It pays to prepare well for your first meeting with a family lawyer. No matter what your need may be, advance preparation can save you time and money.
Here are the best ways to prepare for your first family law meeting.
Get Your Facts Straight – and Stick to Them
Taking an objective stance on emotional issues can be difficult, but it’s the wisest route when speaking with a potential attorney. Sticking to the facts will save you money. However, if you do get upset when speaking about your problems, a good lawyer should have the compassion and understanding to help you get back on track gently.
No matter what, you should always be honest with your attorney right from the very beginning. Hiding information will only cost more time and money in the long run. Be up front and willing to discuss options and solutions.
If being open with people is hard for you, remember that every lawyer guarantees a protected and confidential relationship with you. Your honesty will be guarded and appreciated.
Fill Out Requested Paperwork
If you are asked to fill out a questionnaire before your first meeting, make sure to fill it out completely and turn it in ahead of time. Your answers can help your meeting go faster and more smoothly, because the attorney will know how to serve you better.
Create a Timetable
Discussing incidents on the timeline could be challenging and emotional. Yet it’s important for your attorney to understand all the details to be able to offer you the best possible outcome. Review these items carefully and rehearse them on your own so you are better prepared for the meeting.
The type of documents you need to provide will be specific to your situation. The more documentation you can provide up front, the less work your lawyer will need to do later.
For example, if you are seeking a divorce, you will need to provide a copy of your prenuptial agreement and marriage certificate, along with proof of counseling sessions, marital separation, and any reconciliations. If you have previous divorce decrees, bring those along as well.
If you are seeking divorce (and possibly custody) in a domestic violence situation, police and medical reports will be helpful.
These documents are necessary in many family law cases:
- Driver’s license
- Social security card
- Three years of tax returns
- Pay stubs from current employer
- Information related to other income
- Certificates of education
- Documentation for any other legal procedures
- Information on children’s names, ages, and addresses
- Bank account statements, account numbers, and names of account holders
- Investment account statements, account numbers, and names of account holders
- Pension account information
- Personal property information on vehicles, artwork, jewelry, and other valuables
- Real estate information for mortgages and other holdings
- Credit card and credit line information, including listings of all outstanding debt and names of account holders
- Life insurance policies
Information for both spouses should be provided.
Prepare a List of Questions
You need to ask thoughtful questions to determine if the lawyer will be a good fit for you. Here are several questions you can ask to decide whether to move forward with a particular attorney.
- How long have you been a lawyer?
- How much experience do you have working with cases like mine?
- Can you give me examples of how those cases turned out?
- Do you specialize in my case area, or do you handle other types of cases too?
- Will other members of your staff be working with me? If so, can I meet them?
- How will I be charged? By retainer, or as services are rendered?
- Will I be charged for time spent with other people on your staff?
- Can I expect any additional expenses, such as investigators or expert witnesses?
- Do you have an estimated total of what this case will cost?
- Do you provide mediation services?
- Can you explain how mediation may benefit my case?
- Do you expect that all communication flows through you, or is it okay for me to negotiate directly with the other party?
- Do you have any suggestions for cutting costs in my case?
- What is your gut feeling on how a judge will rule in my case?
- What will you do to increase the chances that the judge will rule in my favor?
Ready to schedule a meeting with a potential Florida family lawyer? Gather your documents and write out your questions, then give us a call.