To make the most of your initial divorce consultation you will want to come prepared. To best prepare, you should consider doing the following:
Provide a Brief Overview of Your Situation and What You Want to Discuss Ahead of Time.
When you schedule the consult, provide a brief overview of your situation and what you want to accomplish with the consult.
Attorneys will want to know this ahead of time so they can prepare to answer your questions. If your situation is unusual this allows them to do research ahead of time to give you the best advice.
Come Prepared with General Knowledge of the Divorce Process.
If your consult is limited in time, you will not want to spend a significant amount of time discussing the general divorce process.
Instead, before the consult review reputable information on the Virginia divorce process prepared by a Virginia divorce attorney. If you still have questions about the process, you should ask your attorney. However, doing some research ahead of time will help you narrow the dialogue.
Determine your Goals and Come Prepared to Articulate Them.
Come prepared to discuss the main objectives you want to achieve from the divorce.
Is your main concern receiving adequate support? Or is your top priority something else, such as having primary physical custody of your children or being able to keep the marital residence? \
Make a list of your goals in order of priority. Your attorney can discuss with you whether the goals are reasonably achievable based on the law and the facts of your case and can discuss the best strategy to accomplish your reasonable directives.
Prepare a List of Questions Ahead of Time.
You likely will be nervous at your consultation. Divorce is not a lighthearted topic and a lawyer’s office can be intimidating.
When you are nervous it is easy to forget, so have some prepared questions and topics at your disposal to cover.
Frequent questions that are asked include:
- How much child support can I expect to receive?
- What are my chances of getting primary physical custody?
- How much spousal support will I have to pay and for how long?
- Will I have to sell the house?
- How much of my retirement will my spouse get?
- How long will the divorce process likely take?
- How much will the divorce cost?
Review Your Financial Picture.
Property and debts are distributed in a Virginia divorce and support may be ordered. Your attorney will not be able to give you much specific guidance on the likely outcome of your case if you cannot provide any specific details about your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities.
Some people truly are in the dark about their financial picture. If you have access to your financial information, collect basic documentation and be prepared to discuss it.
When you hire counsel, you will be expected to disclose the specifics of the family income and fill out an asset and liability chart, so it makes sense to start the process early.
Provide any Significant Relevant Documents to Your Attorney.
Certain documents should be given to the attorney in advance of the consult so they are not being reviewed for the first time in the middle of the meeting.
These documents include the divorce complaint (if it has already been filed) and any other documents filed with the complaint, such as:
- requests for admission
- any prenuptial agreements that exist
- any prior orders for child custody, visitation, and support
- any settlement proposals
- any significant financial documents, such as:
- paystubs for you and your spouse
- your most recent tax return
- date of separation
- retirement and investment account statements
- your most recent mortgage statement
- your real estate tax assessment and any recent appraisals, etc.
Depending on the complexity of your situation, your attorney may want to review more or less documents, so you should ask ahead of time what to provide. The information in these documents will be used in the drafting of a separation agreement and may be requested during negotiations. If you are in court in the midst of a contested divorce, these documents almost surely will be asked for during the discovery process. It does not hurt to prepare early.