Solving Complex Family Law Issues with Creative Strategies

What Questions Should You Ask a Divorce Attorney on the First Visit?

When you walked down that aisle you probably never considered that the journey could end in a divorce lawyer’s office. Still, a life together makes unexpected twists and turns or eventually leads two people in different directions. If you’ve decided divorce is the inevitable end of your marriage journey, you may soon be facing your first meeting with a divorce attorney. It’s natural to feel anxious, especially if you’ve never met with a lawyer, but coming into the meeting well-prepared can help make this a manageable milestone. Before you go to your first meeting, write down a list of questions during the days leading up to the appointment so your anxiety doesn’t cause you to forget something important you wanted to address.
How a lawyer helps you handle your divorce case has a long-term impact on the rest of your life. If you aren’t sure where to begin it helps to know some questions commonly addressed at the first meeting with a divorce attorney.

What is Your Experience in My Type of Divorce Case?

All divorces are as unique as all marriages, but learning your lawyer’s level of experience in cases similar to yours is important. For example, you may have a high-asset divorce if you and your spouse enjoyed a high-income lifestyle. On the other hand, if you and your spouse own very little together and haven’t accumulated marital assets, you’ll have a very different type of case. Whether or not you and your spouse have children together also makes a tremendous difference in the way your case proceeds. It’s important to learn your lawyer’s degree of experience in cases similar to your own as well as their track record of successful out-of-court settlements and wins in divorce court litigation if there are contentious issues.

Will You Handle My Case Personally?

Many law firms have legal teams that work together and often the senior lawyer you meet with for an initial consultation is not the one assigned to handle your case. If the lawyer you speak to in the initial meeting isn’t going to personally represent you, be sure to ask for an introduction and meeting with the attorney assigned to represent you and ask about their experience and track record. Be sure to inquire about reviews and testimonials from past clients.

What Fee Structure Does Your Firm Use?

While divorce attorneys charge various rates, most divorce lawyers share similar payment structures. Be sure to ask for very specific information about your lawyer’s fees, including the retainer fee—which in California can be as little as $1,000 or more than $5,000. Then ask about their hourly fees, which can range from $200 to over $900 per hour. While no attorney can guarantee a timeframe or the number of billable hours a divorce will require, they should be able to give you at least a rough idea of what to expect for your cost, as well as ways your costs could increase or decrease.

How Do We Communicate Throughout the Process?

It’s important to ask your lawyer how frequently to expect updates and communications on the progress of your divorce case, and to learn how the firm communicates with its clients. You’ll also need to know the best way to communicate with your attorney if something develops in your case. They may have a preferred method, or they may ask if you prefer emails, texts, phone calls, in-person meetings, or teleconferences.

Should I Limit My Communication With My Spouse?

An attorney can advise you as to what you should and should not communicate to your spouse during the divorce process. A good divorce attorney can offer tips for how to avoid contentious conversations and offer guidance on when and what to communicate to your spouse during the process of divorce.

How Long Does Divorce Take in California?

Just as with costs, no attorney can guarantee a specific timeframe for your unique divorce case, but they can offer a rough timeline for the progression of divorces similar to yours based on their past experience with California divorce proceedings. This helps you to understand the steps of the process and the approximate time that it takes to accomplish each step on the way to the final divorce decree.