What You Need for Your First Meeting with a Divorce Lawyer
Updated: Feb 23
The decision to consult with a divorce attorney is one that most people don’t take lightly. The end of a marriage often comes after years of attempting to make the relationship work.
Some clients head into a divorce attorney consultation committed to divorce and ready to see the process finalized. Others attend with more hesitation, simply hoping to learn more about their options. This is especially true in cases involving complications related to finances, child custody, health issues, and other matters.
However ready — or hesitant — you are to move forward with a divorce, a divorce lawyer will go through the same process at your consultation. How much clarity you walk away with likely depends on your level of preparedness.
Why People Attend a Divorce Consultation
At your initial consultation with a divorce lawyer, you’ll learn about the steps you must take to begin the divorce process, including the following:
Filing your divorce petition
Requesting temporary orders, if necessary
Negotiating your divorce agreement
Going to court if you and your spouse can’t agree on a settlement
The divorce lawyer will explain how all of these legal proceedings work.
People attend divorce consultations for different reasons. When a potential client knows they want a divorce, the purpose of a consultation might be to see whether they want to work with a particular lawyer. They might consider the lawyer’s demeanor, level of expertise, and interpersonal skills.
Others might not be certain they can afford to move ahead with the divorce, or they might be afraid of the possible consequences of doing so.
A divorce agreement can bring life-altering consequences in areas like financial security, family structure, and child-rearing. Whether they are ready for a divorce or just want to learn more, most people come to a divorce consultation with one central concern: They want to know up front whether things will turn out the way they hope.
Different states follow different laws when it comes to dividing property in a divorce. Many states, like Colorado, recognize marital property. This means that the law recognizes assets gained during the marriage as equal property of both spouses. Typically, a divorce agreement aims to divide these assets fairly.
When you can provide a divorce lawyer with documentation showing the current state of your marital assets, the lawyer can give you an idea of how assets are likely to be divided in your divorce.
Nearly every divorcing couple has concerns about how finances will play out in a divorce settlement. Since every couple has a different financial situation, you’ll need to consider which of the financial categories applies to your marriage and collect the appropriate documentation for your consultation.
You should take as much information as possible about your property to your consultation. That includes physical property — legally referred to as real estate — as well as other belongings such as vehicles, boats, jewelry, and other items of value.
You can prepare by making two property lists: one for items owned by each spouse prior to marriage and another for items acquired during the marriage. If possible, include information about each item’s current financial value.
Income is another central concern, and you’ll want to give a divorce lawyer as clear a picture as possible of the current state of income in the marriage. Prepare for a consultation by bringing along documentation of:
Health insurance information
Alimony, child support payments, and division of marital assets are all impacted by the earning history of both spouses.
The division of debt is an important element of a divorce agreement as well. Make a list of all types of debt, including:
Student loan debt
Credit card debt
If possible, bring along documentation of all accounts for which you and your spouse have outstanding debt.
Other Financial Information
Income isn’t limited to money derived from work. If you or your spouse has additional sources of income, these should be mentioned in your consultation. Consider items like:
Stocks and bonds
Life insurance policies
Trust funds or inheritances
It can be hard to consider every financial element during your consultation, which is why preparing in advance is so important.
Information About Children and Family Life
Aside from finances, child custody is usually the most pressing concern during the divorce process. Both spouses typically want to maximize the time spent with their children, which can lead to drawn-out custody battles when a compromise can’t be reached.
You should bring detailed information about your family life to your divorce consultation. You should be able to give your lawyer a clear picture of how parenting responsibilities are divided.
If parents cannot agree on a custody plan, the case will go to court. Juvenile court judges determine custody by considering which parent plays a larger role in rearing and caring for the children.
If any legal documents exist related to the spousal relationship, these should be brought to the consultation. If you or your spouse has already filed papers regarding your divorce or separation, bring a copy of these. The same is true of any legal issues between spouses, such as restraining orders, orders of protection, or police reports.
Questions and Concerns
Divorce lawyers usually offer one free consultation per client. To make the most of the free legal advice you receive at your consultation, it’s best to make a list of any questions or concerns.
Questions about alimony, pet ownership, and moving out of state with children are all common topics clients ask about during a consultation. When you prepare your questions and list your concerns in advance, you can rest assured that you’re not forgetting to ask about anything essential.
Why You Need to Prepare for Your Divorce Consultation
Your divorce consultation is the first step in moving toward a favorable divorce outcome.
However, a divorce lawyer’s advice is only as good as the information you share. The more information you can give a divorce lawyer, the more precise their assessment will be.
Factors like assets, businesses, insurance policies, employment history, and child custody are specific to a marriage. And spouses’ desired outcomes and willingness to work together through the divorce are significant factors in how a divorce plays out.
When you fail to prepare for a consultation, you put yourself at risk of receiving general answers instead of specific ones, which means that the outcome of negotiations or court proceedings could be significantly different from what you were told would be the likely result during your consultation.
How Your Lawyer Influences Your Divorce Outcome
The divorce process is a legal proceeding. This means that on the surface, the same basic steps look the same for most divorcing spouses. However, the reality is that every couple has a unique situation.
When finances are straightforward and there are no children (or no disputes over child custody or child support), a divorce moves forward with much less delay or expense.
Unfortunately, most couples don’t see eye-to-eye on how things should be split in a divorce agreement, and the emotional aspect of divorce makes it harder for one or both parties to work together.
The divorce lawyer you choose to work with plays a key role in the outcome of your marital settlement agreement.
Where your children will live, how debt is divided, whether you’ll be making alimony payments for decades — your lawyer’s skill is often the defining factor in whether these things will turn out the way you want or if the outcome is more favorable to your spouse.
Getting the most out of your divorce consultation and heading into divorce proceedings with accurate, informed legal advice begins with attending a consultation with your documentation, questions, and concerns prepared in advance.
If you’re considering getting a divorce in Colorado, the experienced divorce lawyers at Marquez Law can help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a Colorado divorce lawyer.