How Do I Prepare for My First Meeting with a Lawyer?

From Clicklaw Wikibooks


Information

The lawyerA person licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. See "barrister and solicitor." will need to know certain basic facts about you and your relationship, particularly if there is a chance the lawyer will be starting a court proceedingA legal proceeding in which one party sues another for a specific remedy or relief, also called an "action," a "lawsuit" or a "case." A court proceeding for divorce, for example, is a proceeding in which the claimant sues the respondent for the relief of a divorce order. on your behalf. So make sure you either have this information at the tips of your fingers or have it written down.

Basic information

The lawyer will need to know this basic information:

  • your address, occupation, annual income and date of birth,
  • your spouseUnder the ''Divorce Act'', either of two people who are married to one another, whether of the same or opposite genders. Under the ''Family Law Act'', married spouses, unmarried parties who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years, and, for all purposes of the act other than the division of property or debt, unmarried parties who have lived together for less than two years but have had a child together. See "marriage" and "marriage-like relationship."'s full name, address, occupation, annual income and date of birth,
  • the date each of you began living in British Columbia,
  • the date the two of you started to live together,
  • if you're married, the date of your marriage and the name of the city or town where you got married,
  • the date of your separationIn family law, the decision of one or both parties to terminate a married or unmarried relationship; the act of one person leaving the family home to live somewhere else with the intention of terminating the relationship. There is no such thing as a "legal separation." In general, one separates by simply moving out, however it is possible to be separated but still live under the same roof. See "divorce, grounds of.", if you're separated,
  • the full names and birthdates of any children,
  • the care arrangements that are presently in place for the children,
  • your surname at birth and your surname before you got married, if you are married,
  • your spouse's surname at birth and their surname before you got married, if you are married,
  • whether you were unmarried, divorced or widowed when you married, if you are married, and
  • whether your spouse was unmarried, divorced or widowed when you married, if you are married.

Financial information

The lawyer will need to know this financial information:

  • the approximate balance of all financial accounts, including savings, RRSP and investment accounts, and the names of the financial institutions holding the accounts,
  • approximate credit card balances, and the names of the credit card companies,
  • the balances of any loans and lines of credit,
  • the full details about any personal and family debts,
  • basic information about any stock or bond portfolios,
  • whether either of you has a pension and, if so, the name of the pension plan,
  • the addresses of any real estate either of you might own and information about how those properties are owned,
  • the approximate market value of any real estate and the amount of any mortgages, and
  • the full details about any assets or propertySomething which can be owned. See "chattels" and "real property." that either of you own that is located outside British Columbia.

Concerns and risks

The lawyer will also need to know:

  • any health concerns about you, your spouse and the children,
  • any pending financial risks, like bankruptcy or a loss of employment,
  • any pending personal risks, such as risk of abuse or the abductionThe taking of a person by force or fraud. In family law, also the taking of a child contrary to a court order or without the permission of a guardian. In certain circumstances, the abduction of a child by a parent may be a criminal offence. of the children, and
  • the basic reasons why your relationship came to an end.

Don't worry if you don't have all this information available right away. There is almost always time to collect this information afterwards, and the lawyer you meet will most likely have a list of other information that you'll have to gather in any event.

Documents

You really only need to worry about documents if you're already in the middle of a court proceeding or negotiations between you and your ex have started.

If litigation is under way, the lawyer will want to see all the legal documents (also called "pleadings") that have been produced thus far. If you can't truck the whole file down to the lawyer's office, at least make sure you bring:

Supreme CourtNormally referred to as the "Supreme Court of British Columbia," this court hears most court proceedings in this province. The Supreme Court is a court of inherent jurisdiction and is subject to no limits on the sorts of claims it can hear or on the sorts of orders it can make. Decisions of the Provincial Court are appealed to the Supreme Court; decisions of the Supreme Court are appealed to the Court of Appeal. See "Court of Appeal," "jurisdiction," "Provincial Court" and "Supreme Court of Canada."

