The first meeting with a divorce attorney can be emotionally fraught. It is very natural to arrive at the meeting feeling stressed, apprehensive, sad, or unsure. In some instances, those feelings might be balanced out by a sense of relief. Regardless, it is bound to be a draining and difficult day.
One thing that can mediate the stress of that first meeting is arriving with some sense of what to expect. Certainly, you can anticipate that your divorce lawyer will have a number of questions for you. It may be helpful to think through these questions in advance, and to ready your answers.
With that said, what are some of the questions your attorney is likely to ask? The specific questions will vary from case to case, but here are some of the questions we typically ask here at Clagett & Barnett.
Key Questions from Your Divorce Lawyer
1) What is the reason why you are seeking a divorce?
There are countless reasons why couples split up. A few of the most common reasons for divorce include:
- Marital infidelity
- Lack of communication
- Lack of intimacy
- Addiction or substance use issues
The reasoning for your divorce is important and may determine the specific trajectory of your divorce case. Specifically, your attorney will need to know whether you or your spouse wronged each other, or whether the divorce is somewhat amicable.
2) What is your current living situation?
Your attorney will also want you to get them up to speed about your current living arrangements. There are a couple of reasons for this.
One, your lawyer will want to know if you and your spouse are currently sharing a house. Generally, the value of the marital house will be divided between the two partners.
Also, your attorney needs to know if there are minor children or other family members living with you. If so, this can impact the divorce proceedings.
3) Are you and your spouse separated? And if so, for how long have you been separated?
If you and your husband or wife have separated, that is something your lawyer needs to know. An informal separation may not impact your divorce proceedings much, but a formal or legal separation likely will have an impact.
Specifically, a legal separation may determine the rules for child custody, alimony, the division of property, and more.
The bottom line: It is important to be upfront about where things stand with you and your spouse.
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4) Do you and your spouse have any children together?
When you divorce, child custody is one of the most critical and contentious issues. Naturally, it is important to talk with your attorney about any kids (especially kids who are still minors) you and your spouse have together.
Issues surrounding child custody tend to be extremely emotional and extremely stressful, so it is good to be candid with your attorney about what your wishes and expectations are. Start the conversation about childcare early in the divorce process and ask your attorney to help you understand some of the most realistic outcomes.
5) What are your must-haves?
The divorce proceedings typically involve a lot of negotiation and compromise; it is possible that you will not get everything you want, but your lawyer will try to ensure that you get the things that matter to you most.
As such, it is important to be upfront about the things that are most important to you. For example, are you zealous to get custody of your children? To maintain ownership of the marital home? Be open and honest with your divorce lawyer about those things that you consider to be must-haves.
6) What are your current real estate assets?
Any real estate assets that you share with your spouse will need to be divided up somehow. As such, your lawyer will need to know some specifics about any current real estate holding. Specifically, you can expect them to ask about:
- The address of each property you own.
- When you acquired that property.
- With what money you purchased that property.
- Any information regarding refinancing.
- Who currently lives on the property.
- Whether you and your spouse claim a separate property interest in the property.
If possible, you might even come to the initial meeting with any relevant paperwork about your real estate interests.
7) What financial assets do you and your spouse share?
Your divorce attorney will also want to know about any financial assets or accounts that are shared between you and your spouse. These might include checking, savings, and investment accounts.
If you have any such accounts with a financial institution, it may be helpful to just write down which accounts you have and where the assets are being held (i.e., with which bank or investment firm) and bring it to the meeting with your attorney.
Chances are, your lawyer will ask you to bring statements from these accounts, but you will not necessarily need those during the initial meeting. Just come prepared to list and discuss any financial assets you have.
8) What retirement accounts do you have?
Along the same lines, come prepared to talk with your attorney about any IRAs, pensions, or 401(k)s that you or your spouse have.
In addition to listing these accounts, also be ready to talk about when they were started; specifically, it is important to clarify whether these accounts were opened before or after you got married.
Your attorney may also ask whether contributions to these accounts are made on a voluntary basis or on a mandatory basis. This can be relevant to calculations about child or spousal support payments.
9) What is your employment status?
Your divorce lawyer will need to be brought up to speed on your employment status and on your spouse’s employment status.
Specifically, you can expect that your lawyer will ask the following:
- Where do you currently work? What is your job title? Where does your spouse work, and what is his or her job title?
- How much money do you make? How much money does your spouse make?
- How long have you held your current job? How long has your spouse held his or her job?
- Are your jobs both stable and secure?
10) Was there any abuse or addiction present in the marriage?
We already mentioned that a divorce lawyer will want to inquire about the underlying cause of your divorce. However, it is important to emphasize that, if any abuse or addiction issues were present in your marriage, it is vital for your attorney to know. This does not just encompass drug and alcohol addiction; even something like a gambling addiction is relevant, especially if it means that your spouse used marital funds to fund their vice.
Ensure that you arrive at the initial consultation ready to be open and honest about the different issues that affect your marriage, even those topics that may be difficult to talk about.
What Else Can You Expect from the Initial Consultation?
During the initial consultation, your attorney will have plenty of questions for you, but they will also provide you with a window to ask any questions you may have. It may be wise to write down questions in advance, as you think of them; often, given the emotion of that first meeting, clients forget the things they wanted to inquire about. Feel free to ask about your lawyer’s experience and credentials, or about any specific outcomes related to your divorce case.
Your attorney will be mindful of the highly emotional nature of this meeting and will try not to overburden you with information. With that said, they may send you off with a little homework today. This may include locating and sending files related to joint financial accounts, real estate assets, and more.
Given the sensitive nature of these divorce conversations, most clients wish to be reassured that the consultation is completely confidential. Remember that your attorney is in your corner and works to represent your best interests; you can assume that they will safeguard your privacy and not disclose any personal information without your say-so.
Again, it is important to be prepared for this initial meeting with your divorce lawyer and know that it is likely to be emotionally fraught. It is okay if you feel stressed before the meeting, or if you become emotional during or after it. By having the right expectations and preparing not only your questions for the attorney but also your answers, you may be able to mediate some of that stress.
Schedule a Consultation with a Divorce Lawyer
If you are ready to schedule a consultation with a divorce attorney in the Elizabethtown, Kentucky area, we invite you to contact Clagett & Barnett at your next convenience.
Our firm boasts more than 30 years of experience handling family legal matters, including cases related to divorce, child custody, child support, and more. We understand the difficulties inherent to these cases and provide our clients with both the legal and emotional support they need during seasons of transition.
We are here to help you as you think about divorce. To set up a consultation, reach out to Clagett & Barnett directly.