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5 Tips When Meeting With a Divorce Attorney at Intake

Welcome to our last post in our blog series, What to Know Before Meeting with a Divorce Attorney

meeting with a divorce attorney

For those of you just joining us, so far we’ve talked about:

The Initial Consultation and How to Use it to Get Yourself the right Divorce Attorney (our first post of the series);

How to Schedule an Intake Appointment and What Questions You Should Ask Ahead of Time (our second post of the series);

What You’ll Need to Bring with You to the Intake Appointment (our third post in the series); and

What Happens at an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney (our fourth post in the series).

Now that you’ve gotten a chance to check out our previous posts, here are 5 tips to make the most out of your intake appointment with your divorce attorney.

TIP # 1: When meeting with a Divorce Attorney, make sure the Divorce Attorney Listens to and Matches Your Goals.

Not all divorce attorneys are the same. 

Some divorce attorneys are more aggressive and confrontational than other divorce attorneys.

For example, although alternative dispute resolution (methods, such as mediation, for negotiating with your spouse) is required in most cases in Minnesota, some divorce attorneys push more strongly for a trial. Going to trial is where the majority of legal fees and costs reside during a divorce. –> If you’re looking to avoid going to trial in your divorce, then going with an attorney with a high percentage of divorce cases that go to trial, may not be the best fit. 

Some divorce attorneys are more comfortable with a client completing case tasks that don’t require attorney oversight than other divorce attorneys.

For example, some divorce attorneys allow a client to arrange a property evaluation, such as a house appraisal with a third party, while other divorce attorneys view this as part of his/her billable services. –> If you want your divorce attorney to handle everything, than you’ll be dissatisfied with a divorce attorney who gives you a list of tasks to complete independently. Whereas, if you’re goal is to save money, you’d be happy that you didn’t get charged for things you could do yourself. 

The point is, in order to guarantee a good fit, you need to identify ahead of time what your goals are and evaluate what kind of divorce attorney you want representing you.

Thus, it’s important to make sure that you get a divorce attorney that matches what you’re looking for and is able to meet your needs. So if you haven’t already, use the intake appointment to get to know your divorce attorney better.

meeting with a divorce attorney

Signs that You’ve Found a Divorce Attorney that Listens to and Matches Your Goals:

– Your divorce attorney takes notes when you’re talking about your goals.

– Your divorce attorney makes direct eye contact with you when you’re speaking and provides his/her undivided attention to you and your case. 

– You and your divorce attorney, together, create a plan on how to proceed with your divorce that incorporates your goals and meets your needs. 

*NOTE: If your divorce attorney hasn’t asked about your goals by the intake appointment, that’s a BIG red flag and it’d be advantageous to evaluate your decision to hire him/her.

Meeting with a divorce attorney

Tip # 2: When meeting with a Divorce Attorney, Be Prepared to Offer Personal Information.

As discussed briefly in our previous post, your divorce attorney will want to collect information about a wide variety of topics that may pertain to your divorce at the intake appointment. Aside from core issues, like your property, debts, incomes, and children, often times more uncomfortable and private issues arise, like domestic abuse, drug & alcohol use, mental health issues, etc… It’s easy to feel like your being judged and that your life is under a microscope when you’re being asked such questions by an outsider. 

However, you may find it helpful to know that the client-patient relationship you have with your doctor is very similar to the relationship you share with your divorce attorney.

To illustrate, just like what you tell your doctor is private and confidential, the same goes for what you share with your divorce attorney. In addition, similar to your doctor, your divorce attorney is ethically bound to do what’s in your best interests. And lastly, just like the recommendations a doctor makes and the medical plan that s/he creates for you is based on the information you share with him/her, an attorney’s counsel and legal advice is also directly related to the information you provide him/her.

meeting with a divorce attorney

So although it’s difficult opening up to a stranger, omitting certain facts is detrimental to your case because it limits your divorce attorney’s abilities. Therefore, it’s best to be completely honest and trust that the divorce attorney is only asking you such questions so s/he has a thorough understanding of your situation. After all, your divorce attorney can’t provide the best possible counsel and legal guidance if s/he doesn’t have all the facts.

