Tip 4: Shopping Around

Hi there,

We’re getting closer!  Hope these tips are helpful in your search for the right divorce lawyer.

An interview with a prospective lawyer is called a “consultation” or an “initial consultation.” Some charge a fee for this, others don’t. Don’t make the mistake of interviewing only those who offer free initial consults. Most of the best require payment for their time whether a prospective client retains them or not. Find out ahead of time if a fee will be required, and how much. If your spouse is unaware that you are talking with divorce lawyers, you might want to bring cash or a money order, rather than paying by check or credit card in a joint account.

Initial consultations usually last about an hour. That time, whether you pay for it or not, will be used to best advantage if you come prepared. Gather information and documentation. Collect recent statements from bank accounts, charge accounts. Life insurance policies, retirement accounts (401(k)’s), stock and mutual fund accounts are also important. If bringing in the originals isn’t an option, record the basic information from each and bring that. Information on all accounts, whether yours, your spouse’s, or jointly held should be brought in. They all will be (except in a few instances) part of the marital estate.
You should be prepared to present the attorney with a complete yet concise history of the marriage. An outline or a set of notes is often helpful. Be prepared to tell the lawyer:

1. When were you married, what you both were doing at the time, how much each of you was earning at the time. Finally, what, if anything, in the career, lifestyle, or economic status did either or both have to give up as a result of the marriage.
2. Work history of both of you, with the income of each job during each time period, as you can best reconstruct it. At any time, did one spouse have to give up opportunities to accommodate the other spouse’s needs?
3. Family money coming from either or both sides, received, promised, or expected.
4. Spending habits of the parties.
5. Responsibilities and time spent in maintaining and serving the family unit such as child care, handling family finances, routine home maintenance, and civic duties such as PTA, or being a Cub Scout Den Mother, or a soccer coach.
6. Conduct of the parties, good and bad. Don’t overdo this. These days, bad conduct has much less impact on the outcome of divorce than it used to. Spousal or child abuse is quite important, of course, but infidelities are much less so. In any case, a list of the most egregious examples is sufficient at this point.
7. Why is the marriage at the point of divorce? Have you tried counseling? Are you willing to? Is your spouse?

Stay tuned for Tip#5!