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10 top tips for the first meeting with your family solicitor

We understand that making the decision to see a family lawyer can be daunting. With that in mind, here are some top tips.

So you’ve made the appointment…what now?

We understand that making the decision to see a family lawyer can be daunting.

For some people, it can mean facing up to the sad reality that your marriage or relationship has finally broken down and reconciliation is no longer a realistic prospect. For others, it can represent the first step on a path to resolving disputed arrangements for the children. In any event, it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees and know how best to focus your meeting time.

With that in mind, here are some top tips:

  1. Find out if your solicitor would appreciate a snapshot of your situation before your meeting. A “factsheet” of key information can be a great reference guide – names, dates of birth, dates of marriage/separation, key addresses and headline financial information all assist in simplifying that initial information gathering exercise. That way, your solicitor has some knowledge and background to the issues you might want to discuss when you meet face to face. Whilst it won’t always be possible to carefully review detailed narratives before or during the meeting, it will help to focus your – and your solicitor’s- thoughts.
  2. Jot down some notes in advance of the meeting; it is easy to forget, in the upset of that meeting, the key questions which had been keeping you awake at night.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask a question! No question is stupid and no answer obvious – for many people this is their first time navigating what could be a complex procedure.
  4. Don’t feel rushed into making decisions at the first meeting. We will be clear if we think urgent action is required, but we want you to have the opportunity to reflect in your own time.
  5. When it comes to arrangements for the children, it can assist to spend some time before the meeting considering what arrangements you think might work. We can suggest common patterns for sharing arrangements; however there are no fixed rules, and every family will have to work to find the arrangements that best suit their children’s individual needs. What time commitments do you and the children currently have e.g. sports, brownies?
  6. A supportive friend and family member, who can sensitively support you whilst acting as a second pair of ears can be invaluable. There is always a lot to take in during the first meeting and emotions are often running high.
  7. We would strongly recommend that you take up the offer of a written advice letter following the meeting. Having the opportunity to review and refer back to a summary of the key initial advice all in one document in your own time provides ongoing clarification.
  8. Bear in mind that it is our duty to advise you of all possible routes for resolving your case, which includes contested court proceedings. In a great number of cases it is possible to settle swiftly and amicably, and it is by no means a given that your case will proceed to a final hearing. However, it is important to understand the full picture – and all of your options - at the outset.
  9. Remember that we want to help and guide you to the best outcome. However, it helps for you to be as commercial as you can – so that we can help you with the law and procedure, and if appropriate signpost you to proper services who can assist with emotional support.
  10. Your solicitor has an obligation to explain about, and ensure that you are clear about, how much your case might cost in legal fees, and what funding options might be available to you. Don’t feel awkward asking questions about this.

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