Preparing to Meet a Child Custody Attorney
A child custody attorney can be your trusted guide and advisor as you work through custody issues with your child's other parent. But it's important to understand that you and your child custody lawyer are working together as a team. Your lawyer will need you to provide complete background information and will also want to know how you'd ideally like to resolve your custody issue.
Before Your First Meeting
Most child custody lawyers will offer potential clients the opportunity to schedule an initial consultation. This meeting, which can be held in person or over the phone, is your chance to get to know the attorney before hiring him or her. It's also the attorney's chance to learn more about you. If you decide to hire the attorney on the spot, you may be able to extend the appointment so that it becomes a working meeting. Otherwise the attorney may schedule another appointment where the two of you can get down to business.
Ask the child custody attorney whether there are any documents you should bring with you to these meetings. Depending on whether you're dealing with a new custody issue (for example, if you're just separating from your spouse) or an ongoing custody situation (such as if you have an existing agreement that's being modified), the attorney may ask you to bring:
- A copy of your existing child custody agreement and any prior agreements, if applicable
- A copy of your visitation schedule, as well as a calendar showing actual visitations that have occurred, if applicable
- Financial records that show proof of your assets, income, household expenses, and child-related expenses
- Copies of any reports from professional child custody evaluators or therapists, if applicable
- If you're having problems with the existing agreement, copies of any evidence that documents these problems
- A copy of your Model Parenting Plan, if applicable
- A copy of any child custody forms that you've already submitted to the court, if applicable
- Copies of child-support payment records, if applicable
In preparation for your first meeting, you should also make a brief written outline of your child custody issue, as well as any background information that's relevant to your legal dispute.
To stay organized during your custody dispute, keep all of this information in one place, such as a file folder. You may also want to keep a dedicated notebook that contains all of your written notes from meetings with your child custody attorney, conversations with your child's other parent, and notes from any court hearings.
Meeting Your Child Custody Attorney
Once you've hired a child custody attorney, your attorney will probably spend time at the first meeting or two discussing the steps toward resolving your custody issue and the strategy for how your attorney will handle the dispute. Your attorney may also spend a lot of time educating you about various aspects of child custody in your state:
After the First Meeting
Be prepared to leave your meeting with a list of items to do. Your attorney may want you to collect additional documents, make a list of personal property, or compile additional information. Remember that any legal issue is a collaborative process between you and your lawyer. You will be very involved in the process.