Top Court Attire Mistakes Judges Hate & How to Avoid Them

Court Attire and Appearance

Your Court attire and appearance are worthy of careful consideration. How you’re dressed for Court reflects your respect for the Judge, the Court and Justice system.

It’s also a reflection of you! Disregard your appearance and you risk drawing a judge’s attention away from the issues of your case. Worse yet, you may be left trying to deal with a negative first impression. Instead, your Court attire and appearance should compliment your case by increasing your credibility.

So, let’s learn what to wear and what not to wear in Court so you can put your best foot forward in your divorce or custody case. In addition, find a free court attire and court appearance checklist at the end of this article, along with helpful information about your first court appearance in a divorce, custody or family law case. 

Mistake #1: Informal Court Attire 

Examples include: Jeans; t-shirts; shorts; sweatpants; jumpsuits; jerseys; sports and/or athletic apparel; tennis shoes; slippers; and flips flops. 

Going to court is a formal affair.  So, you want to look your best. Although you don’t have to buy a suit for court, if you own a professional-looking suit, wear it. However, if you don’t own a suit or it doesn’t fit properly, professional/business attire is fine.

Dressing for court is similar to dressing for a professional job interview. Think dress pants, slacks, or pressed-khaki pants with dress blouses or button-up, collared-shirts under long-sleeved cardigans or blazers. In addition, stick with tall, dark-colored socks with close-toed black or brown dress shoes.

Court attire and professional business apparel in court

Mistake #2: Inappropriate Court Attire

Tank tops, mid drift shirts, short skirts, sleeveless and/or low-cut blouses or v-neck sweaters, and tight-fitted or extremely-baggy clothing are inappropriate in a Courtroom. Furthermore, clothing with images, messages, or words can be provoking and/or inappropriate and therefore, should also not be worn in a courtroom. 

Therefore, cover your skin when in the Courtroom and all undergarments.  Bra straps, underwear, boxers, or briefs should not be visible at any time in court.  If necessary, invest in a brown or black dress belt to prevent pants from sagging in the courtroom. 

court attire shoes

Mistake #3: Poor Personal Hygiene/Appearance

Strong body odor, bad breath, greasy and/or unruly hair, a scraggly-looking beard, dirty finger nails, scuffed shoes, etc… all leave an unfavorable impression on a judge.

For example, imagine a parent arguing for more parenting time enters court in wrinkled, mismatched, and stained clothing, with long disheveled hair. A first impression like this could lead the Judge to infer the parent as irresponsible, neglectful, inconsiderate, reckless, inept, etc…

With such a negative first impression, it’s much more difficult for the parent to present and be viewed by the Judge as a competent and qualified co-parent. Any arguments of competency on the parent’s behalf will strongly conflict with the image s/he initially portrayed to the judge. After all, when actions don’t match words, we tend to view a person’s actions to be more reliable, honest, and a better representation of the truth, or their “real” character. 

make sure everything is clean

Clothes should be freshly-laundered, ironed, and in good-condition. Do not wear anything that has holes, tears or visible stains.Shirts should be neatly tucked-in before entering the courtroom. Shoelaces should be tied. Clean and polish dress shoes the night before your court appearance, if applicable.

Attend to personal hygiene the morning of your court appearance.  

    • On the day of your court appearance, shower and wash your hair.
    • Hair should be combed and neatly-cut or styled. Your hair should not hang in your face or obstruct your eyesight. If you’re constantly tucking-in bangs or brushing hair out of your face, it’s very distracting for you and a judge.
    • Brush your teeth and if necessary, use a breath mint, but finish it before going into court.
    • Trim and scrub finger nails and remove any visible dirt on your hands before appearing in court.
    • Shave facial hair, or make sure all facial hair is neatly-trimmed and combed.
    • Apply deodorant, but avoid spraying colognes or perfumes, or applying scented after-shave products or body lotions, as this can also be distracting. 

Mistake #4: Concealing Accessories

Concealing accessories and a lack of eye contact can signify a lack of respect or sincerity to a Judge. Sunglasses, hats of any kind (baseball caps, top hats, winter stocking caps, “beanies”, cowboy hats, etc…), along with hoods, and heavy jackets should not be worn in a courtroom. 

