The lead-up to your first meeting with a divorce attorney will likely be a complex and emotionally fraught time-period. During the meeting with an attorney, you may not feel like you are at your best.
You may never have dealt with an attorney before, let alone in a situation that feels quite so personal. You may be angry, confused or scared.
In this difficult moment in your life, your attorney is the one person who will be completely and unambiguously entirely on your side.
It's worth taking a few minutes before you walk into that office to make sure you take full advantage of what your attorney can do for you.
Your Divorce Attorney
Before embarking upon a California divorce, you need a competent and experienced divorce attorney – that much is settled. You also, however, need a divorce lawyer with whom you feel comfortable discussing the very personal specifics of your marriage. In fact, it's your attorney's task to encourage you in this endeavor, and that encouragement should include specific elements:
- Compassion for the emotional upheaval you're experiencing;
- Careful legal explanations that are devoid of legal jargon and that you are comfortable with; and
- A written guideline that outlines your case and its likely trajectory.
To best serve you and your case, a skilled divorce attorney will get to know you, your situation, and your legal priorities while ensuring that you remain comfortable within the process.
What are the basics?
On the most basic level, you need to be able to answer questions about your own case. Has it been filed yet, or are you looking to have the attorney initiate the process? Is the process likely to be collaborative or contentious – are you planning (at least right now) on talking it out, or fighting it out in court? Are there children involved? What level of assets, if any, are involved?
Understand your own finances!
From a legal point of view, the issue divorces mostly deal with is money or assets, and many people know surprisingly little about their own financial situation. The more detailed information you have, the better. This isn't just a practical consideration, either.
Having to go back and forth over and over again with your attorney asking you for your financial information, and having to then ask for more details, supporting documentation, etc. will cost you money. The more information you can provide up front, the less time – billable time! – your attorney will have to spend looking for it.
Your First Meeting
Every divorce – just like every marriage – is unique. Your initial meeting with a divorce lawyer will focus on the specifics of your marriage, including whether your divorce papers have already been filed, whether you are planning on pursuing a collaborative divorce rather than full-on litigation, and whether your divorce has reached the level of an emergency (e.g., your spouse is currently draining your bank accounts or you're the victim of domestic abuse).
Your unique situation will guide your initial meeting with your divorce lawyer. It's your attorney's responsibility to ask the important questions that will allow them to get to know you, your situation, and your divorce priorities. Your responsibility, as the client, is to be open and honest in your responses and to provide as accurate a snapshot of your marital financials as you can.
What other things should I consider?
It's also important to put front and center if there are any more complex or immediate issues at hand. Division of assets is a critical issue, so if you believe your spouse may have hidden assets – or be in the process of hiding assets, or draining bank accounts – your attorney should know about it immediately.
If there is a history of domestic violence, or a reason to believe that bringing up the issue of divorce will lead to violence, getting a protective order needs to be at the top of the list. If you're not sure if your lawyer needs to know about something, tell them anyway – it's their job to tell you if it's important or not.
What questions do you have?
Every marriage is different and every divorce has unique aspects which need to be considered. You are likely going into your first meeting with a pile of questions – some of which can easily get lost in the shuffle. Make sure you write them down in an organized fashion, so you can walk out of your meeting feeling like you got all of them answered.
Divorce and property distribution can be an emotionally draining process, not to mention a complex one. Hiring an experienced family law attorney can greatly increase your peace of mind about the process.
Furman & Zavatsky LLP has the experienced attorneys you need to assist you with asset division. They can help you determine whether settlement or litigation is the best choice for you, as well as how your assets are likely to be classified. Contact our law firm today for a free, no risk consultation at 818-528-3471. Serving the greater Los Angeles area.