What is my first step if I decide to retain an attorney to start my divorce?

If you decide to retain an attorney, locate a law firm that regularly handles family law issues as part of its law practice. Your divorce is important. You do not want to choose a lawyer who is unfamiliar with divorce trends, procedures, and divorce laws in Wisconsin.

The best recommendations generally are received from former clients and other people who have knowledge of a lawyer’s experience and reputation. You can also search online for client reviews, although these reviews are not always reli- able. Lawyers are also rated by Avvo, Inc. (www.Avvo.com) and Martindale-Hubbell (www.Martindale.com). These organizations provide a forum for people to share information about particular lawyers and law  firms.

If you are only considering divorce and have not yet made a final decision, it is nevertheless wise to schedule an appointment with a family law attorney to obtain information about the divorce process and to obtain guidance about the issues    in your case. Be able to identify your most important goals in seeking a divorce. Is custody and placement the biggest issue? Maintenance? Keeping the family home? It is important that you and your divorce attorney are on the same page when deter- mining the goals for your divorce.

When you make your initial appointment, ask the lawyer or his or her legal staff what documents you should take with you to your initial consultation. This will help make your consultation more enlightening and cost-effective, and will provide the lawyer with necessary information to evaluate your case. If you have already been served with divorce or legal separation pleadings, provide these pleadings to the attorney at the initial consultation. Bring any prior divorce judgments, as well as any temporary restraining orders or permanent injunctions. Be pre- pared with any prenuptial or premarital agreements between you and your  spouse.

Questions to ask your attorney on your first consultation

  • How long have you practiced law in Wisconsin?
  • What percentage of your practice is devoted to family law and divorce?
  • If you are not available to answer my questions during my divorce, who will answer my questions? Will anyone other than you be assigned to my  case?
  • What is your hourly rate?
  • What is your retainer? Will you provide me with a written legal services agreement in advance for my review?