When you are first going to meet a New Mexico family lawyer, you may feel nervous about it. You are already dealing with a life-changing event, and that is a stressful time in which to have a new experience like meeting with a lawyer. While your first meeting with your family law attorney will vary by practice, here are some general things you can expect so you have an idea of what you are walking into and how to best prepare yourself.
The initial conversation
Your first meeting can take some time because your attorney will want to know as many details as possible about your case. Plan to be at the office for a while. Your attorney will act more as a listener but will ask questions to guide the conversation and get the most complete picture as possible about your situation, your goals and your primary concerns. You should have the chance to ask your attorney questions, too. It is helpful to make a list of what you want to ask before you go to the meeting so you don’t forget anything.
The exact specifics of the discussion will depend on your case. In divorce, for example, assets, debts, children (if you have them) and spousal and child support are common topics, along with custody options and how bills will be paid during the divorce process. For a grandparent who is raising a grandchild, areas such as your caretaker role for the child in the past, what is going on currently, and what your future concerns are will all be explored.
There is more than one option to resolve disputes in many family law matters these days. While you can go to court and allow a judge to make the final decisions, you can also use procedures such as mediation or a collaborative approach to resolve matters without the judge making the choices for you in some situations. Your attorney will tell you about the various options available and their benefits and downsides based on the information she or he gets from you about your case.
The necessary paperwork
As long as there is no hearing on the horizon or another court deadline, you probably will not need to bring papers with you to the first meeting beyond any non-legal paperwork that you have that is specific or relevant to your case. If there is already a pending court case and you were served with papers, your attorney will need to see those papers. If you want to enforce or change an existing court order, your attorney will need a copy of that order and any motion to change or enforce it.
The fees and agreement
How attorneys present their fees varies by practice, but in general, you should receive a paper that spells out the fees you will or may be charged and the responsibilities both you and your lawyer have regarding your representation. Attorneys in New Mexico are ethically required to put the fees and expenses you will be charged in writing. They also must set out the scope of their representation – what they are going to do for you – prior to you hiring them. This insures you know what the attorney will be doing and how you will be charged.
The next stage
What happens next will depend on your specific case. Your attorney should keep you informed about what your options are, what is going on in your case and what your next move will be. If you have not done so already, get the full contact details of the firm’s employees who are working on your case so you know who to contact when you have questions or need any help.