At our law firm, we meet with thousands of individuals consulting about many legal matters; however, a common conference is to discuss filing for divorce. Most of the time, we speak with our clients on the phone for the first time to let them know what information we need when they meet with one of us for the first time.
We will have to determine the course of action in the initial consultation. For example, do we need to file a plain vanilla divorce petition or do we need to file a more aggressive approach to the case, or a petition that requires an immediate hearing in front of a judge.
Most of our client will complete a client questionnaire before coming into our office so that we can narrow down the issues which we have to include in the pleadings. Our clients will need to let us know what the grounds for divorce will be. Do we have fault grounds or it is just a matter of filing under insupportability. Do we need to get service by the Sheriff’s office or will the other party sign a waiver of citation. These are matters that our client will have to discuss with us at our first meeting.
If children are involved, does the client request primary custody, supervised conservatorship. Is the client asking for a custom possession schedule or will it be a standard possession schedule. These are issues that clients with children will have to discuss with us at our first conference so that we know what the issue will be with the conservatorship of the children. The issues of whether we will need drug testing or some type of conditioned possession based on a negative drug finding.
If children are involved, we also need clients to provide our office with information on earnings of both of the parties for determining child support and/or health insurance coverage. Is the case going to be a guideline child support case or is there going to be some sort of offset because of the possession schedule agreed to by the parties. Is one of the parties going to provide the health insurance for the child. Is there going to be reimbursement to the other spouse who will be providing the health insurance.
The client must also be prepared to discuss the community estate. What do you own of value? How many motor vehicles to you own. What type of debts do you have? Who owes what to whom? Did you have property prior to the marriage? All these issues are very important when we initiate a divorce proceeding for a client. In Texas, property acquired before the marriage, or acquired by gift, devise or inheritance are the separate property of the person owning the property.
If one of the parties going to ask for alimony or spousal maintenance? These are matters that can be resolved out of court which will make the case more economical. If the parties are going to litigate alimony or spousal support, it will require discovery and hearings in front of the judge. This will usually make a case a lot more costly for both parties. These are issues that will be discussed initially with the client to make sure the client is aware of the expense of litigation.
Has one of the parties committed fraud on the community? Is the client asking for reimbursement from the other party? Do we need temporary orders? If temporary orders are necessary, then the client must be prepared to pay for the attorney to start preparing for litigation even if it will be on a temporary hearing basis.
In all cases filed in Dallas County, Texas, the courts have established a “standing order” which will provide injunctions against both parties to a divorce case. These injunctions are usually effective immediately and will help parties understand what they can or can not do.
In any event, always be prepared with information and objectives when you meet with an attorney for the first time.