20 February 2015 How to get the most out of your first meeting with your family lawyer

By Geovanna Jammo, Senior Associate

In Brief

Your relationship has broken down and you have arranged your first meeting with your family lawyer – here are some tips of what you can do to get the most out of that first meeting.  

For most people, separating can be a very distressing experience.  Your first ports of call will likely be a counsellor and a family lawyer to help you navigate through the emotional and legal minefield of separating from your former partner.  Our last article 'How to find a divorce lawyer - don't get stuck with the wrong one' provided some pointers about selecting the right family lawyer for you. This article will help you determine what to do once you have selected your lawyer and arranged your first meeting with them.

Seeing a lawyer for the first time can be very daunting, especially at a time when you are already feeling vulnerable.  Your first meeting is important because it is an opportunity for you to get as much direction and clarity as you can as to what to do next. 
So, what can you do to help your lawyer provide value for money from your first meeting?

1. Understand what a lawyer can and cannot help you with

Understanding the role your lawyer will play before your initial meeting will help you properly prepare for your first meeting; which is the next essential step.  It is important to set your expectations now on what your lawyer can and cannot help you with. This will also give you clarity on what questions to ask.

So, what can your family lawyer help you with? They can:

  • help you understand legal rights and responsibilities and help you navigate through the separation process including divorce, parenting arrangements, dividing property, business arrangements and financial affairs, child support, and spousal maintenance
  • act as a buffer between you and your former partner to negotiate with each other to reach an agreement in relation to the division of your property and/or parenting of your children
  • help you develop an action plan, create practical solutions to problems which can be resolved independently from the legal system and determine which solutions would best suit your circumstances
  • connect with other professionals to assist you in dealing with any family violence such as police and to also assist you with non-legal problems arising from your separation including, financial advisors, accountants, mortgage brokers, and mental health professionals

What your lawyer cannot do is:

  • help you emotionally recover from the breakdown of your relationship
  • help you change or alter your former spouse's attitude, personality or parenting styles; or
  • help you with any problems that are not legally based

2. Prepare, prepare, prepare

As Winston Churchill said "Fail to plan, plan to fail". Being organised and prepared for your first meeting will limit the work your lawyer will have to do to provide you with the initial advice you need.  What a lawyer can advise you on greatly depends on the facts and information you give them and your defined goals.  The work you do before your first meeting like gathering, organising and making note of the relevant information will provide your lawyer with essential information, therefore, they can spend more time on your advice rather than helping you gather the information required.

To help people through the initial stages of their separation, the Family Law Team at Swaab developed a Separation Survival Kit. This kit provides essential and important information, guidance and tools on a discrete USB stick including forms containing details you need to know to help you prepare for your first meeting with your family lawyer.

If you would like to obtain one of our Survival Kits on USB, please feel free to call a member of our Family Law Team or directly contact:

If you would like to republish this article, it is generally approved, but prior to doing so please contact the Marketing team at

This article is not legal advice and the views and comments are of a general nature only. This article is not to be relied upon in substitution for detailed legal advice.

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