TIP # 3: When meeting with a Divorce Attorney, Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Clarification.

meeting with a divorce attorney

Some people shy away from asking questions. Don’t. Although hopefully your divorce attorney does a good job of explaining things to you, if you don’t understand something s/he said, ask for clarification. There’s no need for embarrassment. The divorce attorney does this for a living. You don’t.

Therefore, neither your divorce attorney nor yourself, for that matter, should expect you to be well-versed in family law and divorce procedures. Instead, your divorce attorney should be willing to talk with you until you not only understand, but feel comfortable and confident in the decisions being made in your divorce.  

TIP # 4: When meeting with a Divorce Attorney, Make Sure You Understand What the Next Steps Are.

As mentioned in our previous post, at the end of the intake appointment with your divorce attorney, s/he should clearly explain what the next steps are in your divorce case. It’s essential that you know what the divorce attorney needs from you and what s/he will be doing to proceed with your divorce. 

meeting with a divorce attorney

In fact, it’s important that you not only understand what the next steps are after the intake appointment, but throughout your divorce case. There will be times in your divorce, when your divorce attorney won’t be able to proceed until s/he hears back from you or gets something signed by you, etc…so it’s important that you’re always on the same page. When there’s a disconnect in communication and responsiveness between the two of you, it prolongs the divorce process.

TIP # 5: When meeting with a Divorce Attorney, Take a Proactive Stance with Your Divorce (Starting at the Intake Appointment).

There should never be a time when you feel like your divorce attorney has lost focus of your goals. If you find yourself in this situation, regardless of whether it’s after the intake appointment or later on, let your divorce attorney know immediately. The more you discuss your goals and expectations with your divorce attorney, the more likely you’ll be satisfied with the end result. 

meeting with a divorce attorney

  • You can satisfy tip #4 and #5 by requesting that at the end of each conversation or meeting with your divorce attorney, that s/he summarizes the key points and the next steps in your case for both him/her and yourself. This way you can be confident that you’re divorce attorney is working towards your goals and you ensure that you always know what’s happening with your divorce case.

Thanks for checking out our series, What To Know Before Meeting With A Divorce Attorney. Hopefully, you’ve gotten a better idea of what to expect when meeting with a divorce attorney, you feel more prepared for the intake appointment, and you’re able to find the divorce attorney that’s right for you! 

Love To Hear From You…

Besides knowing what to expect, what else would make meeting with a divorce attorney easier? Chime in below ~

The Consultation Myth Revealed

Most divorce attorneys’ or family law firms’ advertise for a free or low-cost consultation, yet fail to explain what a consultation is, and how a consultation in the legal field works. The ambiguity surrounding a legal consultation is a disservice to you, because it creates confusion and frustration during the consultation, which often translates into a missed opportunity for you to get to know a divorce attorney better. 

consultation with a divorce attorney

Therefore, to ease the whole process of finding a divorce attorney and meeting with a divorce attorney for the first time, we started a blog series known as, “What to Know Before Meeting with a Divorce Attorney.” The first post in this series is this article, The Consultation Myth Revealed, and follows with multiple articles, with Scheduling an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney: What To Know and How To Do It as your next stop.  

So to begin, let’s address the biggest barrier when it comes to understanding and utilizing a consultation, and that’s revealing the consultation myth.

The Consultation Myth : Legal Advice & Counsel

At the consultation, the divorce attorney will not provide any legal advice or guidance regarding how to proceed with your divorce, what steps you’ll want to take next, or how to go about getting custody of your child, for example. Needing legal guidance and counsel in your divorce are reasons to hire an attorney.

To illustrate, it may be helpful for you to think about the medical profession. When you go to the doctor, you inform him/her of your symptoms and based on his/her knowledge, expertise, training, etc… s/he determines what’s wrong and provides a remedy. You see a doctor because you lack the knowledge and experience required to diagnosis yourself and therefore, pay the doctor for these services. Similarly, when you obtain a lawyer, you’re paying for his/her legal knowledge, experience and expertise. 

