One of the first steps many people take following a separation or when they are considering separation is to consult with a Family Law lawyer who can provide advice about the rights and obligations that arise following a separation. As Family Lawyers, we know that the first meeting with your lawyer can be stressful, intimidating and overwhelming. Generally, your initial meeting will be anywhere from one to two hours, and you will be asked many questions and provided with a lot of information.
The following are three tips to help you get the most out of that first meeting with your Family Lawyer:
- Bring any documents you think may be relevant to your case with you to the meeting
For a lawyer to give you advice specific to your circumstances, including what a property settlement might look like, how much support may be payable, etc., the lawyer needs to have information about the facts of your case.The more you can provide precise details, rather than estimates, the more accurate and reliable the initial advice you receive from a lawyer will be.The lawyer will generally give you advice based on what you tell them at that meeting with the caveat that as more information and evidence is produced, their opinion of your case may change.
Documents that are helpful to bring to your first meeting include the following:
- A list of all of your assets and debts on the day you were married and on the day you separated, along with any documents you have to support the value of those assets;
- A recent paystub;
- If you are unemployed, a copy of your Record of Employment;
- Your last three years’ Income Tax Returns and Notices of Assessment;
- If you have a pension, a recent pension statement;
- A copy of the deed to any real estate property in your name;
- Any correspondence you have received from a lawyer on behalf of your spouse and any court documents you have been served with;
- If there are any ongoing criminal proceedings, copies of any undertakings or bail conditions you may be subject to; and,
- Anything else that you think may be helpful for the lawyer to provide you advice on the issues that are important to you.
- Come prepared with questions about the issues that are most important to you
Most lawyers will have a general way that they structure the initial consultation, from how they structure their questions to you to what order they go through each of the areas of family law that may be relevant in your case.
If there is an issue that is of particular importance to you, let the lawyer know right away, so they can ensure they devote sufficient time and attention to that topic.
If you don’t understand something the lawyer has explained to you, ask them to clarify.
It is helpful to think about what you are hoping to get out of the meeting and to come prepared with a list of questions. You can follow along on your list as the lawyer is giving you advice and ensure that you leave the meeting armed with as much information as possible.
- Be prepared to answer historical questions about your relationship
Clients generally come to the first appointment ready to talk about the events that are unfolding at the time of separation. However, for your lawyer to give you the best advice about your situation, they will need to know more than just details about events at the time of separation. Your lawyer will likely ask for information dating back to when your relationship first started. The course that your relationship took from the outset could have an impact on the family law issues, including property issues and potential spousal support claims.
Be prepared to be asked questions about what assets or debts you had when you first got married (even if you’ve been married for 20 or 30 years or more), what your day to day life was like when your children were young, how your careers progressed throughout the marriage, and other historical questions.
Remember, if your lawyer is asking you for these details there is a reason, and it is most likely to ensure that they give you the best advice about your case.
An experienced Family Lawyer will make their best efforts to ensure that you are comfortable in the first appointment and leave you feeling as though you have an idea of what to expect as your matter progresses towards resolution. Our Family Lawyers are experienced, empathetic and prepared to provide you with advice around the issues in your Family Law case. If you would like to schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers to obtain information about your rights and obligations on separation call our office today.