What to Bring to Your First Family Law Consultation

People often ask us what they need to bring to their first family law consultation. While it’s no necessary to bring anything to your divorce, child custody, or adoption consultation, there are some things you can bring that will be helpful. This post will list them.

Most of the information I need to know will be easy for you to remember. See below for some more detailed lists. The main goal of this first meeting, after getting some basic facts from you, is to explain your legal rights and what you might expect as a result in your case. I will then explore the various ways we can get to that result.

Your options could be to try to negotiate an agreement, try mediation, or simply file your divorce, custody, or child support case with the Court. I can give you my opinion on which approach I think will work best, but you know the opposing party better than I do. So in a way, you are the expert on how that person is going to react and what approach is going to work best.  

Even so, based on my experience dealing with similar people, I might be able to explain why an approach will work that you wouldn’t think to try. We will also discuss those options and I will answer any questions you may have on the ins and outs of each possibility.

Divorce:

In the typical divorce case, we will be talking about how long you have been married, the reasons for the divorce, whether there are children of the marriage, and your respective incomes. I will also ask about assets such as retirement accounts, houses, cars, and investments. We then will talk about debts, in particular how much is owed on car loans and mortgages. 

If you have documents that show these numbers, you can bring them so we have accurate figures when we are discussing the best plan to move forward. But you do not need to have them at our first meeting. As long as you have a general idea, I can give you a general answer. Of course, the more specific your data, the more specific my answer will be.

And if you have not already, please prepare for this meeting by reading our Free Legal Consumer Guide on Divorce in Maryland. That will give you a lot of information even before our meeting.

Child Custody:

If you have any previous Court Orders from any Court about the child or children and their custody you want to bring in a copy. Other than that you probably don’t need to bring any documents to this type of consult. They won’t help that much.

Most custody cases are decided based on what is in the best interests of the child. This standard focuses on a multitude of factors, like the age of the child, the connection of the child to each parent, where the child lives. See our Free Legal Consumer Guide on Custody for more details. If there is a prior Court Order on the issue of custody, there needs to be a material change of circumstance that would be in the best interest of the child to change custody. This means something big has to be different from when the Court most recently made an order about custody.

Child Support:

Child support is all about the numbers. These numbers include each party’s income, the cost of health insurance, the cost of daycare and the number of overnights with each parent. To the extent you have documentation that shows these numbers, I would like to see it. The more accurate your data – the more accurate my answer. Read our Free Legal Consumer Guide on child support for more on what we need to discuss.

Adoption:

With adoption cases, most of the first consultation will be talking about whether the adoption is the best legal plan for your situation. Sometimes an adoption is very easy and clear cut. Sometimes adoption can be very complicated. At the adoption consult, we will discuss the status of the biological parents and whether they agree with an adoption. This is often the biggest issue in an adoption case. When we file the adoption there will a lot of paperwork to file with the Court, but that can wait until after the first consultation.

Setting the Fee:

Once we agree on a strategy I can tell you what this will cost. In most family law matters I will quote a retainer. This is an amount of money that will be put in an account that I will bill off at my hourly rate for the work I do on your case. My idea on setting a retainer is to have it cover the average cost of the type of case I will be handling for you. There is no way to for sure what that final cost will be because a family law case is like a fingerprint, no two are alike.

The best thing in any family law case is to be as honest as possible. The more truthful and detailed you can be the better advice I can give you.

 

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About Cameron Methner

Cameron Methner is an attorney with Andrews, Bongar, Gormley & Clagett in Waldorf, Maryland. Cameron joined our firm after serving as law clerk to the Honorable Julia B. Weatherly, known across Maryland as one of the most experienced jurists in family law matters. Cameron’s extensive “behind the scenes” education while serving as clerk is invaluable to her clients who face the prospect of appearing in court for a family law matter. Cameron is a trained mediator. She was born and raised in Texas, but has deep family roots here in Maryland.