6 June 2019
Make the most of your family law consultation with these helpful tips!
Dealing with family law matters can be very emotional and stressful, and many clients are overwhelmed when they first call to schedule an initial consultation with a family lawyer. Navigating the legalities around family matters can seem very foreign and confusing. Having an initial consultation with a family lawyer will help you understand the process, what to expect, and what your options are moving forward.
Following are some tips on what to consider and how to prepare, to make the most of your initial consultation:
- Be prepared with your questions and concerns
Write down any questions or concerns you have for the lawyer ahead of time. Start a list and add to it as things occur to you in the days before you meet. This will help you stay focused during the consultation, and will also ensure that you don’t forget to discuss something that is important to you. If you can, email the questions in advance so that the lawyer can review them before meeting with you.
- Organize your information
Just like people, every family law case is different. There are many relevant factors that lawyers need to consider in order to properly advise you. Be prepared for your family lawyer to ask you about your income, your spouse’s income, your assets and debts, the length of your relationship/marriage, and more.
Although you likely won’t need concrete information at the initial consultation, it is important to have basic answers ready. A good way to prepare is to do the following:
Jot down a brief history of your family matter
Having a general idea of the history of your family matter will help the lawyer advise you appropriately. Important details will include:
- When did you first move in with your partner?
- When did you get married?
- When did you purchase your home?
- When were your children born?
- When did you separate?
Know your family income
The lawyer will likely need to know how much money you and your spouse make each year, especially if you are seeking or being asked to pay child or spousal support. Tax returns and Notices of Assessment can be obtained from CRA. If you choose to retain a family lawyer, they may ask you to provide tax returns for the past three years.
Prepare information about assets and debts
Try to make a list of the family assets and debts. This can include real estate, bank accounts, investments, pensions, vehicles, credit card debt, lines of credit, mortgages and more. Many lawyers will request documents showing the value of these assets and debts.
- Consider your options
Not all family law matters need to go to court in order to be resolved. In fact, British Columbia’s Family Law Act encourages parties to resolve family matters through Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) such as mediation or arbitration, parenting coordination, and collaborative family law, when possible.
In some cases, ADR methods are not the appropriate method to resolve a family matter, and court intervention (family litigation) may be necessary.
A consultation with a family law lawyer will help you determine which manner of dispute resolution will work best for your family. The Watson Goepel Family Law Group practices all forms of alternative dispute resolution as well as litigation services.
For more information, please reach out the Watson Goepel Family Law Group.
Lindsay Morgan is a Legal Administrative Assistant at Watson Goepel LLP and regularly helps clients prepare for consultations with lawyers in our Family Law Group.