Many of my clients hire me and my staff for their family law case long before personally meeting any of us. personally. Potential clients have usually reviewed my numerous educational family law articles and then have had a quick phone consultation with me.
An in-person consultation is always preferable, though. 20 minutes with a potential client will help me assess a case far better than any exchange of emails ever could.
At an initial consultation there are items I would prefer potential clients bring which I have listed below:
- Filed Pleadings and Court Orders. If your divorce or parentage case has already been filed with the courts, bring me every filed document in your case. If you don’t have any documents, the filed documents will be available at the Collier County clerk’s office at the Collier County Courthouse.
- Case File. If you had another attorney previously working on your case, that attorney will have a case file that includes all the filings related to your case and all the correspondence between you and your attorney and your attorney and the opposing counsel. If you don’t have your case file, my staff can arrange to pick your case file up from your previous attorney’s office (this is a common practice).
- Last year’s tax return. If you have your spouse’s tax return bring that return as well. Bring any W2s, 1099s and/or K-1s for either you or your spouse from last year as well. The financial affidavit actually requires 3 years of tax returns so if you have those, please bring them.
- A recent paystub. Also bring the last paystub (something from the end of December) of last year so we can calculate the year-to-date numbers.
- Financial Affidavit. There are two financial affidavits in Florida. One affidavit if you make less than $ 50,000 annually and another financial affidavit if you make more than $ 50,000 annually. Every divorce litigant is required to fill out one of these affidavits during their case. If you bring a filled-out affidavit to your first consultation it would be extremely helpful (but not expected).
- Evidence. At the end of a divorce consultation, I usually ask, “Is there anything else you would like to tell me?” Potential clients then divulge some salient information that usually led to the divorce (an affair or an addiction). If you have any evidence regarding that issue, bring that evidence with you to the initial consultation. Even a photo of alleged marital assets (especially cash and jewelry) can help. Text messages are becoming common evidence in divorce cases.
- List of Questions. Consulting with a divorce lawyer is a stressful experience. You are sure to forget some important questions. Feel free to bring a list of questions and we’ll work through them together.
- A Friend. I am always happy to consult a potential client who has a friend with them for moral support. A friend often can provide me with the “story behind the story” and some dispassionate analysis of the issues in the case.
If you bring any documents, you can bring in originals. I will make scans and copies of those documents for my records before you leave the initial consultation. I never keep a client’s original documents.
You do not need to bring money to your initial consultation. I offer free consultations unlike many divorce lawyers in Naples, Florida. I offer free consultations because we are both interviewing each other. We are each trying to find out if we are a good fit for each other as we begin to resolve the issues in your case.
If your initial consultation becomes more of an informational seminar (which is fine) then the consultation may require a small payment.
You will leave my office with:
- All of your original documents. I will have scanned and copied everything you have presented me.
- A signed contract if you decide to retain my services.
- A receipt for check or cash payment.
- The contact information of the paralegal that is assigned to your case.
The initial consultation will be the first step in relieving the enormous anxiety that surrounds the divorce process. I have noticed that all the people leave my office the first time look like they finally have control over their situation.
It’s important to note that if you consult with a lawyer you have probably created an attorney-client relationship which would prohibit your spouse from hiring the lawyer you consulted with even if you did not formally hire the lawyer.
Contact my Naples, Florida law office to schedule your initial and free consultation.