Preparing for Initial Interactions with Lawyer or Mediator
This article is intended to go through the first steps in a separation or divorce, to help those who are just starting the process to know what to expect.
The decision to separate has been made or is about to be made – what’s the first step
This can be a very scary time for a person. Their whole world is changing, it is likely a very emotional time for them and their children, and there’s often a lot of conflict erupting in the home. I’d like to suggest that the first step in the separation process happens even before the decision to separate has been made.
Here’s an example of a few things that can be done to prepare:
First, do some research
We all know how to do a Google search. The more defined your search parameters, the more information you will find relating exactly to what you want. If you search “respectful divorce” or “positive divorce resources” you’ll find something different than if you search for “how to keep everything in a divorce”.
As well, be sure to put in your province of residence into the search to be sure you’re not looking up Montana law or something. We all do these searches, just make sure you know what you’re searching for.
Second, books are a great way to dig deeper into a subject
There’s thousands of books on divorce. Doing specific searches on your preferred book topic or category can be helpful.
In my e-learning platform, Up A Notch Learning, I’ve created a list of over 80 of my book recommendations, which are divided into categories depending on what you’re looking for – I’ve read all of the books on the list in order to ensure that they are all positive and constructive information being provided.
Third, find supportive people
I call this your Spectator Gallery – generally people in your world are lumped into two categories – supportive and toxic people. I recommend figuring out what type of support you need from your Spectator Gallery, and letting them know exactly what you need. You’re going to need a lot of support during this time, so maybe it’s time to take a break from the toxic people, or at least avoid confiding in them.
Fourth, get in to meet with a divorce professional
It’s important to get the right information directly from the professionals as to how a divorce works, what the laws are, what you’re allowed to do or not allowed to do, and other valuable information. You don’t have to hire a lawyer or mediator right away, you can just get in for a consultation to get a lay of the land and start moving in the right direction.
Of course, it’s not always possible to prepare, and so if there’s no preparation time then a separating spouse will have to rely on doing as much research time as possible, but the key would be to get in to see a divorce professional as soon as possible.
What to expect when contacting a law office relating to separation or divorce
We hear all the time from new clients that when they first reached out to our office, that this was the first time ever contacting a law office besides when they bought a house. This can be very daunting. Let’s go over some of the main things you’ll need to know when making that initial contact.
There’s a few ways to contact the office:
- Of course, there’s making a phone call;
- If you’re on the firm’s website, you can usually contact the office or the particular lawyer directly, or fill out a contact form, or even engaging with the chat agent. I always recommend that people contact us through our website because it allows them to get a feel for what we do, how we do it, and who we are. Then once they know they want to reach out particularly to us they can reach out by whatever means they want.
For us, our contact form and live chat agent engagement are the best ways to initiate contact because we are able to find out some basic and pointed information from you which will speed up that initial call.
When you call into a law office, there’s usually a particular person who deals with the new client intakes. You should ask for that person before going any further. Once you know you have the right person, they will need to ask you a few questions before you launch into your story.
First thing we need to ask is always your full name and the other party’s full name. This is to do what’s called a conflict check. That is required by our regulatory body because as lawyers we are only allowed to represent one party to a divorce, so we need to make sure that we haven’t been retained by your spouse. Of course, under our mediation services we can assist both parties, but not our legal services.
In our office, in that initial call we have you provide a very brief explanation of what you’re looking for in services, we don’t want to hear your whole story in this first call, but we do need to hear some basic details to point us in the right direction.
You will then be scheduled in to speak with me for a 5-min free call to assess the type of service you’re looking for because we provide both legal and mediation services, and we intake the family differently depending on what you’re looking for.
After that, initial call, it’s on to an initial consultation which is about an hour with a lawyer or mediator.
What to expect in the initial consultation
Every law office will be different as to how they have you prepare for your consultation and what you will need to bring. You should ask for details at the time of booking.
I’ll describe how our office does it.
Once your initial consultation is booked, we need 3 things from you:
- Our questionnaire all filled out;
- A copy of your valid photo ID; and
- Sometimes there’s some documentation that we need to see like court paperwork or a draft separation agreement that’s been prepared ahead of time. Personal documentation like income tax returns, bank statements, and appraisals will need to be submitted later on, but not at the time of the consultation.
I break down the consultation into 4-parts:
- First, we go through your story. what’s going on from your perspective on the main topics we need to cover, such as parenting, finances such as support, and division of assets & debts. I like to find out how things are going, and what discussions have occurred between you and your spouse up to that point.
- Second, we talk about negotiation process. By the time of the consultation, usually my clients will have decided whether they are looking for legal or mediation services. I always go through how the services that they have chosen will work step-by-step
- Third, I will answer any questions that haven’t already been answered
- And finally, we make an action plan for the next steps to be taken. Sometimes people are looking for just the consultation and nothing more, and others are ready to take that next step.
Henka Divorce Law & Mediation is a Collaborative Law and Family Mediation firm that helps families thrive as they transition to separation, divorce, or cohabitation. Understanding that every journey is different, we guide families through the right legal or mediation process that fits their unique situation.
Our client service is built on three pillars – focusing on the future, nurturing and supporting children, and working together towards well-being. This includes considering everyone’s needs throughout the process. We work closely with families to provide a meaningful and fair resolution, while keeping costs down by staying out of court.
We serve families in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada through their separation or divorce by providing in-person and virtual Collaborative Law or Mediation services.
With extensive knowledge in matrimonial law, our founder Stephanie Dobson uses a caring, results-focused approach to help parents navigate a family separation or divorce while they connect with and support their children. Learn more about her approach and credentials.
As an educator, Stephanie Dobson is Founder, CEO, and Content Creator of Up A Notch Learning Inc., an e-learning platform to empower separating and divorcing families globally with a collection of positive and constructive resources. Visit our website to learn more.