Don’t wear any head gear (such as, baseball caps, headphones, bluetooth pieces, etc…) before appearing in court.  That way, your hair will stay neat for court and you won’t have to worry about remembering to take anything off before entering the courtroom.

However, if the weather necessitates it, make sure that all hats, earmuffs, sunglasses, hoods, etc… are removed and properly put away before entering the Courtroom. 

Mistake #5: “Flashy” Accessories

Make-up, jewelry, body piercings, shoes, tattoos, colors, electronics, phones, food and beverages, chewing gum, e-cigarettes, pocket change, extravagant purses, etc… can all be distracting in a court room. In addition, wearing political buttons, club pins, college rings, expensive jewelry, designer handbags, etc… can all trigger prejudice or bias. 

As for your Court attire, aim for a conservative and neutral look.  Facial make-up should be modest, and stick with neutral tones and light colors.  Avoid bright, bold or flashy colors and patterns. Instead, stick with solid colors of white, navy, gray, and the like to be taken more seriously.  Although tattoos and body piercings are more common today, temporarily remove any facial piercings and cover all tattoos as much as possible when in Court.

Mistake #6: Distracting Accessories

Next, limit unnecessary noise. Avoid wearing large chains, cufflinks, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings to Court.  Don’t have loose change and/or multiple keys in your pocket that bang against each other and jingle when you walk. 

Leaving your cell phone on vibrate is often still audible in a quiet Courtroom.  Therefore, put your cell phone on “silent” mode or off and make sure that it’s put away when you’re in court.

Also, you can’t drink, eat, or smoke in the Courtroom.  This includes the use of e-cigarettes and chewing bubble gum.

Lastly, minimize disorganization and distraction. Court documents should be neatly organized and properly filed. 

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

7 Ways To Protect Yourself When Being Deposed

Woman Being Deposed
A deposition can be extremely stressful

Deposed in your divorce, custody or family law case? The deposition process (especially when you’re the one getting deposed) can be very intimidating. And understandably so. After all, most of us are uncomfortable during a job interview. So, if sitting in a room as a trained and experienced professional “sizes you up” and questions you with the intent of spotting inconsistencies in your statements isn’t your cup of tea… it just means you’re normal.

However, you don’t have to let your nerves get the best of you. Check out our deposition guide so you know what to expect, meet with your divorce or family law attorney, and don’t forget these seven tips when you’re getting deposed.

What to Do When Being Deposed

1. Be honest.

Although you won’t be in a Courtroom, you’re still under oath, like you are in court, during a deposition. Thus, if you lie, falsify information, make false statements, etc… while you’re being deposed, it’s a serious offense and considered perjury. In addition, any inconsistencies can and likely will be used against you later or if there is a trial. 

2. Answer only what the deposing lawyer asks you.

It’s not uncommon for people to talk a lot when they get nervous. However, when you’re being deposed, resist the urge to story tell. If you’re a person who is used to giving lots of details, keep it simple by focusing your response solely on answering the question at hand.

3. “I don’t know” and “I don’t understand” are perfectly acceptable answers if they are true.

If you don’t know or can’t recall the answer, or don’t understand the question – say so. After all, it’s the deposing lawyer’s job to ask questions that you (the individual being deposed) is able to answer and clarify questions you don’t understand. Sometimes, during a deposition, people feel so pressured to give an answer and/or they think it’s bad if they don’t know or have an answer – that they make an assumption, guess or speculate. However, it’s much harder to change an answer given during a deposition later in court, than it is, to expand on your answer after uncovering more information at a later date. And thus why, making assumptions, speculating, and/or guessing during a deposition can be a costly mistake and isn’t in your best interests. 

4. Stick to your guns if it’s the truth.

Don’t allow the deposing lawyer to twist your answers or get you to answer something that you don’t believe is right. For instance, an inexperienced deposing attorney may ask you a question that assumes untruthful facts, in hopes that by responding to the question, you’re agreeing to those untruthful facts. Instead, don’t be swayed to change your answer or agree to statements that you don’t believe are true. 

