Some of the people who come into my office seeking a Divorce lawyer aren’t actually ready to come and talk to me yet. The purpose of this video is to give you some idea as to what kinds of questions I (or most any other family law attorney) is going to ask during an initial consultation, so that you can have thought through the answers before you come in.
In most cases, the first question I’m going to ask is “Why do you want to get divorced?” Now it’s important to know that I’m not asking this question for legal reasons, but for practical ones. I don’t actually need to provide grounds to the Court for why you want to get out of your marriage, but I’m usually going to do a better job if I have some background to your situation, and this question provides you with an opportunity to give me that information. I basically want to hear your story about how you got here, because that’s going to inform the way I approach this case.
Now, there are a couple of things I should mention about this question. First, tell me the truth. You don’t need to convince me you’re a good person. If you are leaving your husband because you fell in love with somebody else, that’s the way it is. You don’t need to worry about me judging you for making bad decisions; that’s not my job. My job is to represent your interests, and to do that effectively, I need to know the whole story. I’m not going to get mad at you because you made some mistakes in your marriage. I AM going to get mad at you if we get into your case and things get screwed up because you’ve been hiding something. So tell the truth.
Second, while you need to tell me the whole story, you don’t need to convince me that you deserve to get divorced. If you want to get out of a marriage and you’re willing to pay my retainer, that’s all the justification I need. You don’t need to go through a laundry list of every awful thing your spouse has ever done. Just let me know why you don’t want to be married anymore so that I enough background information to work through your case.
The next question I usually ask is: “How quickly do you want to get divorced?” Now, you may have some choices about that, and you may not. If your spouse has already filed a Petition for Dissolution, then regardless of how fast you want to get out of your marriage, then we’re doing it now. With that said, if there has been no Petition filed, and there are a few things that need to happen before you’re ready to file for divorce, then I need to know what those things are. I kinda need to know what your plan is, so that I can help you carry it out, and let you know if I see any potential problems with it.
For example, if you’re planning on getting divorced, you probably shouldn’t buy a house until the Divorce is completed. The reason for that is that property acquired during the marriage is usually considered marital property, and I don’t want your spouse to have a claim on the place you want to live during the next chapter of your life. That example brings us to the next question I ask, which is: “What property do the two of you have, and how do you want to divide it up?”
The purpose of this question is to figure out what pieces of property you want to keep, and how you want to divide them up. Now, you don’t need to be able to tell me how you want to dispose of every fork and spoon the two of you own, but you do need to be able to tell me what you want to do with things like your real estate, your vehicles, and your investments. I need to know what’s happening with the big items that compose most of your net worth.
The fourth question I usually ask is: “Are you going to be seeking maintenance?” If you have a general idea as to what your income is, I can probably give you a pretty good idea as to whether maintenance is going to be available or not. Illinois revised its maintenance guidelines last year, and it basically turns on the income of the parties and the length of the marriage.
The last question I ask is the first thing a lot of people want to talk about. “Do you have any children? How old are they, and how do you want to deal with them?” What I need to know is on what schedule you want to spend time with the children, and who you want making decisions when it comes to education, religion, healthcare, and extracurricular activities. Once again, I’m not here to judge you. If you only want to spend time with your children every other weekend, then that’s the way it is. Just let me know what you want, and I’ll work to try and get it for you.
So to review: there are five big questions that I am going to ask during a divorce consultation, and if you can give me your thoughts on all of them, we’re going to have a great first meeting. First, I need to know why you want to get divorced. Second, I need to know how quickly you want to get divorced. Third, I’m going to want an idea about what kind of property you have, and how you want to divide it up. Fourth, I’m going to want to know if you’re going to be seeking maintenance, and finally, I’m going to want to know how you want to deal with any children you may have.
If you want to talk about getting divorced, give me a call, we’ll set up a meeting, and based on the answers to those questions, we’ll figure out how we need to move forward.