When meeting initially with a family law attorney, it’s important to come prepared with both questions that have been nagging and keeping you up and others that may not have crossed your mind yet. For the latter category, here are some starter suggestions, the answers to which can greatly inform your journey.
Between client and attorney
- How long will this take? The attorney can likely give you an estimate for work like drafting agreements or court processing time, but full length from start to finish will necessarily be unpredictable and highly individualized.
- What is your experience representing clients in similar situations to mine? The answer to this is helpful to know if you require representation in highly specific situations like complex asset division or custody of a child with special needs.
- What is the best way for me to communicate with you?
- Who else from your office will I be working with and how should I communicate with them?
- How often will I get updates about my case?
Between client and spouse
- Going forward, how should I communicate with my spouse?
- Should I avoid communicating with my spouse in informal settings regarding the case?
- How should I tell my spouse I want to get divorced?
- What should I do if my spouse is using aggressive communication toward me?
- My spouse is an alcoholic, narcissist, etc.. Have you experience with this and what can I do to mitigate potentially harmful behavior?
- Should I move out or ask my spouse to move out? The attorney can look at past instances of abuse or manipulation, etc. and advise whether you should go or if you have grounds to ask for a court ordered removal.
- How much will this cost? The attorney will not be able to give an exact amount as this is the same as predicting the timeline, but he or she can offer an estimate based on precedent.
- What can I do to keep costs down? The attorney should give specific answers relating to your case. Ask this at the end of the consult once he or she has all the relevant facts.
- Who else from your office will I be working with and how will their time be billed?
- Will my spouse be ordered to pay for legal fees? This will depend on the earning history of you and your spouse and may be predicted based on the financial information you bring along.
- How often will I be billed?
- Who do I contact if I have questions about billing?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of my case? Any attorney promising results is raising a red flag. He or she cannot wave a magic wand to make all your problems go away but should instead answer honestly about the merits of your case and make you feel supported.
- What is the difference between physical and legal custody?
- What do you think is a likely parenting plan given my situation?
- Do Georgia courts tend to favor the mother or the father by default? Run from any attorney who answers that the courts will definitely side with you because you are the mother or the father. Courts examine the best interests of the child based on history and relationships.
- Will I receive child support and how much? Assuming you bring along your financial information, the attorney may be able to give an estimate but NOT an exact amount.
- What is equitable division?
- What is marital v. separate property and what can I expect to keep?
- Will I get spousal support? The attorney may be able to give an estimate based on the earnings of you and your spouse.
- Will my case go to trial?
- What alternatives are there to trial?