Initial Divorce Consultation: When to Hire an Attorney and What to Bring to the Consultation

As an attorney practicing family law exclusively for the majority of my career, I have grown to appreciate the importance of the fit between a client’s personality and the lawyer’s style.  The decision to divorce or separate is often one of the most traumatic and difficult choices a person makes in a lifetime, and finding the right “fit” with an attorney can be pivotal to managing the ups and downs of your divorce or separation.

Before scheduling an initial consultation, ask friends and family who they would recommend.  Many divorce attorneys do not advertise or market their practices in the traditional sense, and rely instead on word of mouth referrals from former clients and other attorneys.  A search online can answer some things, like years of practice and general practice areas.  If you are anticipating that child issues will be a significant source of conflict, having an attorney with experience as a Guardian ad litem, in addition to a traditional litigation practice, can be helpful in guiding strategy and process through your case.

If you are early in the process and simply considering the possibility of separation or divorce, choosing to meet with an attorney may be simply to gather information.  I call these meetings “Just In Case” intakes.  Often, these meetings will help a client to ultimately make a decision about the timing of a divorce filing, what efforts should be made to attempt to avoid a divorce, and the risks of a divorce in the future.

If you have been served with divorce paperwork, or if you have made the decision to divorce or separate, timing is important and you should be sure to let the attorney’s office know if you have received paperwork from your spouse or your spouse’s attorney (by regular mail, by certified mail, or by sheriff).  When you have scheduled your initial consultation, it is very helpful if you can bring with you:

  • Full legal names, addresses, birthdates and social security numbers for you, your spouse, and your minor children, and the correct date and location of your marriage;
  • Your paystub and two years of income tax returns and W-2s;
  • Any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements;
  • Any agreements reached, or notes of any agreements;
  • Correspondence you have received from your spouse’s attorney; and
  • Any pleadings (ex: divorce complaint) you have received, paying special attention to any scheduling notices you have received from the Court.

Consider the initial consultation with an attorney as a job interview.  Come prepared with your questions for the attorney, and the attorney will certainly have questions for you.  Generally, after discussing where you are in the process, we will discuss the particular facts of your divorce and your expectations for how you feel your divorce should resolve.  We will discuss the process of divorce in Maine, and the options for alternative dispute resolution (for example, mediation) if that is appropriate.  Most times, I send clients home with some homework, including a child support affidavit (in cases involving minor children) and a financial statement to work on as a draft, and we then set up a time to meet when that is completed to begin discussing in more detail the particular details of your divorce.

This article is not legal advice but should be considered as general guidance in the area of family law.  You can contact us at 207.784.3200. Skelton Taintor & Abbott is a full service law firm providing legal services to individuals, companies, and municipalities throughout Maine. It has been in operation since its founding in 1853.