Questions to Ask a Divorce Lawyer During the Initial Consultation

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

Questions to Ask a Divorce Lawyer During the Initial Consultation

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

When you're hiring a divorce lawyer, you want to gather as much information in your first meeting as possible, including asking questions about the attorney's experience, how the law applies to your situation, and what your options are. To maximize your time, you should come prepared with pertinent questions to ask the divorce lawyer that you're interviewing. After the initial consultation, you want to determine if this divorce lawyer is right for you.

Man and woman reviewing paperwork

How long have you practiced?

If you're dealing with substantial assets or a custody dispute, you want to hire an experienced lawyer. Ask the lawyer how long they have practiced in divorce law and how many cases they have handled. Further, find out how many of these cases led to a trial to determine the lawyer's courtroom experience. It's important to know that your lawyer is comfortable and successful in front of a judge.

Also ask if anyone else in the office will be working on your case, such as a younger attorney or a paralegal. You want to understand which professionals will be working on your case, what tasks they'll handle, and how much each one charges. Find out who your point of contact is as well as that person's preferred method of communication.

How much do you charge?

You also want to understand the lawyer's fee structure. Does the lawyer bill by the hour? Or do they provide a fixed fee? Does the lawyer charge for phone calls, copies, and postage? What about psychologists, private investigators, or doctors? Are these expenses billed in addition to the flat fee?

Ask if you're required to pay an amount up front, often called a retainer. If your divorce is contested, can the lawyer give you an estimate of the cost of the case? You must understand your financial obligations throughout the entire divorce's proceedings.

What are the divorce procedures in my state?

Each state has different rules regarding divorce, child support, custody, alimony, and other related issues. You need to understand how your state approaches your divorce issues.

Review with the lawyer how to initiate divorce proceedings. Find out how your state addresses child custody and visitation. Ask questions about child support calculations. If applicable, ask a question about how the court will calculate alimony and how it divides your assets. What does the court deem as your property versus marital property? How long will it take to get your property after the divorce is final?

Also, ask the attorney about the approximate length of the case. Although the lawyer can't give you an exact time, they should be able to provide an estimate based on their legal experience. You'll need to prepare for the time commitment.

Should I do anything to protect myself?

Finally, before you conclude your meeting, you want to ask if there's anything you should do to protect yourself as you go through the divorce. For example, how do you address joint bank accounts or joint credit cards? What happens to your property if you decide to move out? Do you need a restraining order to prevent your spouse from harassing you or spending money to purposefully reduce your marital assets?

Each couple's situation is different. You may have a simple, more straightforward divorce or you may have a contested, complicated divorce. Either way, you need to understand how your lawyer will help you through the process. Be sure to ask the right questions to make the most of each meeting with your lawyers.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.