What to Do at Your Initial Consultation with a Family Law Attorney
By Orlando Family Law Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias
Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2011
Focus On The Facts, Your Objectives And The Actions To Take
Family law clients are in an potentially unhappy situation when they first talk to their family law attorney. They are about to embark on an unpleasant process of permanently restructuring their family, something they never anticipated. After all:
Who gets married expecting a future divorce?
Who has children expecting a future dependency action from the Florida Department of Children and Families?
Therefore, as an experienced family law attorney, I expect that my client's first consultation with any family lawyer will invoke negative emotions, and often grief. So I certainly do not expect a divorcing spouse or a parent ensnared in a dependency action to be detached or objective.
Having said that, you can make the most of your initial consultation with a family lawyer by not letting your negative emotions prevent you from focusing on the facts, your objectives and the actions to take.
State The Basic Facts of the Case
First you need to state the basic facts about the people involved. Keep in mind that a family lawyer who just met you does not know the identities of the people involved in the situation or how they got there.
Therefore, before describing the present situation, a potential divorce or paternity client should identify: (1) your spouse (or opposing parent in an paternity case), the children and any other family members that could impact the case, (2) where you live and (3) the date of your marriage and the date of your physical separation from your spouse, if any. These last two facts are particularly important because the length of a marriage affects several different aspects of a divorce. If your cases is about a DCF state dependency action, similar facts need to be laid out.
State Your Objectives
After establishing a factual background, you should identify the issues that you want your family lawyer to address in order to achieve your objectives. The more specific you can be about your objectives, the sooner you will get the advice you need.
For example, in a divorce, imploring that you just "want him to pay” won’t help your lawyer nearly as much as stating “I want to have majority time-sharing with my children and a fair amount of child support and alimony.” Family law attorneys can best help you accomplish your goals when they are well defined. An example of an objective in a DCF dependency action would be "I want to have my children back home with me by Christmas".
Convert Talk Into Actions to Take
If you have decided that the family law attorney is capable of leading you to your desired destination, you should ask what exactly is needed to get started. At this point, the attorney should explain in detail not just how much money is needed for the retainer, but also the nature of the retainer. Is it a flat fee or an hourly rate?
AAA Family Law almost always charges a flat fee, which clients usually prefer, because they will know the total cost of the case in advance of paying or signing a contract. Another question you may want to ask is whether the attorney offers payment plans, and if so, discounts for a total upfront payment. We offers both.
Once you have agreed to a retainer fee, you will want to know what you need to do next, and what your attorney’s first step will be. These will vary depending on the nature and complexity of your case. Common examples of client “tasks” in a divorce case are: (1) forwarding to the attorney important documents that have already been filed and (2) completing financial affidavits in divorces and paternity cases.
Your lawyer should immediately file a notice of appearance on your behalf if your case is pending, and draft a stipulation of substitution of counsel if you already have an attorney.
If you want to speak to an experienced family law attorney about your legal situation, call us at (407) 260-6001 and schedule an initial consultation.
For information on our attorney retainer fees, please click Family Lawyer Retainer Fees.
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