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.