Preparing to meet your family lawyer for the first time

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Picking up the phone and deciding to meet with a lawyer – especially if it concerns something as emotional as a family law matter – is not usually a decision that is made lightly, and we understand how stressful and anxiety inducing these circumstances can be.

A first meeting with a family lawyer does not commit you to taking matters further but early advice can be useful in assisting you to make an informed decision. When you call our office to establish if you would like to book a meeting with one of our specialists, we will ask you some preliminary questions. This is just for us to get a brief understanding of your situation and see how we can best assist you. Only when we have all of the relevant information can we fully understand the extent of your situation and advise appropriately. Every client’s personal circumstances are different and despite what other family lawyers may tell you about their offers of ‘free initial advice’ we believe that individuals who need a family lawyer need the right advice and that is only possible once the lawyer understands the landscape of the case. To aide in this we offer a free online tool called Engage; this is an online questionnaire designed to gather the relevant information in advance of the first meeting. This can be filled out in your own time, and the specialist will review it and consider the information before meeting with you, rather than gathering that information during the meeting. Filling out Engage is also a good way to get things down on paper, think about your long term and short-term objectives, and bring up any questions or concerns you may wish to share with your lawyer.

We can book meetings in for when it is suitable for you, and these can be conducted by telephone or by video call; or if you would feel more comfortable having an in-person meeting at one of our offices, we can accommodate that for you as well. If you would like to bring along a friend or family member to the meeting for support, we welcome them along.

Additionally, if you are feeling particularly anxious, we can offer you a meeting with our own in-house Director of Client Wellbeing, Kim Crewe. Kim has been a counsellor for over 20 years; she is a relationship therapist and a family consultant, specialising in working with people going through a family breakdown, so she is in a unique position to provide the relevant support when emotions are high. We are one of the only family law teams so have this expertise fully embedded in the team.

There can be a lot of information and ‘legal jargon’ to take in so don’t be worried about asking questions – we want to ensure that you understand your options and next steps. It may also be helpful to bring and a pen and paper or laptop/tablet with you, should you wish to make any notes.

There is rarely one answer or approach to family law matters and it is easy for people to assume that they need to go to Court in order to resolve their issues, however we recognise that the Court process is long, expensive, and can be a daunting experience for most.  Therefore, a number of our specialists are mediators or collaboratively trained so, from the beginning, we can do our very best to keep matters out of Court where possible. All the different process options can be discussed with you and considered during the meeting and where possible we’ll work with you to find solutions that avoid the traditional court process.

Whilst there are useful resources online, it is important to gain legal advice that is specific to your circumstances. Ultimately, we are here to support you and to help decide the best option for you. If you would like to arrange an initial meeting to discuss your situation, get in touch with our specialist team to arrange a confidential consultation.

Sophie Reynish is a Paralegal in our Brighton team.

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