5. Be patient.

Listen carefully and completely to each question from the deposing lawyer before answering. Sometimes silence can feel so uncomfortable that we rush to an answer or fill the air with “Umms…” until we’ve processed a question. However, it’s perfectly okay to pause (and thus, for there to be moments of silence) in order to collect yourself, process the question and provide a thoughtful response. In fact, you may find it advantageous to pause (briefly) after each question. If you pause briefly before responding to each question (even when the question is incredibly easy – such as, “What’s your date of birth?”) then when a more complex question comes along and you need more time- you’ll have it and feel less rushed. In addition, besides giving you the opportunity to provide a thoughtful response, being patient and taking your time ensures that you wait to hear the whole question before answering and also gives your attorney the opportunity to object to any inappropriate or unnecessary questions. Lastly, being patient during the deposition will help you remain calm, which is the next tip. 

6. Remain calm.

During a divorce or family law deposition, be aware of emotionally-provoking questions. A brief pause to take a few deep breaths is better than an aggressive outburst that you can’t take back. Besides making you look bad, interrupting and/or talking over the deposing attorney makes it difficult for the court reporter to type and have an accurate record of the deposition. In addition, do you really want the deposing attorney (in most divorce and family law cases – the opposing attorney) to discover what pushes your buttons and later be able to use it against you in a trial?

7. Be Professional.

Some people get so nervous about presenting themselves in a desirable light that they become overly friendly during the deposition. Others, don’t take the deposition seriously enough and tell jokes. Instead, you want to act in a professional manner. Show courtesy to those involved and be polite in your interactions. Avoid swear words and sarcastic responses during the deposition. Just like you don’t have to like a co-worker, but you need to respect him/her – the same applies to the other party, the deposing attorney, the court reporter, etc… during a deposition.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For other Court rules, please click here.

What is the Notice of Initial Case Management Conference?

In a Minnesota divorce, custody or family law case, the Notice of Initial Case Management Conference is typically the second document you receive from the court. Generally, this notice from the court comes after the Notice of Case Filing and the Notice of Case Assignment. However, sometimes you receive all three of these notices from the court together. 

The Notice of Initial Case Management Conference will inform you of the date, time, and location of the Initial Case Management Conference, known as the ICMC. In most cases, the ICMC is the first time you’ll need to appear in court for your divorce, custody or family law case.

The notice may also briefly explain what the ICMC process is, and will inform you that you’ll need to complete a document titled, the ICMC Data Sheet. Typically, the ICMC data sheet must be filed with the court and the other party 5 business days before the ICMC. However, it’s very important that you know and follow the procedures and policies within your specific county court system. 

In addition, the Notice of ICMC may provide a short preview of what you can expect at the ICMC, along with a discussion of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE), scheduling, appraisals, and discovery. All of these processes can potentially be a part of your case. Although, typically you need to use more of these processes during a divorce case than a custody case.

Read At Court-ICMC to learn more about the Initial Case Management Conference with the judge and take a look at our infographic below.

Notice of Initial Case Management Conference

If you’re not familiar with such processes listed above (ADR, ENE, Discovery, etc…) or don’t know how to prepare for them with your best interests in mind, your best course of action is either to hire a family law attorney or try a legal self-help clinic. Because, regardless of whether you’re represented or not, the judge will expect you to be prepared to discuss these processes and issues.

TIP: In fact, judges are especially pleased when the parties have worked together and reached agreements on these processes and issues before talking to the judge at the ICMC. 

Lastly, if you have a family law attorney or divorce lawyer, s/he may be sent the Notice of ICMC from the court instead. However, in that case, your attorney should give you a copy. You should keep this copy of the Notice of ICMC for your personal records. 

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

5 Tips When Meeting With a Divorce Attorney

meeting with a divorce attorney

Divorce Attorney and Staff

What to Know: Meeting with a Divorce Attorney 

After you’ve made phone calls to law offices, the next step is typically  meeting with a divorce attorney.  This can either be for a consultation or to retain him or her.  Here are five tips to help you maximize the process.

TIP # 1: 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.  Others are more passive.  

For example, although alternative dispute resolution, like mediation, 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.

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

  • He or she takes notes when you’re talking about your goals.
  • He or she 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
Tip # 2: Be ready 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 a relative stranger. 

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.

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.

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: Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Clarification

meeting with a divorce attorney
When meeting with a divorce attorney, ask lots of questions

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: Make Sure You Understand the Next Steps

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. 

