Written by Beth Serrill

Meeting with a divorce attorney can be stressful.  Spending some time reflecting and gathering information before your meeting can insure that the meeting meets your needs.

Knowledge is power and the fear of the unknown can be paralyzing.  Sometimes understanding the process…and getting reassurance that there is a light at the end of the tunnel…is helpful in analyzing options and deciding next steps.  Not everyone who meets with a divorce attorney gets a divorce and setting up an appointment doesn’t mean you’re giving up on the marriage.  Some people are ready for an action plan and hearing an attorney’s specific thoughts on strategy and steps to take can help you decide if the attorney is a good fit for you.

Below are some topics that you should think about in preparation of a meeting:

  • Kids (if you have them)

What schedule are you following now?  Is it a good fit?

What schedule do you think would be best for your kids long term?

  • Finances

You don’t have to have any financial information to have a productive initial consultation, but some pieces of information can be helpful in tailoring the conversation.  At the same time, don’t stress if you don’t handle the finances and don’t know much about your financial position.  If you can, consider reviewing the following:  mortgage statement, tax assessed value of the house, checking/savings account statements, credit cards, vehicles, and retirement/investment accounts.

  • Nonmarital claims

Did you own anything prior to the marriage?

Did you sell a house and use the proceeds to buy a marital home?

Did you have a retirement account prior to the marriage?

Have you inherited anything since you got married?

Have you been involved in any lawsuits that resulted in payments?

Did you have any debt coming into the marriage?

Were you in college?  Did you have any student loans?

You should also consider what type of an attorney you want.  An initial consultation is an opportunity to interview an attorney and to decide if they seem like a good fit.  Be sure to ask the following questions:

What’s their personality like? 

Are you comfortable talking to them and asking questions? 

Do they explain things in a way that’s easy for you to understand?

What’s their approach to family law?  Does that fit with what you want?

What ideas do they have to try to solve problems and reach agreements?

How long have they been practicing?

How big is their firm? What staff will be working with you? Are there other attorneys with helpful practice areas such as Business and Real Estate?

What do they think is a reasonable amount of time to return phone calls?  Emails?  Do they respond to emails after hours or on weekends?  What is their anticipated timeline?

Choosing an attorney is a big decision and just because someone says they practice in family law doesn’t mean they should.  Trust your instincts and if you don’t feel like the attorney is a good fit, schedule a consultation with another attorney.  Considering some of these items may make your initial consultation more productive and helpful to you. 

Beth Serrill is a Family Law attorney with Blethen, Gage and Krause.  If you are considering a divorce and would like a consultation, you may contact her at 507-345-1166 or at bserrill@blethenlaw.com.