The initial conference with a Fresno family law attorney can be a daunting task, as the events leading up to the initial conference are likely taxing on an individual. A husband or wife might have had to go through finding out their spouse has been unfaithful or has wasted money from the marital estate. These types of activities can cause a spouse high levels of stress before they even come to an attorney for a consultation.
First Telephone Call
Once a spouse has determined that legal intervention is necessary in their marriage, the all important first step is to call an experienced family law attorney for an initial consultation. Once they call that attorney’s office, they will likely speak to a legal assistant or paralegal who will take their information, discuss the background of their case, and set up a time for them to meet with an attorney at the firm.
At this stage, it is important for a client to give the person helping them any details on themselves and their spouse, particularly to check for any conflicts with the attorney’s possible representation of the potential client. In addition, any information on the parties can help the attorney determine if a case has already been filed involving the parties before the client comes in to meet with the attorney.
Once the client has talked with the legal assistant or paralegal at the firm, they will need to prepare and bring in any relevant documentation to the initial consultation with the attorney. This will include any pleadings they have been served with, any income and expense information for the spouses, and any documents showing assets or liabilities of the parties. These will help the attorney get a better idea of the size of the parties’ marital estate along with the respective financial capabilities of the spouses.
At the actual initial conference, the attorney will usually begin by asking for background information on the parties’ marriage, including when they were married, if they have any children, the ages and needs of the children, the work history of the parties, and the financial condition of the parties. The attorney is asking these questions to gain insight into issues that could come up in the divorce case such as custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and property division.
As an example, if the parties were married for 15 years, with the husband being the primary breadwinner, and the wife staying home with the children who are now 10 and 12 years of age, this will help the attorney representing the wife identify that his client would want to be named primary custodian of the children with the right to designate their primary residence and her husband paying child support to help with raising the children in the future. Further, the attorney would want to know the income of the husband and expenses for the family to see how much in alimony would be payable by the husband to the wife after the divorce is final.
As another example, if a husband came to an attorney with a marriage that had lasted 6 years with both spouses working and sharing the responsibility for raising their 5 year old child, the possible goals of representation might be different than the previous example as the parties could have equal or shared custody of their child with a decreased amount of child support and no alimony since both spouses are working and able to provide for themselves.
Of course, every marriage is different, so the above examples might not meet the particular situation of your marriage, but it can help give an idea of what to expect when coming into meet with the attorney who will ultimately handle your divorce case. Other issues that the attorney will likely look for will be special needs of the children, any incidents of domestic violence, fraud or wasting of marital assets, or drug or alcohol issues.
Special needs of the children can include a mental or physical disability that makes a child incapable of self-support past the age of 18. The parent who has custody of this disabled child will then receive child support into the child’s adulthood, and the non-custodial parent will have to pay for other expenses for the child such as medical expenses.
Domestic violence can be of particular concern for your attorney because he or she will want you to not only have protection from your abusive spouse, but your children too. This can mean he or she might consider obtaining a restraining order or protective order for you and your children’s protection. These can order your abusive spouse to vacate the marital residence, stay a specific distance away from you, pay child support, have supervised possession of the children, and not possess a firearm.
Fraud or wasting of marital assets can also be an important issue as your attorney will want to act to prevent the further depletion of these assets by your spouse. This can be done by a restraining order or it can be done by appointing a receiver to manage the property while the divorce is pending. The receiver can take control of a marital business for example and make sure it is operated properly instead of your spouse causing harm to it by their irresponsible actions.
Drug or alcohol issues can also be of concern to your attorney, and he or she might ask the court for a drug test of your spouse to show the court the substances your spouse is under the influence of. This can act to have the court order such things as counseling, AA or NA classes, and alcohol monitoring. In addition, these types of issues can have the court order limited visitation with the children including supervised visitation.
As can be seen, there are many issues your attorney will want to delve into at your initial consultation. By bringing up these issues at the forefront, your attorney can effectively act on your behalf and obtain the best results possible in your case. In addition, going into all of these issues with your attorney in the beginning will make it so he or she is not surprised later on when something arises that was not discussed at the initial consultation.