The comedian Louis C.K. has a famous bit about divorce, wherein he says, “No good marriage ends in divorce.”
Despite common wisdom that one in two marriages ends with divorce papers, the divorce rate for first marriages is currently 41%. If you’ve been served with divorce papers, or are considering filing them yourself, then you might be wondering what to ask divorce lawyers at your first meeting.
But first, there are several things you can do from home before you meet with your lawyer. First, check reviews online, if possible. Next, check your state’s bar association website where you can find any evidence of misconduct leveled against divorce attorneys. If you have time, read divorce advice online so you can understand what to expect.
So what should you ask a divorce lawyer during your first meeting?
- Start With The Basics: For example, how long have you been practicing? Do you have specific experience that would be helpful to me, such as winning custody battles? Are you a family law attorney?
- Have Papers Been Filed? Some clients will meet with a lawyer for the first time during an emergency. Maybe a spouse has filed divorce papers out of the blue, or a spouse is emptying bank accounts and selling assets. Victims of domestic violence may need immediate protection. No matter what your situation, ask your lawyer to review your options in each case. There are usually several different ways to proceed, so make sure your legal strategy works for you.
- Child Custody: Every year, at least one million U.S. children have parents who divorce or separate, and often custody of minor children is the most contentious issue in divorce proceedings. If you’re concerned about custody, make sure your lawyer understands this is a priority. Ask as many questions as you need to understand the situation. Remember: It’s OK to ask lots of questions, your lawyer understands that you aren’t an expert!
- What Can I Do? After a first meeting, most divorce lawyers will ask you to take a thorough inventory of your financial situation. In other cases, there may be documentation or evidence of infidelity or abuse. Ask enough questions so that you understand exactly what kind of documentation would be useful.
- Manage Expectations: The average U.S. divorce lasts for an entire year. After you’ve reviewed your case with your new lawyer, ask them for a rough estimate of how long they expect a divorce like yours to last. They won’t be able to give you a precise answer, but ask for a range of timelines.
Finally, remember that a good divorce lawyer will ask you lots of questions during your first meeting. If the lawyer seems uninterested or uninformed about your case, then consider finding better legal representation.