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: Take a Proactive Stance with Your Divorce

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.

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.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

What Happens At Intake With A Divorce Attorney

Most people are a little uncomfortable during an intake with a divorce attorney. However, a lot of that can be avoided when you know what to expect.  Keep in mind, not all divorce and family law firms are the same.  But we’ll give you a general idea of what happens so you can feel prepared.  

Intake with a Divorce Attorney
Preparation for Intake

Agenda at Intake with a Divorce Attorney

Ideally, you can expect these five things to occur during an intake with a divorce attorney:

1. Establishing a Relationship

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the intake appointment, is that it’s your first opportunity to establish your relationship with your divorce attorney. It’s essential that you feel comfortable talking to your divorce attorney and that you can confide in him/her. We’ll go into more detail next week about the client-attorney relationship.

In addition, if possible, take a moment to introduce yourself to any other additional staff you’ll be working with, such as a paralegal, before leaving the intake appointment. Although paralegals can’t provide any legal advice or guidance, you save money by working directly with the paralegal on case matters such as scheduled court appearances, correspondences, and filings. 

2. Completing the Engagement Letter & Fee Agreement (Contract)

The divorce attorney you meet with might refer to this as the client retention contract, the engagement letter, the representation and fee agreement, etc. Regardless of what the contract is called, it’s important that you’re able to review it with your divorce attorney, ask any questions you may have, and receive a personal copy for your records.  

The contract sets forth the parameters of the client-attorney relationship, legal fees and service payments, client and attorney responsibilities, and other additional information regarding representation and firm policies.

Although the contract can be intimidating at first due to it’s length, it’s reassuring to have everything in writing and clear expectations from the start. If the divorce attorney doesn’t have a contract, his or her contract is extremely vague and short, or he or she is unwilling to sign a contract with you, this is a BIG red flag and consider looking for a different divorce attorney. 

It’s important that you understand the contract before signing it. If there is anything you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask the divorce attorney.

He or she should be more than willing to explain and answer any and all questions. In addition, if a concern or question regarding representation and/or legal services isn’t addressed in the contract, bring it up and consider adding it to the contract before signing. 

3. Depositing the Retainer

Work on your case will start and you’ll officially have representation when you and your divorce attorney have both signed and dated the contract, and you’ve provided the retainer.

Since we’ve discussed the retainer throughout this series (see links in the first paragraphs of this article for past posts), we won’t go into more detail here.

intake with a divorce attorney
Always know what you’re signing

4. Discussing Divorce & giving Legal Guidance

Most divorce attorneys will collect information about you, your family and your spouse at the intake appointment. It’s not uncommon for the divorce attorney to ask you a wide-range of questions during the intake appointment. 

Although it can feel invasive, it gives the divorce attorney an overview and helps him/her spot possible issues that may arise in your case. We’ll talk more about this in our post next week. 

At this time, you can also bring up any other issues not yet discussed and seek legal advice on any pressing concerns or family matters. In addition, if you’ve been served with divorce papers or have any other previous court orders, your divorce attorney will review such documents with you at this time.

If you’re unable to bring these documents to the intake appointment for whatever reason, it’s essential that you and your divorce attorney still discuss such matters and that a plan is set in motion to get these documents as soon as possible.

5. Developing a Plan & Next Steps in Case 

At the end of the intake with a divorce attorney, the client and divorce attorney should develop a plan for moving forward the case, based on the client’s specific situation, goals and preferences. Before leaving the intake appointment, the divorce attorney should clearly explain what s/he will be doing and what s/he will be needing from you.  

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

Preparing for an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney

Preparing for an intake appointment with a divorce attorney is difficult when you’ve never met with an attorney before, you don’t know what to expect, and/or you don’t know what happens at an intake appointment with a divorce attorney.

appointment with a divorce attorney
Sometimes your divorce attorney will want documents at intake.

 Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney: What to Bring

1. Current Court Documents

This refers to any and all court documents you’ve received before your intake appointment with a divorce attorney. For example, if you’ve been served by your spouse or s/he has filed for a divorce in Minnesota, you should have received two documents known as, the Petition and Summons.

