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Although lockdown was the prompt for solicitors to move away from initial face to face meetings, not having to attend a solicitor’s office does have its advantages. By way of example, no one will see you going in and out and you will not have to take as much time out of your day away from work or childcare.
It is completely normal to feel a little daunted at the prospect of meeting with a solicitor (whether this is remote or in person). It is a big step, perhaps the first real acknowledgment that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. Below are some tips to hopefully help you in preparing for that initial consultation:
Very often this is the first thing that people think about, but your lawyer really will not care what you are wearing, whether or not you have makeup on or whether your hair has been washed and blow dried that morning. Having said this, it is really important that you are comfortable with how you look.
You do not want to spend the meeting looking at your image smoothing down hair, adjusting clothing or trying to get rid of crumbs that are suddenly a lot more visible on screen than they were a few minutes ago! It is therefore worth logging on a few minutes early just to check that you are happy with how you look and the set-up, see next point.
Do think about where you are going to be for the appointment and whether this is the best place. You ideally don’t want to be interrupted by children, pets, the sounds of appliances or the doorbell in the background (in the days of more deliveries, if someone else is available to answer the door then that is ideal if not, then leave a note asking for packages to be left but the doorbell not rung).
Also, make sure that you have access to things that your lawyer has requested in advance, e.g. identification documents and payslips so that you know your income.
The solicitor will have lots of things that they will want to run through and you are also likely to have questions. It is worth preparing your key questions in advance and then at the end of the meeting cross-checking to make sure that everything you want to be covered has been.
By way of example, the arrangements for the children, potential options with regard to finances and making a Will/changing your pension nomination.
Appointment with lawyers are expensive and you do want to make sure that the time is used wisely. It can be really helpful if the solicitor has an overview in advance of the meeting. Some clients actually run through and complete the Form E financial statement which is the form that is required if an application is made to the court.
Whilst at first sight this form can look very daunting, in practise for most people a lot of the answers are N/A and the narrative sections at the end contain key points that will be relevant including contributions, likely change in future circumstances and needs. If you cannot face completing the form, then instead do a summary so far as you are aware of your capital, income and pension provision (and even better, the other party’s as well if you know it).
Please do not worry if you do not know the other party’s position, but if you give it some thought it will be surprising how much you do know and have access to. By way of example, if you have recently changed mortgage than the application will probably include details of both your earnings.
The phrase “you are on mute” will probably continue to be heard for many years to come. Do check that everything is working in advance of the appointment and if you are using a platform that you have not used before, such as Microsoft Teams check that you can logon to it alright and for future, with court hearings, the courts use different platforms including CVP. In advance of any hearing you should be sent a link that you can check that your system is compatible with the online platform. Finally, and most importantly, do not worry about it.
Your lawyer is human and used to dealing with people who might be feeling angry/emotional/confused. They also know that very little of what is said in the first appointment will be taken in and normally they will email you afterwards with a summary. It is fine to email or call with any questions that you subsequently think of or points that you want further clarification on.
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PHOTO CREDIT: JAVIER SIERRA