What Should You Expect from Your Consultation?
The anticipation of a family law consultation can be stressful and nerve-wracking. It is a very real and potentially scary first step in the separation and divorce process. Knowing what to prepare for can help alleviate any anxiety you may feel regarding this process. The purpose of an initial consultation is to familiarize you with the laws in North Carolina, determine what your options are for reaching a resolution, and decide which attorney you feel comfortable with and want to represent you through this legal process.
The following tips will help you prepare for a consultation with a family law attorney:
First, be open-minded. Everyone’s situation is different
Clients often come to a consultation with preconceived notions of how the law works and what will likely occur as part of the process. While we encourage clients to do their homework, it is important to understand that there are many nuances in the law, and the outcomes of a case can be very specific to a particular set of facts, especially in family law. It is important to listen and be open to what an attorney has to say as every case is different. What happened in your friend’s or family member’s situation may be very different from what happens in your own!
Second, be honest and forthcoming with information and facts
An attorney’s ability to properly advise you is dependent upon the specific facts you share with them. In family law, there are often very personal events that have occurred, and emotions run high. As attorneys, we understand this may be the case! Do not be concerned about sharing personal information or stories solely because you are worried they may be harmful to your case. Let the attorney determine what is relevant and will be helpful – something they can do best if they have all the facts to work from. Conversations with attorneys are confidential and protected by attorney-client privilege, meaning attorney and client communications are kept private and not admissible in Court except for very limited and rare circumstances. These ethical rules are intended to encourage clients to be open and honest with their attorney.
Third, bring any relevant documents to the consultation
If you were served with a lawsuit or received communication from another attorney representing the opposing party, bring these pleadings, letters, offers of settlement, etc. to the consultation. It may be difficult for an attorney to assess your matter and provide sound legal advice if it is unclear what claims the opposing party has asserted, whether litigation is pending, whether you have an upcoming Court date scheduled or upcoming deadlines that needs to be met, or whether the other party has retained an attorney, etc.
If your case involves financial matters (i.e., equitable distribution, spousal support, child support, etc.), you should consider bringing relevant financial documents that will help the attorney further assess the issues at stake in your case, like distributing assets and debts within the marital estate or whether a party will owe a monthly support obligation to the other party. While it is not necessary to bring every single statement regarding every financial account, this will be one of the first steps in the process whether the case proceeds through settlement negotiations or in Court. If your spouse handled the finances and you have limited knowledge of the household budget and accounts, begin gathering as much documentation and information that is available to you. Gathering as much information as possible is key.
Fourth, create a list of questions
Coming to the consultation prepared with a list of questions as well as potential goals and issues that are most important to you can help make your consultation more efficient. In addition, it assists the attorney in focusing on the issues you care about most. This will also help you organize your thoughts prior to speaking with the attorney and can help set the tone for moving forward.
While an initial consultation is just the starting point, it can be an efficient and productive step in the process if you are prepared. It is also your opportunity to evaluate the attorney you are speaking with to determine if they can best advocate for your desired outcome and can be trusted to handle the case in a professional and attentive manner. You do not have to retain the first attorney you consult with, choosing the best family law attorney for you and your situation is a very personal decision. It is important to feel comfortable with the attorney and the strategy discussed as you will be working closely with this person in resolving these matters.
The attorneys at Sodoma Law approach each case with integrity and compassion and we have the knowledge and experience to help you achieve your goals whether that is through settlement negotiations or in the Courtroom. Schedule your consultation with a Sodoma Law attorney today to find out how we can help you!