Before a client and I decide to work together on a child custody case, we meet for a forty-five minute to an hour long initial consulation to get acquainted. Usually, we use the time to discuss the facts, go over the legal process and review any questions the potential client may have. I always encourage clients to come prepared to a consultation, otherwise I may not be able to best advise them. A potential client should always bring the following to get the most out of our time:
1. A list of questions
A client should use the consultation as a time to get the most information they can and share the most they can before they initiate the legal process. Making a list of questions can help keep you organized during what can sometimes be a stressful meeting. When it comes to talking about their children, potential clients sometimes forget what they really want to ask. Whether you write your list on a piece of paper or type it into your phone, having questions can help jog your memory.
2. Legal documents (court orders, marriage or birth certificates)
Has there been a custody order already entered by the court? Is there an upcoming court date? Bringing any and all legal documents that have already been issued by the court can help your attorney get the full picture of what has been happening before you met with him or her. Since we deal in these documents all the time, it is easier for an attorney to review them directly rather than have a client try and explain what happened in terms they may not be familiar with.
3. Financial or Expense Documents
Often times child custody cases are linked to child support cases. If that is true for you, it helps to bring financial documents that show any expenses related to your child. This can be tuition bills for private school, day care or summer camp.
4. “Incriminating” Evidence
In order for your lawyer to work as best as possible on your behalf, he or she will need to know the whole story, not just the good parts. If there is information that you think he or she will need to know about you or the other party, the initial consultation is the time to bring it up. This can be text messages, videos, social media posts, or emails. Anything that your attorney can sort through and determine if it is useful for your case.
Most importantly, bring an open mind to your consultation. You have sought professional assistance for a reason. Trust in your attorney, listen to what he or she has to say and be honest.