What To Expect From Your Divorce Consultation

In researching potential blog topics, I ran across an excellent article written for the State Bar of Michigan: The Initial Consultation with Your Divorce Attorney: What to Expect When You Don’t Know What to Expect .   This article is so well written and so thorough that I really don’t have much to add.  But, I will summarize and comment.  I will also discuss in terms of our office and our procedures at Nelson & Davis, LLC.

The first topic discussed is the article is the initial contact and information you need to provide.  When you call our office, we will ask for some basic information such as what type of action you have or may have, what county you reside in and whether an action has already been started.  This is important because it assists our intake coordinators in determining whether we can help you at all.  We do not practice in certain counties and people sometimes are confused as to what constitutes a “family action”.  Our office only handles divorce and paternity cases.

If we determine that your case is something we can help you with, we will tell you what our retainer is and ask you whether you would like to schedule an office appointment.  We don’t want you to be surprised by our retainer only after you take the time to come to our office and we don’t want to waste your time or ours if you don’t want to, or can’t, pay our fees.  We also will only do in-office appointments and not telephone consultations except in rare cases.  There are some attorneys who will do telephone consultations but we find it works best if we meet potential clients in person.

If you decide you want to schedule an appointment, we then ask your name and the name of your spouse or other party.  This is crucial information and sometimes people do not want to give it to us but we will not schedule an appointment without it.  We keep that information confidential but we must determine if we have a conflict of interest.  The most common conflict is that we have already met with the other party.  In that case, we cannot meet with you.  We do not disclose that fact (nor will we ever disclose that to the other party if he/she contacts us) but simply will tell you that we cannot meet with you because we have a conflict.  However, there may be other conflicts.  One of our attorneys may know you or your spouse/the other party in another way and may feel it would be a conflict to represent you.  Or, we may have represented someone connected to you such as your employer, an employee, a relative or a business associate.  Those individuals are a great source of referrals for us and it usually is not a problem but, depending on the facts, we also may consider it a potential conflict.  Whenever there is a potential ethical issue for us, we try to err on the side of caution.

When you come in for your appointment, we will also ask you to fill out an intake questionnaire.  We will ask you to provide more specific information including your income and assets.  The reason for this is so we can provide you more detailed information about what to expect in your case.  All of this information is kept strictly confidential.  The article does a very good job in describing the type of information you will be asked to provide and why.  Keep in mind, if you are uncomfortable in providing any of this information, simply discuss that with the attorney you are meeting with.

The one difference or problem I have with the article is that it indicates that the attorney will be giving you advice at your initial consultation.  This is not true! Until we are actually retained, we cannot provide you with legal advice.  However, what we will do is review the facts of your case, tell you what the law is, what the process is, what you might expect to happen and what we can do for you.

In our firm, it is our goal to provide you with realistic expectations about your case.  Keep in mind, we may tell you things that you are not going to be happy with.  However, we are going to give you an honest evaluation of your case.  It does not help you if we fill you with unrealistic expectations only for you to lose or be disappointed later.  If you want the kind of attorney who is simply going to do whatever you want, then we are not the firm for you.  Be forewarned though – hiring that kind of attorney is only going to cost you attorneys fees and disappointment later.

We have some other blog posts which you may find helpful which discuss what type of attorney to look for, when to start looking for a divorce attorney and what questions you can ask at you initial consultation (Archives – May, 2012).

If you have any questions or would like to meet with one of our lawyers for a free initial office consultation, please call us at 414-258-1644.  You can also visit our website for more information.

5 Signs You Need a New Divorce Lawyer

It’s unfortunate, but not every divorce lawyer is a great one, and there are attorneys out there who are more interested in collecting an hourly fee than they are in properly representing your interests while you legally separate from your spouse. And even beyond that, not every good divorce attorney is a great match for a particular client or situation for reasons that have to do with their background, fees, personality, or other details.

