What to Expect When You Meet With a Divorce Lawyer

Walking into a divorce lawyer’s office can be daunting; many people feel overwhelmed, nervous — and confused. What’s going to happen? Every separation, divorce, and individual is different, but when you know what to expect from the process, it can help set your mind at ease.

Before Your Meeting

Making the call to meet with a family lawyer is a big step, one that we recommend taking as early as possible — even before you separate, if possible. This way, you can access all of the right information you need to manage this process. Some people make an appointment even if they are simply contemplating separation. Preparing, and learning about your options, is always a good move.

The first step is to schedule an initial appointment. After that, you will receive a quick questionnaire via email. It just asks for the basics: who’s who and general details in terms of dates, children, living situations, and contact information. This allows your lawyer to learn a bit about your situation before you come in for a visit.

Do You Have to Gather Information and Documents?

Some people find it reassuring to organize records and prepare a list of questions to bring to their meeting.  If you are one of them, great! This is fine — but it is not required. Others find it overwhelming. You are already coping with significant stress; sometimes, locating this tax return or that bank statement is just too much.

Don’t worry. We will not need these documents at the first meeting. And, if you cannot access them later on in the process, we will help you find a way. Your initial questionnaire ensures that you know what topics will be on the table. We will just go from there.

There is an exception! In some cases, people visit a divorce lawyer after they have settled matters. Circumstances have changed, and they need their existing agreement revised or renegotiated. If you have a prior agreement or court order, please bring that with you.

Or, sometimes Court proceedings are already underway. In that case, bring the court documents with you.

At Your Meeting

Rather than a stressful event, our aim is to make this a comfortable meeting during which you can start a conversation with your family lawyer — and walk away feeling better about the process. Expect to:

  • Share Your Story. If you find this difficult, your lawyer will ask general questions about your situation and ask how they can help. At this point, you can also share your initial concerns and perhaps your objectives in terms of children and parenting matters, property including the home and financial issues..
  • Learn About the Process. Your lawyer will describe the process, identifying important issues that will be faced (e.g. children, money, property), and explain different approaches for moving ahead with the separation and divorce. For example, your situation may be suitable for collaborative practice, which is less adversarial and contentious than traditional court proceedings. In any event, you will achieve a much clearer picture of what’s happening next.
  • Ask Questions. You are likely to have a thousand swimming around in your mind! Please feel free to ask — or to take time to process the information and ask at your next meeting or through a follow-up email.
  • Feel a Greater Sense of Control. When you work with a lawyer who actively listens, helps identify issues to be resolved, and articulates a plan for doing so, you should come away from your first meeting with a sense of reassurance. You are in good hands and can handle the next steps.

Meeting with a divorce lawyer needn’t be an anxiety-producing event; in fact, it should help alleviate a great deal of the stress you are under. When you know what to expect, you can make that call with confidence.

Alternative Text

About Charles Morrison

Charles Morrison is a family law expert with over 35 years of experience. In addition to negotiating separation agreements and marriage contracts he is an enthusiastic supporter of Collaborative Practice. Charles regularly appears at the Ontario Court of Justice as well as the Superior Court of Justice locally and beyond.

Learn More