You’ve scheduled your first meeting with a divorce attorney. If you’re new to this process, you’re probably unsure of what to expect. Like many clients, you want to know which questions to ask a divorce lawyer.
Since divorce will have major consequences for you and your family, you should not only ask questions but receive clear answers to them during an initial consultation. Turner Family Law provides some examples of what to ask your Greenville divorce attorney for your first meeting.
Questions to Ask During a Divorce Consultation
What is your experience?
Naturally, you want an attorney who is competent to handle your divorce. But it’s not enough to ask whether a lawyer practices divorce law, since many lawyers handle divorces among other cases. What percentage of your attorney’s practice is dedicated to divorce? Has your attorney had experience with the specific legal issues facing you (e.g. marital property division)? How long has your attorney been practicing?
Divorce can be contentious, so it’s also a good idea to ask about your attorney’s unique style. Is your lawyer aggressive, ready to zealously defend your rights and interests? Has your attorney had experience in high-conflict divorce cases? How does your lawyer balance tenacious advocacy with mediation? When it comes to what to ask a divorce attorney during your first consultation, start with learning who the lawyer really is.
What is your fee and cost structure?
This is one of the most important questions to ask a divorce lawyer, because you should know at the outset what fees and costs you can reasonably expect. Divorce attorneys generally charge by the hour, and sometimes have one hourly rate for office work and another for courtroom time. Lawyers may also charge separately for work done by their paralegals and assistants. Then there are costs such as copying and courier fees.
Many divorce attorneys require a financial retainer. This is not a sum of money that the attorney simply pockets. Rather, the retainer is deposited into a trust account and stays there until the lawyer does work to earn it. As the funds are used up, your lawyer may request another retainer later.
Asking questions during a divorce consultation about fees and costs can prevent you from being caught off guard by an unexpected legal bill. Most divorce attorneys will spell out these details by way of an engagement letter that explains the rates, how the lawyer’s work is billed, any necessary retainers, and more.
What issues need to be handled in my divorce?
Among the questions to ask a divorce lawyer at the first meeting, this one helps you and your attorney understand the scope of representation. In other words, is this a relatively simple divorce with no children and few marital assets? Or will more be involved?
Consider these categories of questions:
- Child support: How do judges calculate child support? In most cases, courts use pre-set guidelines that account for the parents’ income, costs to raise the children, and other matters.
- Child custody: What standard will a judge use in determining parenting time and how parents will share decision-making authority? Judges use the best interests standard, which takes into consideration numerous criteria.
- Marital asset and debt division: How will the judge divide family assets and debts (e.g. marital residence, vehicles, family businesses, and credit card debts)? South Carolina courts use a process known as equitable distribution.
- Spousal support: How is alimony, or spousal support, calculated? Although there is no formula, judges evaluate several pieces of evidence including the spouses’ relative incomes and earning potentials.
Your lawyer can explain more about the above and related matters. It’s unlikely you will think of all possible questions during a divorce consultation, but don’t worry. The objective here is to understand the basics of how divorce works.
What are my next steps?
By the end of your initial meeting, you should have a much better idea of what your divorce may look like. Finally, you will need to know what happens next.
Consider asking these questions:
- What additional information do you need? Your divorce lawyer might ask for more details about you, your children, and your and your spouse’s finances and assets.
- How do I get in touch with you? Your attorney should tell you the best way to get in touch, how long it may take for you to receive an answer, and who to contact in an emergency.
- Will my divorce go to trial? Mediation, an out-of-court settlement process, may be able to resolve your divorce issues and save you time, money, and stress. Ask your attorney whether this is a good option for you.
- When will my legal paperwork be filed? Whether you are the plaintiff or defendant in your divorce, get an idea of the likely timeline.
- Should I tell my spouse about the divorce? The answer to this may depend on whether there is conflict or abuse in the marriage. Discuss with your lawyer any concerns you have about your spouse’s possible reaction to the divorce.
Get Questions Answered by Our Greenville Divorce Lawyer
Even the most amicable divorces are still challenging and emotional. We understand what you want to know from a divorce attorney at the first meeting. That’s why you can count on the seasoned legal counsel of Attorney J. Michael Turner, Jr. and Turner Family Law to answer your questions in full. Schedule your initial consultation today.