The bottom line is that sometimes you need to divorce yourself from a lawyer or law firm before you can get on with the business of divorcing from your spouse. Here are five signs you need to find a new divorce lawyer:

1. Your divorce lawyer doesn’t have enough experience. Going through a divorce could turn out to be the most significant legal and financial process you ever undertake, and one that will likely affect every day for the rest of your life. With that in mind, you want someone with years of experience in divorce law representing you, not a person who is still making a name for themselves.

2. Your divorce lawyer doesn’t ask many questions. No two divorce situations are identical, and your priorities (like keeping certain assets or maintaining child custody and placement) might be different from the ones other people had in the past. Because of that, it’s important to have a divorce lawyer that asks a lot of questions, so they can properly represent you. If they don’t, it’s time to move on.

3. Your divorce lawyer can’t remember you or your case.  Do you feel like you are re-inventing the wheel every time you talk to your divorce lawyer?  Do they forget your name or the major facts of your case (like whether you even have children)?  While your lawyer can’t be expected to remember every detail at all times, they should at least retain the basic facts of your case.  Even better, they remember most of the facts of your case.  If they don’t, they either have too many cases or a terrible memory or don’t care.  Either way, that is not good for you or your case.

4. You rarely see or hear from your divorce lawyer. Depending on the size of the law firm handling your divorce, you may spend a lot of time talking to junior attorneys, paralegals, and office assistants. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s also important that you have access to your divorce lawyer when you need to meet with him or her. If they can’t ever make time to speak with you, then you might consider taking your case elsewhere.

5. Your divorce lawyer stirs up emotional arguments. A good divorce lawyer will help you stay calm and measured throughout the legal process. If you find that your attorney regularly speaks in a way that makes you feel heated, then it might not be a good match, since overly emotional thinking during a divorce often leads to a longer negotiating time frame… not to mention decisions that you might regret later.

Your divorce is too important to trust to the wrong legal team, so if you spot one of these warning signs, consider looking elsewhere for representation.

If you need a great divorce lawyer to help protect your interests, why not call us at 414-258-1644 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys today?  For more information, also see our website.

About Divorce in Wisconsin

WISCONSIN DIVORCE FAQ’S

HOW DO I BEGIN DIVORCE PROCEEDINGS?

To begin a divorce, you must file with the Court a Summons and Petition for Divorce (generally referred to as the divorce pleadings). Your spouse must then be served with this Summons and Petition for Divorce within 90 days after filing. You can file a motion with the Court asking that this 90-day deadline be extended; however, it would be up to the Judge assigned to your case to decide whether or not to extend this deadline. There are two ways you can serve the Summons and Petition for Divorce on your spouse: (1) your spouse can sign an Admission of Service at our office or his/her attorney’s office, or (2) our process server or a sheriff’s deputy can personally serve the pleadings upon your spouse.

WHAT DO I DO IF I AM SERVED WITH DIVORCE PAPERS?

After you are served with divorce pleadings, call Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC to schedule a complimentary consultation. Once you retain our legal services, we will review the pleadings with you and prepare a Response and Counterclaim on your behalf for filing with the Court. You must file a written Response and Counterclaim within 20 days from the date you are served with the Summons and Petition for Divorce. This must be sent to the Court with a copy sent to your spouse or his/her attorney. If you do not file a written Response, the Court could enter a default judgment against you in the future.

If you also want the divorce, you should also file a Counterclaim for Divorce. This means that if your spouse changes his/her mind in the future and asks that the divorce be dismissed, the Court could deny that request and grant you a judgment of divorce instead based on your counterclaim.

WHAT IF I DON’T WANT A DIVORCE?

Wisconsin is a “no fault” divorce state. The only basis for a divorce in Wisconsin is that the Court finds that your marriage is irretrievably broken and that there is no likely possibility of reconciliation. Because it takes two willing people to have a marriage, the Court will most likely grant a judgment of divorce even if only one party wants the divorce as long as one party testifies that he or she feels that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that the marriage cannot be repaired.

