Family Law Basics: Preparing to Meet with a Divorce Attorney

Divorse & Family Law Basics

Determining how to hire a divorce attorney can be a daunting task. You are most likely already overwhelmed by emotions and financial uncertainty. You probably have a constant stream of questions and worries. Finding an attorney who is committed to getting you the best result is important.


The first step in hiring a lawyer to represent you in your divorce is having an initial consultation. An initial divorce consultation is simply an office appointment or telephone call with an attorney to ask your general questions and discuss your particular situation.


When to Consult with an Attorney:

  • Once you decide that you are definitely on a path to divorce, you should schedule a consultation. Peterson, Berk & Cross, S.C. offers a free, 30-minute consultation to provide general information and answer your initial questions. Be aware that some attorneys charge a fee for a consultation, so paying for a consultation might not be a wise investment if you are feeling unsure of your decision.
  • If you believe that your spouse may be filing for divorce and serving you with paperwork, you should seek out a lawyer. If you know that the divorce is imminent, consulting with an attorney should be done sooner, rather than later. Your attorney will need time to review your case.
  • If you have been served with divorce paperwork, you should schedule an appointment to consult with an attorney as soon as possible. Sometimes an initial hearing has already been scheduled, so your attorney will have to determine if he or she has any scheduling conflicts.


What to Bring to Your Divorce Consultation

If the divorce has not yet been filed with the court, you only need to bring yourself and a list of  questions.

  • You’ve likely been pondering different issues and scenarios that will result from getting a divorce. When those questions pop into your head, write them down or keep notes to yourself on your phone or computer. Then, when it’s time for your consultation, you’ll have a compilation of questions to ask. This will help to ensure that as many of your questions as possible get answered by an attorney.
  • If some or your questions specifically relate to income, child support or maintenance (also known as alimony), you may want to bring along income information for you and your spouse. The attorney may be able to give you some of his or her initial thoughts about those types of calculations.
  • If you decide to retain the attorney, you will be given numerous forms to fill out, which will provide the specific information that is needed to open your file and initiate your case.


If the divorce has been filed, you’ll need to bring a bit more information.

  • If you’ve been served with divorce paperwork, the attorney you meet with will want to review a copy of it. Although most divorce paperwork contains the same, necessary legal language, sometimes the paperwork may give some insight into what the other party is asking for from the divorce. The paperwork may also indicate a hearing date that the parties are required to attend.
  • Even if the paperwork has already been filed, if you decide to retain the attorney, there will be multiple forms to complete in order for the firm to have all of the necessary information to proceed in representing you.


What Questions to Ask During the Consultation

What substantive questions you ask will generally be determined by the facts of your case, so your questions will vary based on your situation. Here are a few general questions you should ask.

  • Ask how much of an advanced fee (retainer fee) the attorney requires, how much the hourly rate is and what other fees and expenses are normal during the course of a divorce case.
  • Ask whether the lawyer focuses exclusively on family law and/or divorce. If not, ask the attorney about his or her experience in family law.
  • Ask what the general steps of the divorce process are and how long a divorce may take to be finalized. The lawyer will not be able to tell you exactly what will happen in your case, but you should ask for an honest prediction or opinion on the outcome of your case.


“Every situation is different,” is something that we say to potential clients every day. Unfortunately, there is no way to provide an all-inclusive guide for your initial divorce consultation, but we hope the preceding information is helpful to you when considering consulting with a divorce attorney.


For more Family Law Basics from Peterson, Berk & Cross visit Knowing the Basics of Custody, Placement & Child Support.


If you would like to schedule a free, 30-minute consultation with one of Peterson, Berk & Cross, S.C.’s experienced family law attorneys, please call our office at 920-831-0300 or visit our website at We have office locations in Appleton and Green Bay.



Peterson, Berk & Cross, S.C. is an established Wisconsin law firm with offices in Appleton and Green Bay. We combine the legal strength of many exceptional lawyers and have helped hundreds of clients resolve difficult legal matters in personal injury, family law, criminal defense and civil rights.


Written by: Adam D. Bernander & Meghan C. Petters


Adam Bernander


Adam D. Bernander joined Peterson, Berk & Cross, S.C. in 2015. Adam practices family law in the firm’s Green Bay office, focusing on divorce, legal separation, maintenance, property division, paternity, child support, legal custody, and physical placement disputes. Prior to joining Peterson, Berk & Cross, Adam was the supervising attorney for the Brown County Child Support Agency.

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