Contemplating a Divorce? What to expect during that first meeting with a lawyer.
No one walks down the aisle imagining the day they’ll be meeting, Kleenex in hand, with a divorce lawyer. The end of a marriage ranks right up there as one of life’s most stressful experiences. You’ve fashioned a life with another person. Now everything about that life is going to change. Compounding your worries may be the prospect of consulting an attorney—a perfect stranger who will be privy to details you may not have shared with even your closest friends.
It is our goal at Envision Family Law to put you at ease during this difficult time. Knowing what to expect can allay your concerns and let you approach your first meeting with a Washington State divorce attorney with confidence. Below, Envision Family Law attorney Scott Marlow addresses some common questions about that first consultation.
A divorce seems overwhelming! Where do we even start?
A typical first meeting lasts about an hour. Your lawyer will be using that time to get a big picture of your case. I’ll ask about any urgent matters—Has the other side already filed? Are they draining your bank accounts dry? Then, we will review typical issues in a Washington State divorce and how they may apply in your situation: How division of property works, the possibility of spousal maintenance, how parenting time and child support are decided. It’s also a bit of a matchmaking session. You can get a sense of the lawyer’s style—Hard-charging? A good listener? —to help you decide if you two are a good fit.
My spouse always handled the finances. What kind of documents do I have to bring to the first meeting?
Most important are any relevant legal documents—if your spouse has already served you with divorce papers, for example. It’s also important to bring in financial documents related to any actions your spouse has taken that might require emergency action: If they have cancelled an insurance policy, sold property or are diverting funds from you. Otherwise, for this first meeting, your attorney just wants to get a general sense of your financial situation. Bring bank and investment statements, credit card and other debt records, and property ownership information. We won’t be going over them with a fine-toothed comb yet.
As your case proceeds, we will need more-detailed financial information. If you and your spouse are still living together, now is the time to make copies of all financial records while you still have access to statements and know passwords to electronic accounts.
Can I bring my sister?
Many of our clients do bring a loved one for emotional support and to act as another set of ears. You are welcome to do so but realize you waive the right to confidentiality about the contents of our meeting when another person is present.
This is tough! What if I start crying?
We keep tissue boxes within arms’ reach for a reason. We recognize that divorce is a roller coaster of emotions. I might suggest we move onto another topic for the moment and come back later to the topic upsetting you. Although I’m very sympathetic, I appreciate you are not paying me to act as a therapist (my degree is in law not psychology!) When you are ready, I will guide us gently back to use our time productively.
I am embarrassed to share some of this stuff!!!
As experienced family lawyers, we have, alas, heard it all. Affairs, abuse, addiction are just another day at the office. I’m not being nosy. I am on your side. We do need to discuss these kinds of sensitive but relevant topics so I can represent you effectively. Be honest—What is the worst thing the other party will say about you? Everything you share remains strictly confidential and ethically we are bound to use this information only to help your case.
So will I be able to keep the house?
Of course you are anxious about the final outcome of your divorce and what it means for your future. You may crave immediate answers. A good lawyer will give you his or her educated opinion about how your case will likely unfold but can’t guarantee the final result. (If a lawyer tells you only what you want to hear, run.) It does helps to prepare for the meeting by thinking through your two or three top priorities (such as your desire to keep the house or get spousal maintenance) so we can begin to develop a legal strategy to help you achieve your most important goals. Realize a lawyer’s strategy may adjust as we get deeper into a case.
Then what should I ask at this first meeting?
Important questions to ask a lawyer are about fee structure and estimated cost, approaches such as mediation versus court, how you should communicate (phone or email), how long they have practiced on cases such as yours, and who else within the office will be working on your case.
When I am stressed, my mind goes totally blank.
Divorce law can be complicated. We will do our best to explain your situation in clear, understandable terms. You may want to write down a list of questions and concerns before the meeting. At the end of our time, go through it to make sure we covered it all. Some clients take written notes. For your protection, I don’t allow my clients to record the meeting on their phones. That kind of record could conceivably be used as evidence by the other party.
Will the lawyer think I am The Boy (or Girl) Who Cried Wolf if I decide to not go through with a divorce?
All attorney-client communication is protected and strictly private. We will not reveal to your spouse you have met with us. Please understand I’m not here to push you into divorce. You are here only to gather information about a life-altering decision and explore all your options.
I can’t take away all the stress and anxiety of a divorce. But I want you to leave our offices understanding it’s my job to lift some of that burden off your shoulders alone. To discuss your situation with one of our experienced attorneys, please call or text us today at (253) 499-7191.