It’s essential that you bring these documents (such as, the Petition and Summons) to avoid missing the deadline to contest your divorce and thus, forfeit your right to express your opinion regarding significant aspects of your divorce (such as, property division, child custody and child support).

To illustrate, in Minnesota you only have 30 days to respond after you’ve been served and your reply must be properly formatted into a legal document called, the Answer, which typically also includes one’s Counter-Petition

2. Previous Court Documents

It’s also helpful for you to bring any other court documents from previous divorce and/or family law cases that you were involved in (if any) before this divorce.

For example, if applicable, you’ll want to bring the following documents listed below:

Court documents from any/all previous divorces, such as the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgement and Judgement and Decree.

The judgement and decree is the final Court document that is signed by the Judge, establishes the divorce between the couple, and spells out the duties and responsibilities of each party regarding such matters as, property and asset division, child custody and child support.  

Other family law related court documents, such as Orders For Protection, Recognition of Parentage (ROP’s), Child Support and/or Child Custody Modification Arrangements, etc.

3. Financial and Other Important Documents 

If you have any original financial documents such as, you and/or your spouse’s paystubs, 401k statements, pension plans, tax returns, etc… it’s in your best interest to start collecting these immediately so that you can give them to your divorce attorney.

appointment with a divorce attorney
Pay Stubs are often a key financial document

Although we don’t require original financial documents right away, some law offices like to collect these documents immediately. It’s best if you find out exactly what documents your divorce attorney will require from you at the intake appointment by asking during the consultation or when you’re scheduling the intake appointment.

Also, although most divorce attorneys will ask for such financial documents, if you don’t have access to any of these financials, your divorce attorney can help you get access. In Minnesota, both parties are required to disclose any and all information to one another.

4. Retainer Payment

Most divorce and family law firms require some form of an initial retainer before working on your case. You can think of the retainer as an initial, good-faith deposit that demonstrates you’re ability to hire a divorce attorney and that you’ll use to pay for his/her legal services.

It’s expected that you’ll bring the retainer to the intake appointment when you meet with your divorce attorney. As mentioned in our previous post, you should use the consultation to request information about retainer amounts, payment methods, and fee agreements.

appointment with a divorce attorney
Credit cards are typically accepted for retainers

One last thing about the retainer payment, if someone other than yourself will be paying on your behalf, it’s best that you inform your divorce attorney of this ahead of time (such as, during the consultation or when you’re scheduling the intake appointment).

Some divorce and family law firms will only take checks from a third party. Some divorce and family law firms require the third party to appear in person to confirm identity and to obtain permission; while other divorce and family law firms will take a third party’s credit card number over the phone.

The point is, if a third party will be paying the retainer, you’ll want to know if there are any additional procedures that are required ahead of time to ensure you’re prepared for the intake appointment.    

5. Driver’s License and/or State Id Card

Your driver’s license and/or state identification card will be used by the divorce attorney to confirm your identity at the intake appointment. Identity confirmation is a very important practice because it ensures your safety and confidentiality by preventing someone from obtaining private information about you and your case by pretending to be you.

In addition, if you’re paying the initial retainer with your credit card, your driver’s license or state identification card will prove that you own the account. Lastly, if you’re working with a small law firm or solo practitioner for your divorce, you most likely won’t need to show your I.D. card again to the divorce attorney after the initial intake appointment. 

6. A Guest, such as a Friend or Family Member

appointment with a divorce attorney with family member
You can bring someone with you, but often it’s not a good idea.

We’ve added a guest to the list of things to bring to an intake appointment with a divorce attorney not because you necessarily should or shouldn’t bring someone with you, but because it’s something that you should decide before the  intake appointment with the divorce attorney.

In addition, it’s something that you should discuss with the divorce attorney either during the consultation or when you’re scheduling an intake appointment. Before you decide, know the pros and cons of bringing someone with you to an intake appointment with a divorce attorney.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

Scheduling an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney

intake appointment

When you’re looking to hire a specific divorce or family law attorney, you need to schedule an intake appointment with him or her. Because it’s typically the first time you meet the attorney, most people are a little apprehensive about the intake appointment. After all, it’s normal to feel awkward initially when we’re in an unfamiliar situation and we can’t rely on previous experience. 