Therefore, if you’re looking for legal advice or counsel, not looking to retain a divorce attorney or can’t afford legal services, a legal consultation will only be irritating and a waste of your time. 

Instead, you’d benefit from searching the Majeski Law, LLC website for articles on specific topics such as, “Can I Leave the State with my Child?” In addition, our sister website, MN Family Law Attorney, has several resources such as, links to: county family courts in the Twin Cities area; Minnesota Court FormsMinnesota Family Court Rules that you’re expected to know and follow; Minnesota State Law Library; and Free Legal Help and clinics in Minnesota. You may also find doing an internet search for pro bono divorce attorneys in your area helpful.

Understanding & Utilizing the Consultation

So to clarify, a legal consultation is like a job interview. At the consultation you’re asking questions of multiple applicants (in this case, several different attorneys and/or law firms) to determine the best person for the position of being your divorce attorney. 

If the firm has a good website and provides you with additional materials to look over at your convenience, the consultation can be done over the phone and in as little as 20 minutes. Either the divorce attorney or a good legal assistant/paralegal can conduct the consultation with you and answer questions you may have before making your decision. Therefore, although you won’t receive any free legal advice or counsel, a consultation still has great value to you and you should seek consultation before retaining a divorce attorney and here’s why…

6 Benefits of a Consultation Before Meeting with a Divorce Attorney

Consultation with a Divorce or Family Law Attorney

1. You ensure that the divorce attorney you’re looking at hiring practices in family law and has experience with divorce cases similar to your own.

* Although hopefully the firm’s marketing takes care of this issue by making it clear what types of cases and areas of law the attorney practices on the firm’s website, it’s always good to double check. Especially with large law firms, you’ll want to make sure that the divorce attorney who is representing you in your divorce case not only will be the same attorney throughout your divorce, but also that s/he practices in divorce and family law, and has significant experience with divorce and family law cases. 

2. You ensure that the divorce attorney you’re looking at hiring can dedicate the time and effort your divorce case deserves and that s/he isn’t overloaded with a number of other matters at the moment (like this guy below). 

Consultation

* Tip: It’s very reasonable for you to ask during the consultation about the attorney’s caseload in order to confirm that s/he is equipped and capable of serving you as a client.

Learn more about: Why your attorney’s caseload matters when it comes to your divorce.

3. You ensure that the divorce attorney you’re looking at hiring doesn’t have any conflict of interests or any other ethical reasons for why s/he would not be a good fit for you and your divorce.

* This is why a divorce attorney should be requesting basic information about you and your divorce case, such as, your full name, address and spouse’s full name at the consultation. It’s the divorce attorney’s responsibility to inform you immediately if s/he is not able to talk with and/or represent you due to a conflict of interest.  

4. You ensure that any questions you have about the divorce attorney and/or the firm are answered ahead of time, free of charge (or for some firms, at a reduced rate) before committing to a divorce attorney.

Consultation

5. You ensure that you understand the divorce attorney’s and/or the firm’s legal practices, such as, the engagement and fee agreements.

6. By consulting with a divorce attorney beforehand, you increase your chances of finding a divorce attorney that fits best for you. As a result, you’re more likely to be satisfied with his/her services in the end. 

Consultation

Lastly, 2 key things to remember about a consultation with a divorce attorney:

1. A consultation allows you to shop around so that you can find the best divorce attorney for you and your divorce. In no way are you bound to one divorce attorney simply because you participated in a consultation with him/her. Instead, a client-attorney relationship only forms after the both of you have signed some sort of engagement letter and fee agreement. 

2. With the above in mind, visa versa is also true. Therefore, we caution against making the unfortunate mistake of believing that an attorney is working on your divorce case when you haven’t established a working relationship with him/her by signing a formal contract and providing the retainer.

Learn more about: What you should know about a retainer before meeting with an attorney

What’s been your experience with consultations when it comes to divorce attorneys, or attorneys in general? Chime in through the comment field below!

Thanks for reading and check out the rest of our posts in the series, What to Know Before Meeting with Your Divorce Attorney, so you’re better prepared!