When facing a legal issue that will significantly impact you and your family, hiring a lawyer is a big step in the right direction. That said, it’s important to find the right lawyer for you – after all, family legal matters are usually very personal. Once you have chosen a potential attorney, you need to prepare for the initial consultation. It’s very common for potential clients to worry about what to bring to the initial consultation with us. To make your first meeting with a Seattle family lawyer as comfortable and productive as possible, we thought it would be helpful to lay out what things you should bring to the initial consultation.
Understanding the Purpose of the Initial Consultation
This meeting is primarily a conversation about your situation and what our lawyers can do to help. In addition, it is a chance for you to get to know us and for us to get to know you. As mentioned above, it is important to work with a lawyer you are comfortable with and whom you can trust. It is also important for us to understand the issues you are facing and what you hope to achieve. To that end, we will ask general questions about what has been going on in your family, and we expect you will have questions about the legal process and how things might turn out. Ultimately, our goal is to help you understand your options and your rights.
What Are Your Goals?
Many people think that their only option when they meet with a lawyer is to litigate – they envision an extremely adversarial process in which they will be engaged in a high-pitched legal battle with their former spouse and their attorney. Fortunately, this does not need to be the case. Before meeting with a Seattle family lawyer, you want to consider what you hope to accomplish and how you want to go about it. For example:
- Are you willing to negotiate?
- Do you want to focus on your child’s welfare?
- Do you want to focus on solutions to the problems you are facing?
- What are you willing to compromise to achieve your goals?
At Seattle Divorce Services, we help our clients understand their options and which ones may be best for them. This may include mediation or a collaborative approach to your divorce. In other situations, we help clients navigate a “kitchen table” divorce or determine whether a legal separation is the right choice for them. All of that said, litigation is sometimes unavoidable, and you should work with an attorney who has extensive litigation experience.
Bring Any Legal Documents You Have Received
If you have received any legal paperwork from your spouse or spouse’s family law attorney, certainly bring those papers along with you. There are usually deadlines that need to be met in terms of responding to those documents.
Seeing those documents will let us know about any deadlines we need to be aware of and what work needs to be accomplished first.
If you have been served with a Petition, a Response to Petition needs to be filed within a certain amount of time so that the other side cannot take a default.
Also, if there has been any kind of motion filed, such as for temporary orders, we need to know when the hearing is so that we can calendar it and make sure any responsive papers are filed in time. Your Seattle family lawyer’s first goal is to make sure that you are well-positioned to succeed no matter what legal challenges you may be facing.
Does Your Seattle Family Lawyer Need Any Other Paperwork?
Other than that, you do not need to worry about bringing in all of the supporting documents that you think we might need, such as tax returns, pay stubs, house deeds, bank statements, etc., unless there is a specific question you have about something in them.
Once we are hired and working on the case, we will need to determine what documents we need to gather and how to get them. We may also work with your spouse’s lawyer to determine what documents they need from us and what we need from them.
If you are considering divorce or your spouse has initiated the process, your lawyer will want to discuss the following:
- The reasons for the divorce
- Whether you have children, how many, their ages, and needs
- How long you have been married
- Your income and your spouse’s income
One of the most significant aspects of divorce is to decide how your possessions will be divided between you and your spouse. As a result, you should also be prepared to discuss the following:
- Whether you own a home or rent and whether you own any other real estate such as vacation properties
- The vehicles you and your spouse own
- The debts you have, including your mortgage, car payments, and credit cards
- Investments, retirement accounts, and savings
It is helpful to have documents to substantiate the details, but it isn’t necessary. However, it can be quite beneficial if you come to the meeting with a firm idea of your assets and debts so that we can provide as much value to you as possible.
Child custody and support tends to be the principal issue in many divorce cases. In most cases, custody will be determined mainly by what is in the child’s best interests, with a presumption that the child should have an active relationship with both parents. While a 50/50 custody arrangement isn’t always possible, the court may want to get as close to that as possible. As a result, you should be prepared to discuss the following when you meet with an attorney:
- Where your child goes to school and their educational needs
- Where each parent resides or plans to reside
- You and your co-parent’s abilities to care for the child, both financially and emotionally
- Your child’s extracurricular activities
- Whether there is a history of abuse or other factors that jeopardize your child’s safety
This discussion will help us understand what may be workable in terms of a parenting plan.
Many people contact a lawyer because they or their former spouse want to change an existing custody arrangement. If you are looking to modify an existing parenting plan or custody order, you will want to bring those documents with you.
Whether you are beginning the divorce process or already have a child support order in place, a Seattle family lawyer can help you find answers to whatever your issue may be. Child support is primarily determined by your child’s needs and the parents’ financial situations. As a result, you want to be prepared to discuss the following:
- Your current and expected future income, as well as that of your former spouse
- Any childcare and educational expenses
- Your child’s healthcare expenses
- Any costs that will need to be paid to provide your child with a stable and loving home
As a result, it is helpful to bring documents that support your needs, such as your paystubs, tax returns, or child care contracts. This will help us determine what amount you can expect to pay or receive in terms of child support.
Contact a Seattle Family Law Firm Today
Whether you want to modify custody, are considering divorce, or have questions about your child support, a family lawyer can help you get the answers to your questions. At Seattle Divorce Services, we believe that every case is unique, and we, therefore, pride ourselves on providing fully personalized legal representation when people need it most. To discuss your needs and how we can help, call us today at 206-784-3049 or complete our online contact form to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today.