What should you do next after you’ve selected a divorce attorney – schedule the intake appointment. To make this process as easy as possible for you, we’ve included a checklist you can use with the 8 things to ask when you’re scheduling with a divorce attorney. You can find the checklist at the end of this article.

Schedule an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney

Once you’ve decided to retain an attorney for your divorce, set up an intake appointment with the divorce attorney as soon as possible. This may seem obvious. In fact, you may be wondering why we even brought this up. However, it’s one of those things that’s easier said than done.

For a lot of people, retaining a divorce attorney means the start to the end of a marriage. Even if you haven’t been happy for a long time or have been talking about getting a divorce, it’s the completing of this step that often makes it “more real” for people and with that realization can come a flood of unwanted emotions and unanswered questions. At this point, it’s very easy to become paralyzed with fear and worry.

However, if you’re past the contemplation stage and you’re absolutely sure that you want a divorce, allowing yourself the chance to meet your divorce attorney can help with some of those unanswered questions and fears and provide some support.

Schedule an In-Person Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney 

Personally, we recommend meeting with a divorce attorney in person at his/her office. This allows you the chance to meet face-to-face and get to know the divorce attorney who’ll be representing you and anyone else  who’ll be working with you throughout your divorce. 

Intake Appointment
Scheduling an intake appointment can be done online for many lawyers.

The only time we don’t meet in person is when the firm has been retained by an individual who lives far away, has mobility concerns or time constraints, and therefore, prefers to have the intake meeting over the phone or by using video software like Skype or FaceTime.

What to Ask When Scheduling an Intake Appointment with an Attorney 

1. If you’d prefer not to meet at the office or if it’s difficult for you to meet in person with the divorce attorney, determine if the firm has the resources and ability to accommodate your needs/preferences before you schedule an intake appointment.

For example, you can ask if the divorce attorney is willing to meet you at a different location that’s more convenient for you.

If this is the case, just make sure that the location you select still ensures your privacy and confidentiality. Or if you’ve decided to phone or video conference make sure to exchange information, such as Skype user names, and arrange who will initiate the phone/video conference when you set up the intake appointment. 

2. When you schedule the intake appointment, ask how long it will take so you’re not stretching yourself too thin.

Trying to rush through the intake appointment because you only allocated 30 minutes (when you could really use an hour) adds stress. It’s hard to focus if you’re worried about making it to your next commitment on time.

Therefore, schedule the intake appointment for a day when you’re less busy. If that’s not possible, you can always ask if the lawyer would be willing to spread the intake appointment out into 3 smaller meetings.

Or try to get some help with your commitments to lighten your schedule. For example, arranging a carpool with another parent for your kid’s soccer practice that night so that you have enough time for the appointment. 

In addition, map out your route ahead of time and make sure you take into account parking and traffic on the day and time of your intake appointment. Always give yourself longer than you think it will take to get to your intake appointment. That way, you’re not running into your intake appointment already frazzled because you’re late. 

3. Provide a safe and secure (meaning, it should be private, confidential and password-protected) phone number with voicemail and/or email address, in case the divorce attorney needs to reach you before your intake appointment or if you’d like to receive an intake appointment reminder from the firm. 

If you haven’t been asked already, let the firm know the best way to reach you and your preferred method of contact. If you don’t have access to a secure phone line or you have reason to believe that your email has been compromised, inform the firm immediately so that steps can be taken to protect your confidentiality and privacy. 

4. Confirm the address of the law firm and don’t be afraid to ask for directions and nearby landmarks. 

5. Ask about parking options for the intake appointment.

You’ll want to confirm ahead of time if you need to find a nearby parking ramp, have cash/change for a meter, or if the firm provides free parking through it’s own parking lot. 

6. If you didn’t do it at the phone consultation or forgot, confirm the retainer amount and discuss the method of payment. 

If you’re planning on having someone else pay the retainer on your behalf, it’s a good time to bring this up when your scheduling your intake appointment. 

7. Determine what you should be bringing to the intake appointment with the divorce attorney. Use this list of what to bring with you when you meet your divorce attorney to give you an idea and as a starting point. In addition, if you’re planning on bringing someone to the intake appointment with you, it’s a good idea to discuss this now. 

8. Before getting off the phone, ask if there is anything else you should know at this point. This gives your divorce attorney the opportunity to add anything else s/he may want you to know or discuss ahead of time. 

