It is crucial for you to set the right tone when you meet your divorce lawyer for the first time. The initial meeting is not just an exchange of information, but also to build rapport and trust. In most cases, an experienced family lawyer will offer a free 20 to 30 minute consultation to understand your situation.
Family Lawyers charge by the hour. Hence, it is vital for you to prepare before meeting them so that you can maximise the time spent and save yourself some money. The best way to do that is to write a checklist of what you need to discuss with your divorce lawyer.
The below checklist is an example of what you can prepare for your first meeting with your experienced divorce lawyer.
1. Prepare and bring all relevant documents
Make copies of every relevant document that you have collected in support of your case. You must give these copies to your lawyer so that they have a copy of each document. In the event that you do not know if the material is relevant, make a copy and then ask your lawyer if the said document is pertinent to your matter. You can also choose to bring all the original documents and let the lawyer make copies at the office.
2. Prepare a list of questions to ask your lawyer and take notes during the session
You will have many questions to ask, and it is wise to keep a list of questions to help you clear any doubts you may have. A list will ensure you ask the essential questions to aid your understanding of your case. At the same time, you can take notes when your lawyer answers your questions. This prevents confusion and repeated questions in future.
Your list of questions may include the following:
- How do I show that the marriage has broken down?
- What kind of evidence is required to prove that the marriage has broken down?
- What will happen to the children?
- Who is supposed to maintain the children?
- Is my spouse required to pay me maintenance?
- What will happen to the matrimonial home?
- How fast will the divorce process take?
- When can I get remarried?
- How much will the estimated legal cost be?
The list is not exhaustive, and you need to add your own individual questions to make a comprehensive list to ask your divorce lawyer.
Your lawyer will require certain background information from you to fully understand your case. Some examples include:
- Length of your marriage;
- Nationality of both parties;
- Whether there are children of the marriage below 21 years old;
- Whether there is a HDB flat or private property involved;
- Whether there are any joint assets involved (eg. joint bank accounts);
- Parties respective take-home salary; and
- Whether parties have discussed the matter / reached an agreement
3. Honesty is key
We cannot emphasise this more. Your divorce lawyer needs to know everything about your case. That includes all issues arising out of the marriage and family. Every topic, regardless of its sensitivity, must be revealed to your lawyer. Withholding crucial information during your initial meeting may result in complexities arising as your case progresses. It may well result in either, additional costs, or compromise your desired outcome.
4. Discuss your fees and the estimated length of the legal proceedings
Make sure that you understand the charges involved at every stage of the divorce proceedings. The law firm may offer several fixed fee divorce packages, allowing you to pay a set fee for certain legal proceedings. Your lawyer will discuss what services are included in each package.
The letter of engagement is the working contract between you and your lawyer, so read it carefully. It will describe the nature of your legal matter, the terms & conditions of the relationship between you and your lawyer and estimated range of costs.
You also need to discuss the length of the legal proceedings and the extent of your involvement in the litigation process. The answer to this question depends on your case’s complexity and the number of contested issues involved. Your experienced divorce lawyer will be able to give you an estimation.
5. Clarify what happens after the initial meeting
Lastly, you need to clarify what will happen next and be sure to follow through on what is asked of you. Your lawyer requires your cooperation to help you. Typically, your divorce lawyer will ask you to send additional documents or information regarding your case so that they can perform an in-depth review.
For a free consultation on the divorce process and other family law issues in Singapore, feel free to contact Matrimonial Lawyers, Gloria James-Civetta & Co.