Similar to most doctor’s offices, I like to begin with asking for basic information such as your contact information, date of birth, date of marriage, etc. Then, I generally will ask the prospective client why they are meeting with me. It is important to air out the marital issues so that we can later focus on more technical information-gathering.
Has the prospective client attempted marriage counseling? Is their marriage salvageable? Has their spouse already retained an attorney or filed formal divorce proceedings? These are all important questions that will be asked.
From there, I will generally ask a series of questions in hopes of learning the parties’ financial situation. New Jersey is a “no-fault” divorce state, so financial considerations are, along with child custody, the heart of New Jersey divorce law. Some of the areas I will address with a client include:
- Income and employment for both spouses
- The status of their children
- Possible custody issues
- Real property such as the marital home
- Bank accounts
- Investment accounts
- Retirement accounts or pensions
- College costs
- Premarital, gifted, personal injury, or inherited property
- Life insurance
- Health insurance
- Automobiles, vehicles, and boats
- Stock options
- Profit-sharing plans
Once these important topics (and other such topics) are discussed, I will then be able to provide the potential client with some perspective on where their case may be heading. I will discuss alternative dispute resolution options with the client. If litigation is the likely outcome, I will provide some insight into how the case will likely turn out. I will also point prospective clients to my NJ Divorce Overview, which also explains the process.
Initial consultations end with a question/answer session and information on the next steps if a prospective client wishes to become a client. Likely costs, attorneys fees, and the retainer amount will also be discussed at this time.