Lawyers generally bill by the hour, while in some circumstances flat fees may be offered. In either case, you should be made acutely aware of how your lawyer will be billing you, and how to maximize your time. For example, clerical and administrative questions can normally be dealt with by an assistant, who will have a lower hourly rate than your lawyer.
Assuming an hourly fee structure, you should further clarify with your lawyer what falls under the category of “billable work”. If you make contact with your lawyer, the chances are that it is billable.
It is helpful to prepare a brief outline of your personal information, including the following:
- Date of marriage or cohabitation;
- Date of separation;
- Names and dates of birth of any children; and
- Your income and your spouse’s income. Lawyers are very appreciative when clients can provide recent paystubs along with a recent notice of assessment during the first meeting.
At some point, you may have to complete a full Financial Statement to be filed with the court, or served on your spouse for the purposes of a separation agreement. If you are simply the recipient of child support, this may not be relevant to you.
Generally, however, it is useful to provide a basic sketch of your financial situation, and that of your spouse’s: bank accounts, pensions, real estate, vehicles, and other assets of significant value, along with any debts (sole or joint). If divorcing, these same figures should be obtained as of the date of marriage and separation.
You should be scanning your lawyer for personality traits that make you feel comfortable and trusting. You will be disclosing some of the most intimate details of your familial relationships throughout the solicitor-client relationship. Your lawyer is not there to judge you, but you will be working together as a team for what may be a significant period of time.