HOW LONG DOES A DIVORCE TAKE?

There is a mandatory 120-day waiting period in Wisconsin during which your divorce cannot be finalized. Most divorce cases take between six months to one year to finalize. The time period can vary based on the County in which your divorce is filed and the issues involved in your case. The specific facts of your case will determine the timetable for the completion of your case. However, our goal is to complete your divorce as quickly as possible. We understand that you need to move on with your life and that you do not need a long and protracted court action.

HOW DO I SUPPORT MYSELF OR SEE MY CHILDREN WHILE THE DIVORCE IS PENDING?

In most cases, Temporary Orders are needed to determine where each party will live, when each party will see the children, and how each party will be financially supported and pay bills. These Temporary Orders are Court Orders and can be determined by the Court’s decision or upon an agreement (called a Stipulation) between the parties. These Temporary Orders remain in effect during the time it takes to complete your divorce case.

Temporary Orders could cover the issues of temporary custody, placement, support, maintenance, temporary use of personal property and/or bank accounts, temporary use of the marital residence, and temporary allocation of debts. While these orders are temporary and should have no bearing on the final outcome of your divorce, in reality, many courts continue temporary orders as permanent orders if they are appropriate in your case, especially orders regarding custody and placement of your children.

HOW DO I OBTAIN THESE TEMPORARY ORDERS?

To request Temporary Orders, you must file an Order to Show Cause for Temporary Orders and an Affidavit for Temporary Orders. These documents compel your spouse’s appearance at a first or temporary hearing which is almost always scheduled before a court commissioner rather than a judge. This temporary hearing is usually scheduled within three to six weeks of the date you request a hearing depending on the County in which your case in pending.

Prior to the hearing, you and your spouse can negotiate terms of a Temporary Stipulation. These stipulated orders are done without the need for you to appear in Court and, when filed with the Court, carry the same legal protection as if you personally appeared in Court.

WHAT IF I DON’T LIKE THE COURT COMMISSIONER’S DECISION?

If you do not agree with the court commissioner’s Orders at this first or temporary hearing or any other hearing before a court commissioner, you may request a Hearing De Novo before the judge assigned to your case. A Hearing De Novo is a hearing where the judge hears the matter as if it had not been heard before and is not supposed to give any deference to the court commissioner’s decision. A Hearing De Novo must be scheduled promptly after the hearing before the court commissioner’s (7 – 15 days in most counties).

WHAT IF MY SPOUSE LEAVES ME FOR SOMEONE ELSE OR IS LIVING WITH SOMEONE ELSE?

Because Wisconsin is a “no-fault” divorce state, one party’s infidelity is irrelevant in most cases. The court cannot consider this fact in dividing property, awarding maintenance, setting support or other financial matters. It can impact on custody and placement issues, however, if the significant other has a negative or harmful impact on the minor children.

HOW ARE PROPERTY AND DEBT DIVISION, SUPPORT, CUSTODY AND PLACEMENT DETERMINED AT THE END OF MY DIVORCE CASE?

Please see our other FAQ’s for additional information on these issues. Your attorney at Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC will work with you throughout your case to provide educated and experienced guidance to assist you in making good legal decisions for yourself in your divorce action.

WHAT OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE TO AVOID A TRIAL IN MY DIVORCE CASE?

Your attorney at Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC will suggest options to the successful resolution of the issues in your divorce without the need for a court trial. For example, settlement negotiations at a parties-and-counsel meeting, mediation and arbitration are all alternative measures that are common in divorce cases to help resolve conflicts.

Although most cases are resolved without the need for a trial, at Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC, our experience litigating cases provides our clients the best possible legal representation. We will make every effort to minimize the emotional and financial cost of a trial, yet we are prepared to litigate your case in court if a settlement cannot be reached.