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How to prepare for an initial consultation with a family lawyer

A report from the Ministry of Justice last week confirmed that 66,357 new cases began in the family courts which is a 14% rise as compared to the same period last year. A significant proportion of these are financial cases, with a large number of children and divorce cases also being issued.

It is thought that the increase is likely to be following the pause on any major decisions being made during the pandemic, or perhaps following the pandemic people have gone on to question what their future holds.

What is essential is that when any major life decision is made, expert advice should be taken to ensure that you are aware of all of the potential outcomes of your decision.

An initial consultation with a family lawyer is often seen as a daunting prospect which can add to the already distressing situation. I am often told by my new clients that they are “dreading” the meeting.  Thankfully however, they always feel much better, relieved and reassured by the end of our meeting.

It is important to remember that your family lawyer is there to help and guide you.  They will explore the reason for the consultation with you and if one relating to divorce/separation, they will explore whether or not it is possible to consider ways in which your marriage/civil partnership could be saved through counselling/therapy or mediation.

If a separation is inevitable, they will go through the options and process with you. Your family lawyer will explain that divorce is almost always carried out in the most amicable and cost effective manner as possible.

Your lawyer will also discuss any additional issues with you relevant to your case including arrangements for care of your children, and financial issues. Advice regarding financial issues usually involves both interim financial arrangements (such as child maintenance issues, spousal maintenance issues (who will pay the outgoings on the family home and any other properties? will you both going to remain in the family home or will you separate pending a final resolution?) and will often give a broadbrush view as to future financial arrangements (i.e. the division of the matrimonial assets) pending financial disclosure.

5 things to bring to your initial consultation with your family lawyer

To ensure you get the most out of your initial meeting with your lawyer both in terms of knowledge and value for money, I would suggest that you do the following:

  1. Prepare a chronology of the history of your marriage/relationship. Start with the date that your met your husband/partner and end at the date of the meeting. Include all relevant details including the date you commenced cohabitation, the date that you were married, the dates that any children were born and the dates of all relevant financial transactions such as property purchases and sales (with full details), gifts or inheritances received.
  2. In the event that you do wish to separate, think about what routine of care would work for the children going forward. Thinking about this in advance would enable your lawyer to discuss this with you at the meeting and give you advice upon the same.
  3. Prepare a simple summary of your financial information with details of all assets and their current valuations insofar as you are aware of them and details of your income and your spouse’s/partner’s income as far as you are able to.  It is not necessary at this stage to bring documentary evidence – a one page document is usually sufficient.
  4. Bring any relevant documents with you (for example if you have received a letter from your spouse’s/partner’s solicitor).
  5. Prepare a list of questions that you would like your lawyer to answer for you. Your lawyer will usually answer these at the end as you are likely to find that most of them will be covered during the meeting. However, don’t be afraid to ask anything that is not on the list.

Preparing these documents in advance will ensure a productive initial meeting during which your lawyer can give you specific advice regarding your circumstances and provide advice regarding the next steps.

Hodge Jones & Allen have a number of specialist family lawyers with a great deal of experience to deal with all elements of a relationship breakdown and divorce. If you would like to speak with one of our experts please call 0808 271 9413 or request a call back.