If you are considering a divorce, it’s likely that the first steps seem like the most difficult. It is one thing to have the idea in your head but saying it out loud and seeking out help can be a very emotional process. Our lawyers meet with new clients all the time and understand the toll this can take on you. That is why are approach all initial consultations with compassion, understanding and easy to digest legal advice.
Preparing for an Initial Consultation
The first step in your divorce proceedings will likely be to meet and retain a lawyer of your choosing. You can start by Googling / researching firms in your area to get an idea of your options. You might want to call around and get some general information such as hourly rates, typical retainer fees and anything else that may be relevant to your situation. Once you find the lawyer you want to meet with you can schedule an initial consultation. Initial consultations are generally billed at the lawyer’s hourly rate and if you do choose to retain you can do so at the completion of the meeting. Please note, you should never feel pressured to retain a lawyer – this is always your choice to make.
Tips for Initial Consultations
- Make a list of your assets and liabilities and bring this to your meeting;
- Complete the firm’s client questionnaire or intake form, if provided;
- Bring a copy of government issued ID and a method of payment; and
- Arrive approximately 10 minutes early to ensure you have time to park and find the office.
Preparing your Financial Disclosure
One of the very first things your lawyer is going to ask you to do upon retaining is to gather your financial disclosure. In order to provide you with any practical legal advice, your lawyer is going to need a good grasp of your financial situation. Your lawyer will send you a document outlining all of the disclosure you will need to provide. It’s best to begin collecting these items as soon as possible. If parties do no voluntarily agree to exchange financial disclosure, a Notice to Disclose Application may be filed which means that a court date will be set for approximately one month away and the parties shall exchange their disclosure prior to this court date. If both parties oblige, the court date will be cancelled. But, if either party does not comply with their disclosure obligations, they will need to attend court. The Court may award the individual who has not provided their disclosure to pay costs to the other party.
Tips for Financial Disclosure:
- Organize these documents the best you can prior to sending to your lawyer (this will help reduce costs);
- If possible, collect all the documents together and provide to your lawyer at one time;
- Be forth coming and accurate with your financial disclosure.
Initiating the Court Process
Depending on your situation, you may not need to initiate court proceedings right away. You may choose to execute a Separation Agreement, attend mediation, attend a 4-way settlement meeting or have your lawyer’s correspond with negotiations prior to considering court. Typically, the document used to initiate court proceedings is called a Statement of Claim for Divorce. The Statement of Claim is filed at the courthouse and then served on the other party. Once the Statement of Claim is filed, you can file other documents such as Court Orders, Applications / Affidavits or Desk Divorce Documents.
At Jones Divorce and Family Law we understand that the legal process can be overwhelming. We want to help you feel empowered and understand your legal options. If you want to set up an initial consultation, contact us here.