What you need to know before you see a family lawyer for the first time

You’ve made the decision that you need to get some legal advice from a family lawyer. It might be that you have decided to end your relationship, someone has made that decision for you or you are already separated and are having problems with your ex about the arrangements for your children.

This guide is to help you understand what you may expect when meeting a family lawyer for the first time and what you need to think about before you meet them.

  1. The lawyer will need to have information about you and your family.

It’s a bit like putting you in the “Mastermind” black chair and the specialist round is about you.

So expect to be asked for information about when you started living together, the date of your marriage, the dates of birth of children as well as information about the state of the family finances.

2. You are likely to be asked about what outcome you want.

Having an idea of where you want to be, emotionally, geographically and financially in say 12 months’ time will help your lawyer work out what is important to you and tailor their advice to your needs.

Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want as your lawyer is there to tell you about all the possible options and help you make informed choices and decisions.

3. Think about what level of support and advice you will need from your lawyer.

Your lawyer can represent you on a “full retainer” basis which means that they will openly act for you and will write to your ex or their lawyers. They can represent you in Court if an agreement can’t be reached and the only option is for the Court to decide what should happen.It may be that you feel comfortable dealing with matters yourself and are happy to directly write to your ex or their lawyer and represent yourself in Court. You may just need advice now and again about key issues or need your lawyer to help you prepare more complex letters or Court documents. A lawyer can act for you on what is known as a “partial retainer” or “unbundled” service.

Do you need your lawyer to advise you about how to reach an agreement with your ex or have you already reached an agreement with them and you just want it making legally binding?

4. Think about how you are going to fund your case.

Some lawyers provide a free initial consultation but if you want them to act for you then you are likely to be asked to provide your lawyer with a payment on account.

How are you going to fund the ongoing costs of your case? Do you need to set up an instalment plan? Are you going to have to borrow from family and friends to pay your costs or are you going to have to get a specialist litigation loan?

Your lawyer will be able to give you an estimate of your likely costs but your eventual costs will depend on how much work your lawyer has to do on your behalf. Bear in mind that this will depend on the approach that your ex takes to sorting things out.   If they are difficult and drag things out then this will have an impact on your costs at the end of the day.

5. Don’t be surprised if your lawyer suggests that you and your ex sit around a table and try to sort things out amicably.

Your family lawyer will advise you about the different ways that matters can be resolved.

You and your ex sitting around a table with an independent and impartial family mediator may be just one of the ways that your lawyer will suggest to sort things out.Other options may include:-

  • DIY – you talking to each other directly to reach an agreement
  • Lawyer led negotiation – your lawyer negotiates with your ex’s lawyer
  • Collaborative practice – you and your ex and your respective lawyers all meet together to try to reach an agreement that works for everybody.
  • Arbitration – you and your ex appoint an independent arbitrator to make a binding decision which can then be approved by the Court
  • Going to Court – sometimes Court proceedings can’t be avoided

6. Don’t be surprised if your lawyer tells you something that you don’t want to hear.

Your lawyer has a duty to discuss the merits of your case with you. You may not like what you are being told but your lawyer’s aim is to help you get the best result from your situation.

7. Your lawyer will need to establish who you are

This might seem strange but your lawyer has to comply with Money Laundering Regulations and has to obtain documents to provide your identity and address such as your passport/photo driving licence and an original bill or bank statements or they might do an electronic I.D. search on you.

If you need any help or advice the family team at Chafes Hague Lambert offer free initial appointments at all of our offices. To make an appointment call the office that is most suitable to you.

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