Important Questions and Concerns for Your First Meeting with A Family Lawyer

The first meeting with your family lawyer is supposed to lay a foundation for your case. It is very important for the lawyer to get an understanding of your case in preparation for court. 

It is also a chance for you to understand the working relationship, and set expectations that will be vital in the process of winning your case.

After carrying out your background search and finding a reputable lawyer to handle your case, you will schedule a first meeting to discuss the details of your case, and how you expect them to perform throughout the case. Remember, you are paying them now… make these meetings count !

You need a good lawyer to be a leader when you are stuck, but their mission is to follow your desired outcome.  Your lawyer should outline the path to victory, and provide an understanding of what’s needed to get there. 

Being prepared for this first meeting with questions in hand, helps you save hundreds of dollars and helps them stay focused on your desired outcome.

The Questions

Your lawyer will benefit from knowing the situation in a broad sense to begin….

you and your ex spouse, your children, living arrangements, and everything that will be touched on in your case when you start the meeting. 

KEEP IT BRIEF, DON’T RAMBLE ON ABOUT THE PAST. THIS IS NOT THERAPY, BUT JUST AS EXPENSIVE…

Some of the important questions that may arise will include:

What Are Your Costs for Consultation and Other Costs?

If you didn’t get a full cost breakdown when you did an initial interview, it is important to discuss the costs related to  any consultation or appointment. 

Find out if they charge the same amount per hour in court as in the office, or out of court. 

Do they have an assistant that handles phone calls, letters to opposing counsel, billing? If they plan to charge you $300+ per hour for these mundane tasks, you might want to find someone else.

How Long Will the Case Last?

If you are battling a divorce case or child custody case, you should ask your attorney to help you predict the outcome of the case based on present evidence and also the amount of time it can take. 

Make it clear to them, you are not asking for an exact date of completion, or a determined number of court visits, but merely asking for an educated guess, based on the current court climate, and the goals you have outlined for them.

However, the timeline of your case will depend on a number of issues depending on the courts’ jurisdiction and other issues that may arise during the case process. 

A good family lawyer will be able to ballpark the approximate time it may take. 

This may be a complex issue to address because the judges are the ones to determine your case, but a seasoned veteran of the court system should have no problem giving you some guidance in this area. 

What Is the Model of Communication?

Ask your lawyer how you will communicate with them, and how often. Keep in mind, you are billed for any contact you have with them, so it is imperative to be efficient here.

Will you communicate through phone calls, emails, or in-person? 

Are they available evenings or weekends if a problem should arise, and you need advice quickly? 

Will they confirm with you that they are at the courthouse, or do you just have to show up and hope they arrive?

Do you have to wait hours or days to get an answer back to an important question?

A good communication model will work wonders for your sanity during these tough times, do not underestimate its importance.

The Concerns

When we go into battle, we always feel better if we have someone Bold, Confident, and Capable by our side. This is especially true when it comes to a child custody case. 

You will be spending a large amount of money for this person to be on your team.

You want someone you can trust to help you attain your goals for you and your children.

That’s not to say you should trust them blindly, you will have to keep tabs on your lawyer from time to time.

Some concerns that should be addressed would be:

Is the Lawyer Trustworthy?

This can be of great concern until you get to know your lawyer better after a while. 

Do they have your best interest in mind? Do they agree with your cause? 

Are they on your side? Are they looking for a big retainer and then do nothing?

You will notice if they are working hard for you or bending over to appease the opposing counsel. 

As your working relationship matures, you will get a feel for the intentions and motives of your lawyer.

But, until then, it is important to ask questions in the first meeting to put your mind at ease as much as possible. If you get a bad feeling now, it usually is a good signal to find someone else to work with. 

These feelings don’t normally improve… instead they tend to prove you were right in the first place.

Documentation and Billing Concerns 

It is crucial to have proper documentation of your files in and out of the courtroom. You don’t want an attorney that is sloppy with paperwork.

In Court, filings need to be clearly written, with your name in the proper place. Court orders can carry serious consequences and penalties if not followed, so you will want them to be accurate.

This will be a matter for your lawyer to be absolutely vigilant about throughout your case without fail. 

I have seen many court documents with the wrong parent listed as the custodial, and seen Child Support Orders written incorrectly for hundreds of dollars a week, instead of per month.

These mistakes can cost tons more to go back to court and ask the judge to fix.

Outside of Court, paperwork needs to be just as significant. There will be letters going to your opposing counsel, witnesses, case experts, and you will be billed for all of it. 

If your lawyer is supposed to send over a Summons, or important document, and forgets or delays, it can cause all sorts of issues in the long run.

So it is very very important to verify the lawyer is capable of keeping good accurate records, and keep the mountain of paperwork flowing in the right directions at all times.

The last thing you want to worry about is billing issues with your attorney. You are already fighting one person in court, and don’t need any more stress or hassle fighting over billable hours or the cost of stamps.

The Number of Similar Cases

Another concern that you want to address is your lawyer’s current caseload. 

If they are too busy with other cases, you may encounter scheduling conflicts, postponements, and delays that can not only hurt your case, but cause it to take much longer and cost much more, in the long run.

To be clear, this can change at any time. The lawyer may have only two cases currently active, but then, next week three people meet with them and retain them for hire. 

Also, they could have 12 current cases, but over the next few weeks, 10 of them close out.

Sometimes they don’t want to tell you how many other cases are ongoing.

Sometimes they will lie… to avoid losing out on that sweet up front retainer.

You never know for sure… 

But it is still good to raise your concerns and see that they have time to devote to your case. 

Conclusion 

The first meeting with your new attorney is a critical jumping off point to start your child custody case. It sets the tone for all future interaction. It is important to start off on the right foot.

Prepare for this meeting like you would for any serious endeavor. This is your life, and the lives of your children at stake.  You don’t want just anyone representing you, you deserve the best.

It is important to keep note of the crucial questions that you want to ask your lawyer beforehand and come prepared to get answers.