The thought of your first meeting with a divorce lawyer can be daunting and no doubt all sorts of questions are racing through your mind.
You are already in a real state of stress because of your personal circumstances and you feel as though you are about to put your life into the hands of a complete stranger.
Don’t panic! Your first meeting with a lawyer should be a positive experience for you and in this blog, I will give you some tips on how to make the most of it.
What do you want to achieve?
The first question to ask yourself is what do you want to achieve,
- Are you wanting to know more about your rights and entitlements?
- Do you want to know what your next steps might be and what options are available to you?
- Do you already know quite a bit about the legal process and just want to check a few things out?
- Are you undecided as to whether this is the end of your relationship or not?
- Do you want to meet the person who will be your lawyer and assess whether that person is the right fit for you?
All these things can be achieved in your first meeting.
How to prepare for your first meeting with a divorce lawyer meeting
To start, your divorce lawyer will want to understand the circumstances of your family life.
This will involve an account of what has led to you seeking advice and then information about your particular circumstances including your personal details, for example, name and address etc.
If you are married, when you got married and if relevant, when you separated and also, again if relevant, when you started living together before you were married.
If you have children and you are making arrangements with the other parent then, their names and ages are important but also think about what are the actual issues, what are your concerns and can you both reach an agreement without some support.
If there are financial matters to sort out then a summary of the assets including your estimates of values and who owns those assets. For example, is any property owned in joint names, your name or the sole name of your spouse or partner. Similarly, if there are debts or other liabilities, it is helpful to know the amounts of those liabilities, whose name they are in and also whether they are secured against your property, for example, a mortgage.
Try to gather as much information as you can including values of investments, pensions and income HOWEVER do not go rifling through your spouse’s/partner’s personal papers to find out the information.
Come to the meeting only with what you already know and definitely do not bring any papers with you that do not belong to you.
Some lawyers can provide you with a questionnaire for you to complete before you come in for your meeting. This is a useful way to focus your thoughts on what information you need to know and the opportunity to explain why you are seeking help.
Your first meeting with a divorce lawyer
So the day of the meeting has arrived, what can you expect from your first meeting with a divorce lawyer?
Following the advice in the section above will ensure you have the information and background details you need.
The first meeting is also an opportunity to decide what you want to achieve and what is important to you. It may be that you wish to prioritise certain issues over others or that you have a very clear idea about what you want the future to look like.
However, you may have no idea at all and be lost in a fog. Don’t worry, that is where your lawyer can help you. If you do have some clear ideas, your lawyer can explain to you whether your expectations are realistic.
It is important for your lawyer to understand whether or not you still get along with your ex or if there have been any instances of aggressive or controlling behaviour. This can help inform the options that are available to you.
Not all cases end up in courtroom battles, in fact, most cases are resolved by agreement without any need to go near a courtroom. There are lots of options available including mediation, collaborative family law and negotiation. What is important is that when you have your first meeting with a divorce lawyer, you have confidence in them and they have all the resources needed to help you.
You should expect to receive information on what the legal processes involve though don’t expect to get a blow by blow account of what is involved. There is a danger that you can be overloaded with too much technical information that makes you feel more bamboozled than when you first walked into the office.
At the end of the meeting
It is important that you leave the meeting better informed than when you went in.
I cannot promise that all the information you receive will be good news or what you believe you are entitled to. Remember what you think is fair and reasonable may not be shared by your ex.
Any advice you receive should always be realistic and practical based on the information available at that time.
After the meeting
Often there is no reason to rush into taking steps. It is important that you consider things carefully. If there is a reason to take urgent action your lawyer should be able to tell you.
Frequently asked questions
As the UK’s largest specialist family law firm, we asked our specialist divorce lawyers to get their heads together to look at the common questions they get asked in a first meeting and some useful suggestions.
Here are the top 7 questions to ask at your first meeting with a divorce lawyer:
- Who will look after my case and what is the best way for us to keep in contact?
- How long do you think it will take to reach a conclusion?
- Is there anything I should consider doing / definitely not be doing?
- What do you think is the best option for me to take if I decide I want to go ahead?
- How much do you think the legal fees will be and how can I pay you?
- I may struggle to meet your costs, what options are available for funding my case?
- What do you think the outcome of my case will be?
Whilst it is not always possible to give a definitive answer, particularly where not all the facts (and figures) are known, your lawyer should be able to give you some direction on what your future will look like whether it is in relation to the arrangements for your children, how to legally end your relationship or what your financial future will look like.
It always better to take some legal advice from a qualified professional rather than relying on a friend’s opinion or something you have read online. Whilst there is plenty of useful information available on the internet, it is important that legal advice is tailored to your specific set of circumstances.