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

Divorce Recall: Unveiling New Families

New families are developing today- families that involve separate households, step-children, coparenting, second marriages, and so on. So, what about society’s current views of divorce? Have they changed too? For families who are trying to move forward and the children stuck in the middle, the stigma of divorce can be very detrimental.

David Dickerman, author of Mom, Dad, and Everyone Else, a children’s book that uses clay illustrations to reframe the concept of divorce in a new light, challenges current notions of divorce in his featured article below. 

New Families in Today's Divorce

* Find information about the author, David Dickerman, read reviews for his children’s book about divorce, and where you can buy it at the end of this article. 

New Families in Divorce

Brave New Families

Every relationship is different. Some people gravitate towards a partner more similar to themselves in order to connect through common interests and backgrounds, while others prefer to be with their polar opposites in order to be challenged and exposed to new things. Since people are all different, no relationships can be identical. Therefore, it would stand to reason that every marriage would be different as well. If this logic is sound, would it not make sense that every divorce would be different too? 

Although the traditional view of marriage (with the woman staying home and caring for the house and kids while the husband works) has changed, our ideas about divorce remain the same. When the D-word is uttered, scenes of confrontational custody battles and alimony wars come to mind. However, generalities cannot be made about any relationships – whether it’s a marriage, family, divorce, etc…

Do some divorcing couples argue over custody and disagree about alimony? Yes, just like there are families where the wife stays at home while the husband works. However, there are also families where both parents work, same – sex couples, the father stays home, grandma moves in, sons and daughters play with step-siblings, etc…

As the nature of families change it is our responsibility, as a society, to acknowledge these changes and adapt. Just like we know more about medicine than we did a hundred years ago, we also know more about families and divorce. Therefore, it’s important that we continue to pass these evolving views down to our children.

Statistics show that people are now marrying later in life for reasons such as wanting time to establish a career and waiting to marry for love. This does not make the institution of marriage flawless. Nor does it change the fact that where there is marriage, there is also divorce.

Fortunately, changes have started to arise as the term “co-parenting” strutted onto the scene. Slowly, people are coming to accept that if children are involved, getting a divorce severs the marriage relationship, but gives rise to a new relationship with parenting.

As I mentioned before, families come in all shapes and sizes, and this also applies to divorced families. Some parents end contact with one another after the divorce and communicate with one another mainly through others, while some divorced families get together for sporting events and celebrate the holidays together.

Families are not the same because marriage is not the same. As a society we are trying to make a new type of family exist in an archaic construct. It is a losing battle that does not have to be lost if we reframe the idea of family and divorce to our children. 

People change and grow, sometimes in the same direction and sometimes not. If a couple produces children they both love, built something strong together, and end because they have become different people while still remaining friends, why is this considered a failure? Can a successful marriage end? It depends on how you handle the divorce…

By David Dickerman

New Families after Divorce

What are your thoughts? Is he on to something? Chime in below ~

About the Author:

David Dickerman was born in Dallas, Texas. He has a BA in Psychology from Syracuse University and pursued a Master’s in general childhood education and literacy from Bank Street College in New York City.

David began working with children at a young age as a camp counselor, and in after school programs. These experiences, coupled with his post-secondary education, prepared David for his multi-faceted career as a teacher, program director, literacy specialist, and educational consultant. David also shared that he identifies as an adult child of divorce (ACOD). 

David currently works as an assessment specialist in New Jersey and lives in the area with his wife, Laura; son, Spencer; and dog, Norman.

For reviews or to buy his children’s book about divorce, click: Mom, Dad and Everyone Else 

Why Caseload Matters In Your Divorce

Why Caseload Matters
An overworked and disorganized attorney can be a bad sign

The Divorce Attorney’s Current Caseload

The divorce attorney’s current caseload may impact his or her ability to competently serve you.  For example, let’s say that you find a divorce attorney that has a reputation for caring about his/her clients, or you find a divorce attorney that is known for his/her dedication and hard work on cases.

However, even with these great qualities, no divorce attorney is immune to the limitations of time. After all, there’s only so much that can get done in a day. 

Therefore, the simple fact remains…

If your divorce attorney takes more clients and cases than s/he can handle, it impacts you, as the client, because your attorney won’t be able to deliver the best service possible.

