3 Things You Should Know Before Meeting A Divorce Lawyer For The First Time

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what you should know about divorce lawyers if you're getting a divorce
Family, Self

No one marries thinking that they will someday sit across the table from a lawyer, getting a divorce. If that day comes, however, it is best to go into that meeting knowing what to expect. 

The first meeting with a divorce lawyer once you and your ex decide to end your marriage can be intimidating, emotional, frustrating, and a relief, all at the same time. 

You may be intimidated by the divorce process, full of emotion about the path you are about to take, frustrated for needing a divorce lawyer in the first place, or simply relieved that there is another person who has guided others down your path many times before. 


RELATED: 7 Vital Steps To Choosing The Right Divorce Lawyer (So You Don't Get Screwed)


No matter where you stand, here are 3 things you need to know before your first meeting with a divorce lawyer:

1. Be yourself in the meeting. 

You are allowed to feel and express emotion because a divorce is an emotional process. Some lawyers have difficulty with emotion. Those lawyers often practice anything but family law. 

Each lawyer is different. Observe how the lawyer reacts to your emotion and assess whether their reaction is what you need as you go down a path that is complicated, expensive, and long. 

You will find that many family lawyers have solid legal backgrounds. They have counseled many clients, been in court, negotiated settlements, and worked with a variety of clients of different genders, cultures, religions, professions, and backgrounds. 

But, since each lawyer is different, you will want to feel comfortable not only with this lawyer’s legal acumen but with this lawyer’s personality. 

Are they comforting when you need comfort? Are they direct, informative, and educational? Do they speak at your level? Will they sell you a "product" or be straight with you, even when the news may be bleak? 

Do you trust them? Can you tell this stranger all of your flaws, your misdeeds, and your dirty little secrets? Will you trust this lawyer’s advice, even when you disagree with it? Do you trust them to meet their deadlines, be professional with you, a judge, and colleagues? 

2. Be organized.

While your first meeting with a divorce lawyer will be filled with you providing details, answering questions, and trying to absorb sometimes complicated legal rules while trying to assess the lawyer’s personality, there are things you can do in advance that may help move this meeting ahead more smoothly. 

It is not uncommon for a lawyer to require payment for a first meeting, so time is money. Before you go to the meeting, organize your thoughts into two spheres: your children and your money. 

If you have children, think about how you and their other parent work together. How do you best communicate? Are you able to make decisions for your children, particularly related to their health and education? What type of schedule would you envision for your children to see both parents? 

You will need to think practically about the children’s schools, activities, ages, relationships, and needs when trying to predict how they may react to having two homes

It may be difficult to picture how they will be impacted initially as compared to how they will do six months or a year down the road. Express your goals for your children, and see how the lawyer responds in trying to generate a path forward to reach that goal.

In addition to your children, come in with some understanding of your financial picture — both present and future. What money and property do you have now? This could be anything from bank and brokerage accounts, retirement, paintings, cars, houses to airline miles, iTunes songs, or intellectual property. 

Don’t forget to mention if you or your spouse own a business.  What expenses do you have, compared to your income? Use an online budgeting tool to help you keep track if you have difficulty reviewing how you spend each month. 

What will life look like when you and your spouse are living separately? Have you researched the cost of a new home or what it would need for a mortgage broker to give you a new loan for your existing home? How will your monthly expenses shift after you separate?


RELATED: 8 Sure-Fire Signs You Hired The Wrong Divorce Attorney


3. Know your goals for the divorce.

When you go into this first lawyer meeting, it benefits you to be prepared, but that preparation should focus on you, your situation, needs, and goals. If you are prone to investigating divorce processes online, be wary of what you read. 

Divorce and custody laws are different in each state and each country. It may be easy to find information online that is inapplicable to your situation. Also, do not rely on what your friends have told you are the results of their divorces. Even if that friend hired and worked with the same lawyer you are meeting, every pairing of two people is distinct. 

Every interaction is different. Every family is different. You may believe your situation is the same and it may even be very similar, but every case and every divorce is very different. 

I often say that a divorce is a living, breathing being. Every single day can bring something new. Your spouse may have watched a television show, listened to a podcast, or met an attractive new co-worker, and the dynamic, postures, and situations shift in a moment’s notice. 

You may get the judge who went through their own divorce and does not want to listen to another divorce trial. You may get the most wonderful judge, who, before walking into the courtroom, learned he or she was passed over for a promotion or whose child was just diagnosed with an illness. 

The littlest things can impact your future. You and your divorce lawyer of choice need to be flexible and adaptable. 

Ultimately, you can almost always find a divorce lawyer, by browsing their bios on their law firm websites for a superb pedigree. But, more than anything, it will come down to personality. 

Be prepared to get comfortable with this lawyer, even during your first meeting.


RELATED: 10 Surprising Marriage Tips, From A Divorce Lawyer Who's Seen It All

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Melissa Kucinski is a D.C.-based family lawyer and mediator. She works with families to help them restructure and move forward in a positive way. Learn more about Melissa on her website.