  1. the Notice of Family ClaimA legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules to begin a court proceeding, setting out the relief claimed by the claimant and the grounds on which that relief is claimed. See "action," "claim," "claimant," "pleadings" and "relief.",
  2. the Response to Family ClaimA legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules in which the respondent to a court proceeding sets out their reply to the claimant's claim and the grounds for their reply. See "action," claim," "Notice of Family Claim" and "pleadings.",
  3. the CounterclaimA legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules in which a respondent sets out a claim for a specific remedy or relief against a claimant. See "Notice of Family Claim" and "Response to Family Claim.", if any,
  4. any Financial Statements that may have been prepared,
  5. a copy of all orders made so far, and
  6. if you're seeing the lawyer about an interim applicationAn application, also called in "interlocutory application," made after the start of a court proceeding but before its conclusion, usually for temporary relief pending the final resolution of the proceeding at trial or by settlement. In family law, interim applications are useful to determine issues like where the children will live, who will pay child support and whether spousal support should be paid on a rough and ready basis. See "application" and "interim order.", a copy of the Notice of ApplicationA legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules to bring an interim application, setting out the relief claimed by the applicant, the grounds on which that relief is claimed, and the date on which the application will be heard. See "applicant," "grounds," "interim application" and "relief." and the supporting affidavits.

Provincial CourtA court established and staffed by the provincial government, which includes Small Claims Court, Youth Court and Family Court. The Provincial Court is the lowest level of court in British Columbia and is restricted in the sorts of matters it can deal with. It is, however, the most accessible of the two trial courts and no fees are charged to begin or defend a court proceeding. Small Claims Court, for example, cannot deal with claims larger than $25,000, and Family Court cannot deal with the division of family property or matters under the ''Divorce Act''. See "judge" and "jurisdiction."

  1. the Application to Obtain an OrderA legal document required by the Provincial Court Family Rules to start a court proceeding, which sets out the relief sought by the applicant against the person named as respondent. See "action," "applicant," "pleadings," "relief," and "respondent." or the Application to Change an Order,
  2. the ReplyA legal document required by the Provincial Court Family Rules to respond to a claim made in an applicant's Application to Obtain an Order. See "applicant," "Application to Obtain an Order," "claim," and "Counterclaim.",
  3. any Financial Statements that may have been prepared,
  4. a copy of all orders made so far, and
  5. if you're seeing the lawyer about an interim application, a copy of the Notice of Motion.

If you're in the midst of negotiations, you will want to bring:

  1. a copy of any offers made so far, and
  2. any Financial Statements that may have been prepared.

If you're planning on starting a divorceThe legal termination of a valid marriage by an order of a judge; the ending of a marital relationship and the conjugal obligations of each spouse to the other. See "conjugal rights," "marriage," and "marriage, validity of." proceedingIn law, the whole of the conduct of a court proceeding, from beginning to end, and the steps in between; may also be used to refer to a specific hearing or trial. See "action.", you'll definitely need to bring:

  1. your original certificate of marriage (the ugly brown government document, not the flowery document you might have received from whomever performed the marriageA legal relationship between two persons, whether of the same or opposite genders, that is solemnized by a marriage commissioner or licenced religious official and gives rise to certain mutual rights, benefits and obligations. See also "conjugal rights," "consortium" and "marriage, validity of."), and
  2. a photograph of your spouse.

Payment

Before you even darken the lawyer's door, make sure you know whether or not the lawyer is going to be charging for your first appointment.

Some lawyers offer an initial consultation for free; if so, they will usually advertise that first meetings are free. Other lawyers will offer an initial consultation for a reduced fee.

Most lawyers charge for initial meetings at their usual hourly rate. Do not assume that there will be no charge for your initial appointment. If you must make an assumption, assume that the lawyer will be charging you at the lawyer's normal hourly rate.

If the lawyer is going to be charging for your first visit, they will usually expect payment once the meeting is done. All lawyers will take cash and cheques, and many will also take credit cards. Make sure you are able to pay for your first meeting when you book it.

For more information

You can find more information about choosing a lawyer in the chapter Introduction to the Legal System for Family Matters within the section Lawyers & the Law Society.


Creativecommonssmall.png JP Boyd on Family Law © John-Paul Boyd and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.
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