Therefore, to ensure that you and your divorce case get the quality representation and attention that you deserve, don’t overlook the fact that the divorce attorney that you’re considering may already have a full plate.

Will the Attorney Has Time for Me?

 I recommend that you ask the divorce attorney that you’re considering on hiring,

“Do you currently have the time and resources available to competently handle my case?”

By asking this question, you signal to your divorce lawyer that this is a concern for you. By communicating this concern from the get-go, you ensure that your divorce attorney is made aware of your concern right away. By making your lawyer cognizant of the issue from the start, s/he is able to take the necessary steps throughout your case to ensure that it doesn’t happen. Therefore, by voicing your concern, you increase your chances of receiving quality representation and services.  After all, it’s in any lawyer’s best interest to keep his/her clients happy since lawyers depend on referrals from past clients for future business!

Other Considerations

For one, if your divorce attorney has a legal assistant or paralegal, then the firm can take more clients, than a solo practitioner, because more staff means more people to help with your case and share the work.

Support Help for caseload
Legal support staff can help manage caseload

Therefore, this example shows how taking into consideration both criteria 5 (the attorney’s current clients and caseload) and criteria 3 (support help) help you make a better decision about if you’re divorce attorney will have time for you and your divorce case, than if you only focused on criteria 5 or criteria 3.

In addition, if your divorce attorney practices exclusively in family law and is experienced with divorce cases, he or she can have more clients at a time, than an attorney who practices in several areas of law, because presumably the general practice attorney is going to be serving a wider range of clients and therefore having to set aside more time to learn and research laws in multiple areas (such as, criminal law, or bankruptcy law) due to having unrelated cases.

Multiple Law Areas increase caseload
Lack of specialization can increase an attorney’s caseload

Therefore, this example shows how taking into consideration the attorney’s current clients and caseload and background experience and education help you make a you make a better decision about if you’re divorce attorney will have time for you and your divorce case.

And as I just demonstrated, it’s detrimental to base your decision only on a single criteria because you just saw how criteria 3 and criteria 4, can impact criteria 5. So when you make your final decision of who to hire as your divorce attorney, just make sure to consider as many criteria as possible. 

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

Hiring a Small Law Firm: Advantages

Advtanges of Hiring a Small Law Firm
Hiring a small firm for a divorce should be personal

Advantages of Hiring a Small Law Firm for your Divorce

  1. Less Expensive

Perhaps the most significant advantage of hiring a small law firm for your Minnesota divorce is cost.

Small law firms have less staff to pay. They also have less organizational overhead, lower advertising costs, and less expensive office space rentals. In any law office, these expenses will inevitably be pushed off onto the client, usually in the form of higher fees.

For example, big law firms in downtown Minneapolis charge a minimum of $400 an hour with paralegal fees of $300 an hour for divorce and family law cases, and be prepared for a significant initial retainer.

  1. Focus on Divorce and Family Law

Small firms often, although not necessarily, are more likely to specialize in the practice area they work in.

Usually you can tell, through the firm’s advertising, website, or after calling, what areas they practice in and deal with on a regular basis.

It’s also easier to figure out how much experience and practice the lawyer that will be representing you has had with divorce when you go with a small firm.

  1. Personal Connection

When you work with a small firm, you meet all the staff.

Along these lines, you always know who is working on your case. Unfortunately, just because you meet with the partner of a big law firm, doesn’t mean that s/he will actually be the divorce attorney working on your case.

Do you really want to take the risk of your divorce case getting passed off to a less-experienced associate or bouncing from one attorney to another throughout your case?

Instead, with a small firm, what you see, is what you get! Staff at a small firm get the opportunity to know you and your case on a personal level. That’s exactly what you want from your divorce attorney considering the fact that your divorce case is a personal matter!

  1. Staff Availability

Because there are less people to get through and because staff will not be working on a high volume of different kinds of cases that they may not be as familiar with, staff are easier to get a hold of and more quickly available when you need them. This includes being able to directly communicate with the lawyer working on your divorce.

Please keep in mind that these are the common differences between small law firms and big law firms.  There are additional factors you should take into consideration as well when choosing your divorce lawyer.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.