You finally summoned the courage to call a “divorce attorney.” Now what?
For many clients, the most difficult day of the entire divorce, is the day initial contact is made with a divorce attorney. Thoughts of divorce may have been festering for a long time. Or sometimes, there is a spontaneous revelation such as the discovery of an e-mail or a text message, which prompts that call. Regardless of the reason, the actual prospect that you may be divorced suddenly hits you in the face once you start the process. It is a scary proposition for most.
Clients are often referred to divorce attorneys through other people, including friends, family, therapists, and financial planners. Others, because they don’t have these personal contacts on which to rely or because they choose to be discreet, find their divorce attorney on line.
It is most typical that a brief phone conversation takes place between the attorney and potential client, after an initial conflicts check is performed. This serves as a preliminary screening to determine whether it is appropriate to set up an initial office consultation and also includes a discussion of the financial terms of that consultation. Some lawyers in Westport, Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan and Darien, charge a fee for an initial office consultation; others do not. It is important to discuss that during the preliminary phone conversation.
Most clients come to an initial consultation with at least some background information on the attorney with whom they are meeting, derived from the referral source or from information on that attorney’s Website. However, a potential client should always feel free to conduct a comprehensive interview of the attorney at that first meeting to determine that attorney’s specific qualifications, experience, perspective, approach, fees and billing practices. Typically in new divorces, the client need not be concerned about bringing documents to the first meeting, unless service has taken place in which case he/she should bring a copy of the complaint and summons. However, to the extent possible, the client should have some understanding of the family finances and be able to express preferences for parenting arrangements, if children are involved.
Most commonly, the following topics will be addressed at the initial conference:
· Reason for divorce, including but not limited to some articulable issues such as infidelity, drugs, alcohol, abuse and financial stress.
· Child custody and parental access schedules
· Financial matters including income, expenses, assets, and liabilities
· Alimony and child support
· Asset division
· Timetable for a divorce case
· Discovery tools used to obtain bank, brokerage and credit card statements as well as verification of income
· Depositions to obtain sworn testimony outside of court
· Parameters of likely outcomes
· Protection of assets before filing
· The Retainer Agreement, billing practices, and cost
Many clients decide to retain the attorney at the initial consultation, which involves the review of a Retainer Agreement and payment of the retainer. Others, want time to think about it. Whatever the case, it is critical that both the client and attorney determine at that meeting that there will be a good fit.
At Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC, our initial consultations usually last 1-1 ½ hours. We do our very best to get all the information we need to understand the case and to explain to the client in understandable terms the ins and outs of the divorce process. Above all, we understand the importance of acting compassionately toward the client who is undoubtedly experiencing some difficult emotions at the initial consultation.