We are posting this in the Hall of Fame by request. We are NOT qualified to make any judgment as to the legal soundness of ANY of the advice offered here, and STRONGLY suggest you check with your own legal counsel before following any of the advice herein

The initial consultation with a divorce attorney is as much your asking questions of the attorney as it is providing information to the attorney. You not only want to make sure you get an attorney with expertise and experience with your situation but one who is a “good fit” personality- and philosophically-wise.

You may begin the session by sharing the following information with the attorney. Bear in mind, the session is usually limited to between 15 and 30 minutes (ask how long the session will be when you call to make the appointment), so have your information written out. The attorney may even request you send this information prior to the appointment so s/he, or their paralegal, can go over it prior to the initial consultation and be better prepared. Bear in mind that sharing information specific to your case may preclude the attorney from representing your spouse due to conflict of interest. If the attorney is part of a law firm, another attorney, one who has not spoken with you, may represent your spouse. Although most law firms would avoid taking your spouse’s case, in the current economy, attorneys are fighting tooth and nail for every case they can get but will do their best to avoid an ethics violation. My explanations / comments are in blue.
- are there any minor children (this will affect child support, custody, visitation and possibly college costs)
- is a custody fight expected (this may require a court case and psychological evaluations, greatly increasing the costs.)
- are there any children of college age (this will possibly affect continued college costs.)
- is there marital property involved (this may require property/assets to be sold to be divided between the spouses.)
- is there a family business (this will be affected by whether you live in a community property state, the type of business (e.g. partnership, LLC) and the set-up of that business and dissolution arrangement as well as any contribution made by you to the business.)
* owned by husband and/or husband & wife (was this business started by both parties and the set-up/dissolution arrangements.)
* owned by one of the spouses’ parents (what position did the spouse hold in the company and what contributions and improvements did the spouse bring to the company.)
* are/were there plans for you/your spouse to take over company (self-explanatory but this muddies the situation.)
- is there a pre-nuptial agreement involved (this can change everything although the length of the marriage and was it signed under duress (e.g. the night before the wedding) or without the advice of counsel can have parts or all of the pre-nup nullified.)
- is this divorce being/going to be contested (this most likely will require going to trial, greatly increasing the time and expense.)
- are you or your spouse active duty military (this totally throws a wrench into the whole procedure and gets the DOD involved. Make sure the attorney is totally familiar with this.)
- were/are you a SAH parent (this may involve (rehabilitative or other) alimony and educational expenses to help you get started in a career/job.)
- did you work/support your spouse through college or other post-secondary education or graduate school (especially if your spouse obtained a professional degree (e.g. M.D. or J.D.) as you may be entitled to a portion of your spouse’s future earnings, above and beyond child support and alimony.)
- are you pregnant (in some states this can throw a monkey wrench into the process. if there has been physical abuse, it becomes a different matter. you would want to speak with a battered women's shelter where they usually have an attorney who specializes in this and can assist your divorce attorney in the process.)
- is there anyone whose visits with your child you want/need supervised or eliminated (active drug users, active alcoholics or child molesters should be kept away from your child(ren) as well as people who will allow these people contact with your children. Be prepared to give specific instances and documentation, including photos, hospital/ER reports, physician reports, photographs, police reports and CPS’ or other authorities’ reports. You can ask for supervised visitation with people who undermine your authority, threaten to kidnap your children or obtain custody or are verbally/emotionally abusive to your children. You can also ask for right of first refusal, which is when your spouse has visitation/custody and has plans that do not include your child, you must approve the person who will be watching your child or the child must be returned to you.)

Questions to ask attorney:
- is family law the primary area of your practice (there are many attorneys in the US, in some places 1 attorney for every 80 residents, and the attorneys are hurting for work so they spread out into other fields or are general practice attorneys and dabble in all areas, never acquiring the expertise or keeping up with the changes. You want an attorney with training and experience in this specific area of the law.)
- do you have any special training or certification in the area of family law/divorce (some state bar associations issue a specialization certification if the attorney has completed a certain amount of training and continuing education credits, and passed an exam (similar to the regular bar exam).)
- would you be handling my case or delegating it to associates and paralegals (will people with less training and experience be handling the case, although paralegals work with the senior attorneys as well and their work is supposed to be reviewed by the attorney first.)
- how many years have you been handling family law/divorce cases (you don't want a rookie.)
* in this state (their knowledge, or lack thereof, can affect the distribution of property.)
* in this county (this could affect your ability to remain in this country and, if so, your status.)
- how many of your cases went to trial this past year (going to trial can quadruple the costs for the divorce and may also indicate an inability to negotiate. Of course it may mean the attorney is the one that all the difficult cases flock to because of his/her ability to prevail for his/her client.)
* overall, what percentage of your cases go to trial (if too high a percentage go to trial it could mean inability to negotiate or wanting to up the fees they can collect)
- do you use personnel with special expertise (e.g. forensic accountant, psychologists) (in complicated cases, or where a spouse has hidden assets, or if there has been abuse toward the spouse and/or children.)
- do you recommend mediation and, if so, under what circumstances (be wary of an attorney who avoids it at all costs or who insists on it in abusive cases.)
- are you a trained mediator (some attorneys are trained mediators and prefer to keep the case in house to monitor for signs of deteriorating negotiation, abuse or a breakdown in progress.)
- do you encourage direct contact between divorcing spouses (most attorneys actively discourage this as it can cause fights, stalking, harassment and intimidation by one spouse to get the other to cave to the one’s wishes. Communication is done in writing, between attorneys.)
- would you have time to handle my case or is your caseload too heavy (this is essential as you don’t want to have to deal with delays in your case.)
- who will be my contact for my case (you want to know with whom you can speak directly if you have a question or concern.)
- what is your (written) policy concerning how soon client calls are returned (you want to know the police for how soon calls are returned. You don’t want to have to wait a week.)
- will I receive copies of all legal documents and correspondence (you should receive copies of all documents, except interoffice memos and office work product right after your attorney receives a copy or submits info. You don’t want to wait until everything is done only to find something was overlooked or incorrect.)
- will your fee be per hour or a flat fee for the divorce (uncontested divorces, especially when you have already determined the disposal of property are generally a flat fee as little work is required of an attorney which complicated or contested divorces with complicated property settlements, which are usually cases that go to trial, are done on an hourly basis because it is unknown how long these types of cases can go on.)
* what is the amount of these fees (fees not only include costs for personnel but for specialists as well as costs for depositions, witnesses, copies, forms and the like.)
* how are your hourly fees charged (usually, but not always, charged in six-minute segments. Any part of the six-minute segment is charged for the whole six-minute segment. Six-minute segments are used because it is one-tenth of an hour. Attorneys are not known for being great in Math.)
* what are the fees if other personnel, both in and outside of your office, if they become involved in my divorce (attorneys usually include the fees for these personnel.)
* how much will the fee increase if we must go to trial (this will be determined by the complexity of your case.)
* will I be charged for office expenses or are they included in the total (depends if flat fee or hourly.)
- is there anything else you should know before proceeding (general question or something about which you are specifically concerned.)
- when will I know the costs of the divorce (prior to your signing on with the attorney, you should be given the prices, in writing.)

I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice. It is meant only as a guideline.