pages of documents, it is helpful to an attorney if you provide documentation to obtain a general sense of your case. Examples may include financial information such as paystubs, summary of assets, a recent tax return, prenuptial agreement or other agreements between you and the opposing party. If you are involved in a custody matter, provide your attorney with text messages or emails from your partner, or any key documentary information involving the child. As mentioned, hundreds of pages of documents are not helpful, but documents that help define a general sense of your marital estate or deliver a general sense of your dispute are key.
- Discuss a Plan. Although it is not necessary to develop a nuanced plan prior to your meeting with an attorney, it is helpful for you to have a general sense of the concerns you want to address prior to your consultation. What parenting goals do you have? Are there certain financial issues you are concerned about? These are some things to keep in mind. If you don’t have specific concerns that is fine also. We will discuss with you your options that may lead to a more specific plan or the setting of goals.
- It’s OK to Vent. It is rare that an individual enters a family law office in a good mood. It is okay to vent or express emotion in your first consultation and throughout the case, as you are likely confronting difficult circumstances. Separating emotion from an inherently emotional event is nearly impossible.
- Be Prepared to Answer Questions. During your initial consultation, an attorney will ask you questions. By asking questions, we are trying to gather as much information as possible to aid in our representation of you. Our questions are based on the knowledge and experience gained in our years of representing clients who have been in your seat. While every case is different, similar themes run through each situation.
- Ask Questions. It is okay to ask questions – and there are no stupid questions. Again, you are visiting an attorney for help and to obtain information. You can ask questions to clarify an attorney’s comments, to address your concerns, and/or to learn about the law. Even if you have not retained our firm, the circumstances of your meeting remain entirely confidential. If you choose not to retain the firm, the firm cannot represent the opposing party in your case due to ethical obligations.
- Meeting with an Attorney Sets Nothing in Stone. A decision to meet with an attorney does not necessitate your divorce. It does not initiate a custody battle. Rather, it offers an opportunity for you to discuss your situation with an individual that possesses the ability to inform you of your rights under the law.
Although scheduling your first meeting with us may be emotional and nerve-wracking, it is best to remember that our firm’s goal is to help you. Many people seek an initial consult so that they are informed about their rights and obligations. Knowledge is powerful and can help you set goals and decide on the next steps.
Contact us at 301.715.8110 or fill out our contact form and someone from our team will call you back.