· What factors affect arrangements for the children?
· What factors affect the financial/property settlement?
Use these first meetings not just to get some cheap advice but also to gauge whether you will be happy to instruct that solicitor to act for you - there is no obligation to instruct a solicitor just because you have had a free or fixed fee interview. If you do not feel comfortable discussing your details at this stage, the chances are you won’t feel confident discussing more intimate details of your case with him at a later date. Feel free to ask questions, especially about their experience in divorce settlements. From their answers, you should be able to glean the extent of knowledge they have on the subject.
Take this opportunity to know more about the solicitor and/or the company, which he represents. How long has he been specialising in family law work? What are his experience and specialisms: child contact, ancillary relief, etc? Generally, you will only find this out by asking, unless the information is on the firm's website. Find out if the solicitor can also act as a mediator and what other services his firm can provide.
These factors are important if other aspects such as businesses or trusts will be affected in the divorce proceedings. While at the meeting, do not be embarrassed to ask about their legal fees and the other costs your case will entail. Ask about how they expect you to pay them (whether it’s a set amount per month, or a bill at the end, for example). Large firms usually have a prepared brochure in which their services; payment terms and appropriate charges are listed. Read this thoroughly and if there are items that you do not understand, ask that these be explained further. Be open about your budget and your requirements.
To get the most out of the first appointment many people will prepare a brief chronology of their case and a list of questions to ask the solicitor. If you are seeking advice on child support and/or financial/property matters it will also be useful to take with you to the appointment a brief summary of your income, outgoings and capital, including pensions. This can be particularly useful where there are many issues to cover in a short space of time, such as divorce, arrangements for children and the financial/property settlement, and can avoid important matters being overlooked. Remember that the solicitor does not know the details of your case, so it is up to you to inform him of all the facts.
Other documents to take with you to the first meeting might include any papers that you have received from the court, any letters that you have received from your spouse's solicitor and your marriage certificate, if you wish to instruct the solicitor to commence divorce proceedings on your behalf. It would also be useful to take evidence of your identity too, if you think you may instruct the solicitor to act for you - the solicitor will require two forms of identity (one with a photo, such as a passport, and a recent one giving your address, such as a utility bill), to comply with money laundering rules.
Don't forget you can also call the Wikivorce helpline on 01202 805020 for some free initial starting information.