The 6 Things that Will save you time and money:
When preparing for your first appointment with a divorce lawyer, here is the kind of information you should bring with you or have already emailed to them before sitting down with them. This will save tons of time.
Tip #1 for Your First Appointment with a divorce lawyer -
The Fee Arrangement:
Before diving into your first appointment with a divorce lawyer, make sure you have a crystal clear understanding of whether or not you will be paying for that first appointment and, if so, how much that investment will be.
Here are some structures of first appointments with a divorce lawyer and what you are expected to pay:
- Some divorce lawyers offer 20 to 30 minutes free.
- Some divorce lawyers offer 20 to 30 minutes with “no obligation”. That means that after 20 or 30 minutes, the person can decide not to hire the lawyer, but if they go over the time allotted they are charged. Also, if they retain the lawyer, they pay for the initial time as well.
- Some of the best divorce lawyers charge for their time but at a reduced hourly rate, while others, like in my firm, simply charge for the actual time spent.
Make sure you have clarity about this in advance. If the lawyer does charge you for their first visit, they will either have you pay when the first appointment completes, or they will have collected the fee in advance of the appointment and put it into their trust account until after your appointment, at which time they send you a bill and collect the funds from their trust account.
All lawyers will take cash and cheques, and most now will also take credit cards.
Tip #2 for Your First Appointment with a divorce lawyer -
Your Basic Information:
For your first appointment with a divorce lawyer, make sure you have ready (and they should have gotten you to fill out a form containing this information in advance) and on hand (or have emailed) basic information such as:
- your address, occupation, annual income, and date of birth,
- your spouse's full name, address, occupation, annual income, and date of birth,
- the date each of you began living in your province, state or country,
- Your citizenships,
- the date the two of you started to live together in a spousal-like relationship;
- if you're married, the date of your marriage and the name of the city or town where you got married,
- the date of your separation, if you're separated,
- If you are separated but still live in the same house, let them know that too
- the full names and birthdates of your kids, if any
- whether you and your spouse have signed any prenuptial or other agreements.
Tip #3 for Your First Appointment with a divorce lawyer -
Your Financial Picture:
For your first appointment with a divorce lawyer, make sure you have ready and on hand (or have emailed) your basic financial information.
Now, this list is not meant to overwhelm you, and MOST of the time, you do not need everything for your first appointment with your divorce lawyer.
However, your lawyer will be able to serve you better if they have this information at their fingertips and you get it to them soon:
- The approximate balance of all your financial accounts, including savings, RRSP (401k), investment accounts, and the names of the financial institutions holding the accounts, don’t just send them a ton of statements. Send a list of the balances. I just recently learned that in some jurisdictions, when making the disclosure, people are not only to give bank balance amounts but are to provide each and every bank and other statements since separation. This includes approximate credit card balances and the names of the credit card companies. Provide both the balances and the statements.
- the balances of any loans and lines of credit,
- the full details about any personal and family debts,
- basic information about any stock or bond portfolios,
- If you have crypto, what kind, the location and the amount,
- whether either of you has a pension and, if so, the name of the pension plan (if you have a pension, the most recent pension plan statement)
- the addresses of any real estate either of you might own and information about how those properties are owned,
- the approximate market value of any real estate and the amount of any mortgages, and
- the full details about any other significant assets or debt.
Tip #4 for Your First Appointment with a divorce lawyer -
The Reasons Why
Also, at your first appointment with your divorce lawyer, are you prepared to share at least the basic reasons why your relationship is ending?
Presuming you live in a no-fault state, province, or country, the reasons why your relationship is coming to an end might not necessarily have legal consequences. Still, it will assist your lawyer in getting the context of your separation and a better understanding of your circumstances.
Tip #5 for Your First Appointment with a divorce lawyer -
Any Personal Risks?
For your first appointment with a divorce lawyer, make sure you are prepared to talk about the tough stuff.
What do I mean by that?
You will want to tell your lawyer if there is anything currently significant on the horizon for you and your changing family that they should know about. So, for example, your lawyer will want to know if:
- Are any of your kids struggling at the moment, either with the divorce or other issues?
- The family is under stress associated with other factors like financial challenges or job loss that add to the separation's stressors.
- Are there drug or other addiction challenges that your lawyer should know about?
- Is there a family member with mental health challenges?
- Are there safety concerns, including a history of family violence?
Speaking of family violence, your lawyer will want to know about that.
Knowing the context will assist your lawyer in helping you negotiate.
While you can’t be too careful, some lawyers believe that if there has been family violence, particularly where there is coercive controlling violence, mediation is not a method that should be used to resolve your matter. I wholeheartedly disagree.
You will be in good hands as long as your lawyer and the appointed mediator are familiar with family violence concerns, including coercive controlling family violence. Why not resolve your matter within a day or two of negotiating instead of months (or even years!) of protracted litigation? Something to think about.
Tip #6 for Your First Appointment with a divorce lawyer -
Documents Documents Documents!:
For your first appointment with your divorce lawyer, consider gathering the necessary documents. This is particularly the case if you are already in a court proceeding. If you are in the middle of a court proceeding or negotiations have already started, gather up the pertinent documents. Some important documents might be:
- Your marriage certificate (in my jurisdiction, you cannot start a divorce action without one).
- If you are in the middle of court proceedings, bring all the filed court documents, including the documents that got the action started, anything responding, and any sworn evidence that has been filed.
- If there is a sworn financial disclosure, bring that.
- If you are seeking to have an agreement reviewed or amended, bring that.
- If there have already been written offers back and forth, bring all of those.
- If orders have been made, bring those.
- If there is an upcoming court application, bring all the documents prepared in relation to that application.
- If your spouse might need to be directly served with court materials, bring in their photo.
- Bring photos of your kids. It always helps lawyers to see the “who” we are talking about.