The first step for most people in obtaining legal counsel for a divorce is to have an initial consultation with an attorney. Most consultations are scheduled for one-half to one full hour and most divorce lawyers in Northern Virginia do charge a consultation fee. The consultation is your opportunity to describe your situation to an attorney and receive an overview of the legal issues in your divorce, and perhaps a proposed course of action. It is also your opportunity to interview the lawyer in order to decide if they are the person to best represent you and your legal interests. Likewise, the consultation allows the attorney to determine if the case is one in which they can offer assistance.
To make the most of your divorce consultation, remember the following:
Seek assistance early. In many instances, there are deadlines for response to pending court actions. Failing to meet these deadlines may waive available legal rights and remedies. Seek assistance early so that any deadlines can be met and your legal rights preserved.
Arrive at least 10-15 minutes early. You will likely be required to provide some initial information at the lawyer’s office before the consultation begins. Arrive early enough to complete any necessary paperwork without going into your scheduled consultation time.
Call if you are going to be late or need to cancel. With our busy schedules, many divorce attorneys will have consultations scheduled back-to-back on their calendars. Arriving late for your consultation may mean that the attorney will not be able to meet with you for the full consultation time, or may require you to reschedule.
Your case will not be “solved” during the consultation. In most situations, the consultation gives the attorney an overview of your matter and in turn, the attorney may outline available legal options. However, few family law matters are cut-and-dried, and the consultation time frame is never enough time to evaluate every legal option available.
Bring any documents related to your case. If you have received documents from the court or correspondence from the opposing party (or their counsel), bring them with you to the consultation. This will give the attorney an indication of the current status of your case and of any upcoming deadlines. It is preferable to send copies of any documents to the attorney’s office before your scheduled consultation.
Keep in mind that availability changes. An attorney’s calendar changes constantly. An attorney who is available for your hearing or trial date as of the time of your consultation, may not be available two weeks later when you decide to hire the attorney.
Review the fee agreement carefully. If you are provided with a fee agreement during or after your consultation, take the time to review it carefully. This document lays out the nature of the attorney-client relationship and defines the expectations for both you and your counsel. It also details your financial obligations related to the representation. Ask as many questions as necessary to fully understand the agreement.
Interview the attorney. Ask the questions that will help you determine if the attorney is the right match for you. Work experience, life experience and personality are all important considerations when deciding whether to trust an attorney with what can be one of your most emotionally-charged and costly life experiences.
By following these tips, you can get the most value for the time and money you spend on your initial divorce consultation.