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Getting Full Value From Your Legal Consultation

MAralee Nelder consultingLet’s face it—legal services are expensive.  Fortunately, there are things you can do to make the most of your consultation time.  Whether an initial meeting or a follow-up call, being well-prepared and organized will help you get the most accomplished during your time with your attorney, which will help control your costs.


Family law issues, especially marriage dissolution, are extremely stressful. Take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating well, and maintaining your health. Do whatever works to help you de-stress, whether that is a walk, a conversation with a friend, meditation, a show, or anything that helps you relax and process. Keep a regular routine as much as possible, especially with any children.

You will need to make a lot of decisions, some of them difficult.  Some will need to be done very quickly. Staying calm and rational will help you make the right choices.

At Every Contact, In Person or By Phone

  • Assemble a list of questions and items you want to discuss.
  • Have any documents you need to reference handy.
  • Listen carefully to everything that is discussed.
  • Pay attention to any deadlines mentioned and put them on your calendar.
  • Take notes.
  • Summarize the next steps you are to take, to show that you clearly understand what to do.
  • Avoid arguing with your attorney, especially over laws she cannot change.

For Your Initial Consultation

When you arrive, be ready to provide:

  • Any papers you have been served
  • The other party’s name and contact information
  • The name of the other party’s attorney, if known

If there are children, have in mind this important information:

  • Ages and genders
  • Their basic schedule, including school, sports, other activities
  • Their key needs and concerns
  • Any special circumstances

Also, put together and bring three parenting schedules (who lives where when).  Bring your ideal schedule, your ex’s preferred schedule, and one that might be a valid alternative.

Bring documents such as statements (if possible) or a list of:

  • Each party’s income (pay stubs or tax returns will provide the best information)
  • Bank accounts
  • Retirement accounts & pensions
  • Life insurance
  • Health insurance
  • All real estate owned
  • Mortgages
  • Additional debts, including credit cards
  • Other assets
  • Any separate property, both assets and debts

Try to have the most exact figures possible.  If you are guessing, you’ll just get rough estimates of the possibilities, not the accurate information you need.

Also, take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions, especially those regarding consultations.

Special Considerations Regarding Children

Before the parties can even meet with a judge, they must meet with Family Court Services—mental health professionals with a lot of training in parenting issues—just to try to work out a plan.  You want to create a good impression regarding your concern for your children, especially when dealing with the court.  The impression you create can be a factor in any decisions.

So say “our children” instead of “my children.”   Otherwise, sounds like it is more about you than them.  This alone can make a huge difference.  Practice it with friends, neighbors, relatives until it is an ingrained habit.

Don’t put numbers on kids, like saying you want a 50-50 or 60-40 arrangement.  That makes it sounds like it is all about support and finances.  Instead, talk about the overall parenting plan.  Talk about why what you are proposing is good for the children.   Keep it focused on them, and what benefits them most, not you. or your ex.