Meeting a divorce attorney for the first time might feel overwhelming. However, there are a few things you can do in advance to prepare for the consultation, including compiling a list of questions you might have. It’s important to have a basic understanding of the divorce process, what you should expect, and what the attorney’s approach is.

Here are ten questions to ask a divorce attorney before hiring them:

1. What issues need to be resolved during divorce?

No two divorce cases are alike, and couples will have different issues that must be decided. However, in all divorces, there are matters that must be determined before a judge will sign the decree — including property division, alimony or spousal maintenance, child custody, and child support. While spouses may agree on some issues, there might be disputes concerning others or you simply don’t know what your options are. The initial consultation is a good time to ask the attorney questions about the specific facts of your case to get a better understanding of the issues that will need to be resolved. Because they will have limited information on your case at this point, they can not give sweeping guarantees or good sound advice. So information will likely be general until the attorney has full information.

2. Can my divorce be resolved without litigation?

Not every divorce case needs to be litigated in a courtroom. Let alone started in the court process. Many divorce matters can be resolved using alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or the collaborative divorce process. Not only are these methods private, cost-effective, and efficient, but they can also help ensure the parties remain in control of the outcome. Discuss with your attorney whether they use mediation or are qualified in collaborative practice.

3. What is your experience with mediation and collaborative divorce law?

Divorce isn’t one-size-fits-all and it’s essential to work with an attorney who has experience and knowledge in the approach that is best suited to resolve your case. For instance, while an attorney might be a skilled litigator, it doesn’t always mean that they are an adept mediator. One of the most important questions to ask a divorce attorney at the consultation is what experience and training they have in mediation and the collaborative divorce process — and whether they use these methods in their practice. You can ask them what percentage of their cases are court based, mediation and collaborative.

4. How will property be divided?

Minnesota is an equitable division state, which means that the law requires a fair distribution of all property acquired during the course of the marriage. Property and assets owned prior to marriage belong to the original owner and the original owner should have documentation to support their non-marital asset claim. Your attorney can help you determine what will be classified as separate property and which assets are considered marital property.

5. What are my rights in divorce?

The first meeting with your divorce attorney will usually be about discussing your process options and providing you with a general summary of the law. There are many misconceptions about the divorce process and parties are often confused about the rights that they have. It’s vital to have an understanding of your legal rights in divorce and the measures that must be taken to safeguard your interests. For example, you may have certain property rights and the right to receive alimony under certain circumstances. You also have rights when it comes to custody of your children. Your attorney can best advise you of your rights before, during, and after divorce — and the steps you should take to ensure they aren’t waived.

6. How do we address issues relating to the children?

If you share children with your spouse, child custody and support will need to be determined. The initial consultation is a good time to address your concerns about custody with your attorney and learn about their approach to resolving such issues. Mediation and the collaborative process can help to settle these matters with less stress — they can also help to preserve your co-parenting relationship. The attorney should also provide you with information and advice regarding the different types of custody arrangements that are available, and discuss what should be included in a comprehensive parenting plan and who can assist you and your spouse focus on a healthy co-parenting relationship.

7. What does the divorce process look like if we work together?

What the divorce process will look like largely depends upon the attorney with whom you work and the approach that is taken to resolve your case. While many people think in terms of what they see on TV regarding divorce, when you work with an attorney who focuses on collaborative law, the process to end a marriage can be less contentious and more cost-effective. With the collaborative process, both spouses must agree to work together and will assemble a team of professionals to help them resolve each issue that must be determined. Couples can work together at their own pace with their attorneys to craft a settlement agreement that will meet the specific needs of their family.

8. Why do you do this work?

Before hiring a divorce attorney, you should ask them why they do the work they do. There are several different divorce processes and every attorney’s answer to this question will be different, depending upon what type of divorce law they practice. No matter what process you choose, the attorney you work with should be not only competent but also passionate about their job and you should be able to feel confident that you will have skillful counsel who will guide you through every step of the divorce process. Also, be sure to ask the attorney about their professional background, training, and professional philosophy to ensure you are both on the same page and they are a good fit to handle your specific case.

9. How does billing work — do you require a retainer?

Most attorneys will require you to sign an initial representation agreement and provide a retainer fee. The document outlines the scope of representation and the fee serves as a down payment for legal services. While an attorney will not be able to tell you the total cost of your case at the outset since there can be so many variables, they can inform you in advance how billing will work and talk about common ranges of fees. Notably, there are many factors that can impact the cost and length of divorce, including the actions of the parties, what type of attorney the spouse hires, and whether they are able to resolve the matter outside of court.

10. What are the next steps I should take?

After consulting with the attorney about your case, you should discuss the next steps you will need to take in order to move forward. They can outline the divorce process for you, help you get organized, and advise you regarding the documentation and paperwork you will need to gather. An attorney may also provide additional resources if necessary, based on the facts and issues in your case.

Contact an Experienced Minnesota Divorce and Family Law Attorney

If you are considering divorce, it’s crucial to have a knowledgeable divorce and family law attorney on your side to help you navigate the process. Divorce and family law attorney Louise Livesay has been committed to helping clients in the Twin Cities area with a wide variety of divorce and family law matters for over two decades. We welcome you to contact us online for a consultation or by calling 651-294-2338.

Categories: Divorce