The first step for most people in obtaining legal counsel for a custody, divorce or other family law matter is to have an initial consultation with an attorney. Most consultations are scheduled for one-half to one full hour and most family 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 case, 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.
Here are ten tips to help you make the most of your family law initial consultation:
- Seek advice as soon as possible. The sooner you seek legal advice, the better. There are time limits associated with several aspects of a family law matter, and it may be to the detriment of your case if you procrastinate.
- Plan to arrive at least 10-15 minutes early. Give yourself as much time as possible, so that you’re not frazzled from rushing. You’ll want to have a few minutes to calm your nerves and gather your thoughts. Once you get to the office, there will be informational forms that you’ll be asked to complete before you meet with your attorney.
- Call if you are going to be late or need to cancel. With our busy schedules, many family law 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.
- Bring all related documents. Organize and bring copies of all documents related to your case. These should include all documents received from the court, such as summons, pleadings (complaints, petitions, motions), and any prior court orders. Detailed information can help the attorney pinpoint the specific legal issues involved and provide you with more useful advice.
- Prepare your questions in advance. Family law consultations are often very emotional, and once you start discussing your case, your emotions may cause you to forget some of the things you wanted to ask about. Preparing a list of questions before your consultation can help you stay focused on the issues and your concerns.
- Don’t invite a friend or relative. The attorney-client privilege protects certain communications between you and your attorney, and keeps those communications confidential. You may unintentionally waive that privilege if a third party sits in on your consultation—meaning your attorney could be forced to disclose information that you revealed. If you want to bring someone along for moral support, they are welcome to sit in the waiting room while you consult with your attorney.
- Ask questions and take notes. Don’t walk away from your consultation without a thorough understanding of what your attorney discussed with you. If there is something you don’t understand, ask for clarification. In the emotion of the moment, you may not remember everything that is said, so it may be helpful for you to bring a pen and small notebook to take notes.
- Understand that 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.
- 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.
- 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.
If you are facing a separation, divorce, custody or other family law matter, an initial consultation with an experienced family law attorney is a crucial first step. The experienced family lawyers at Livesay & Myers, P. C. represent clients in Fairfax, Loudoun, Alexandria, Arlington, Manassas, Woodbridge, Stafford, Fredericksburg and across Northern Virginia. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.