Why the First Meeting with Your Family Lawyer is So Important – and How to Prepare
Going through a separation from your spouse can be stressful. If you have children, it can be very hard on them too. The many unknowns feel overwhelming. If you decide to hire an experienced family lawyer, you may wish to consider obtaining the assistance of a trained legal advocate.
When you are in capable and trusted legal hands, you will have taken steps to reduce your stress surrounding the legal complexities of separation and divorce so you can focus on recovering from the relationship and moving forward with your life. You can start by getting answers to your legal questions and reassure yourself that you are heading in the right direction to resolve your family law issues. The first step starts with your first meeting with the family law lawyer.
Your first meeting with your family lawyer is the most important
The initial consultation with your family lawyer is extremely important. It is when you and the lawyer share information and discuss strategies for resolving your family law issues. The lawyer uses the information to recommend a roadmap for moving forward so you have a plan of where you are going and what to expect along the way. At the initial meeting with the family lawyer, you can expect to:
- Tell the story of your relationship, discuss the issues that are important to you and talk about your needs and preferences as to how you wish to resolve the outstanding family law issues in your life. How do you envision resolving parenting arrangements, the division of the family home and how family debts should be divided.
- Answer questions from the lawyer so the lawyer can get a full understanding of the issues that need to be resolved.
- Get an overview of the law and how it applies in your situation. In most cases, this includes important matters such as parenting time, decision-making for children, child support, spousal support, division of family property and debt, and the process for obtaining a divorce to end your marriage.
- Learn about the rights and obligations that arise from your marriage and its breakdown (both from your perspective and that of your spouse).
- Discuss options for resolving issues. For example, by a negotiated separation agreement, mediation, collaborative divorce, and/or family court proceedings and get your lawyer’s opinion on which option(s) are recommended in your situation.
- Understand the timelines and limitation periods that apply in your case so you do not miss important steps or lose the right to make a claim in your case.
Preparing for your first meeting is also important
We have recently discussed things to consider and ways to prepare before you separate from your spouse. Now we will discuss how you can prepare for your initial meeting with your family lawyer. Note that the initial meeting can take place before you have separated or at any point thereafter. In other words, it is never too early to get legal advice about your family law situation. If you get advice sooner rather than later, you may have more options available to you to resolve your case.
If you prepare for your initial consult it will often make the meeting more productive and ensure you get the most out of your time with the family law lawyer. Here are the best ways to prepare:
- Gather important information, including: the date you married; the date you separated; your spouse’s full legal name and date of birth; full legal names and dates of birth for each of your children; your income; and your spouse’s income.
- Make a list of property and debt held in your name, your spouse’s name, or jointly held. Include actual or approximate values for each item on the list, and bring copies of any related paperwork such as most recent mortgage statements, credit card bills, and bank account or investment documents.
- Bring copies of your Income Tax Returns and Notices of Assessment for the three most recent tax years.
- Write down any questions you want to ask your lawyer to ensure you ask all of your questions at the meeting.
- If you have been served with a Notice of Family Claim or other legal documents, bring all court documents to the meeting or provide them to the lawyer by email in advance of the meeting if the meeting is being held by phone or virtually.
- If you and your spouse signed a Marriage Contract or Cohabitation Agreement, or have been discussing a draft agreement, bring all drafts and signed Agreements to the meeting.
- If there are any emergency orders, restraining orders, interim court orders, Section 211 reports or agreements that relate to any of the matters arising from your marriage or its breakdown, be sure to bring those as well. It is extremely important that your lawyer has as many facts as possible. Even if you are not sure if the document is relevant, it would be helpful to bring it to the lawyer’s attention at the initial meeting.
Remember that the meeting with the lawyer is private and confidential, so speak freely, share as much information as possible and ask your questions.
Trusted legal advice at every step to resolve family law issues
No matter what family law questions or issues you might be facing, we are here to help you. We can guide you from the very first steps of your separation all the way to obtaining Final Orders, including a Divorce Order. Our practice is devoted exclusively to issues of family law in the Lower Mainland from New Westminster, Burnaby, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Abbotsford, Surrey, Langley, Delta and beyond.
For more information about how we can assist you or to schedule your own private consultation and get help with finding the path forward in your case, please call us today at 604-526-3333. You will be glad you did.