The Law Center

Steps to take before you Retain Your Custody Lawyer

Here are some to-dos to help you save time and money before meeting with your attorney.  This will also help you organize your case if you can’t afford a lawyer and are going it alone. You don’t have to do everything suggested in this article, but do as many as you can. The more you do, the better your lawyer will be prepared, the more money you’ll save, and the better your representation will be.

The first thing to do in preparing to see a new attorney is to gather all the paperwork that you have in your possession, scan it, and organize it by category. If there is paperwork out there that you know exists but you don’t have it, track down what you can and get everything in one place.


 Everything you do have, immediately scan it into your computer or phone in PDF format and then organize them into folders.  Label each file in as much detail as possible so that your lawyer doesn’t have to click on it to know what it is.

I recommend the following categories:

-journal entries, memorandums, notes, and any summary that you’ve prepared that you want your attorney to see; 
-judges’ and court orders, pleadings, petitions, motions, and other official
court filings;
-communication with your ex: saved text messages, emails, video evidence, and other relevant communication between you and your ex;
-reports from mental health professionals;
-documents related to Child Protective Services;
-reports related to supervised visitation or supervised transition center reports;
-documents related to domestic violence communication to and from your children;
-false allegations and intentional representations against you;
-documents relating to education and schooling of the children; and
-documents related to the children’s medical condition or healthcare;

Before you meet with your attorney, let him/her know that you have this information in your possession, organized, itemized, and indexed. Ask the secretary what information the lawyer would like before the first conversation.

Each folder should have sub-items which are organized in chronological order. Each document should have a name which describes the contents of the document, not merely a number. Don’t require the lawyer to click on the document in order to figure out what it is; save your lawyer time and trouble so he/she can be a better advocate, and more time efficient.

Next, Prepare and organize Background Information.  Prepare a fact sheet and chronology of events. Focus on major milestones and significant events to serve as a handy reference for your lawyer, particularly in which you, your ex, or both of you might not have met your child s needs.

Although your lawyer wants to know the whole story, what you and your lawyer thinks is important is two different things. Start your story with the most recent events that cause you to seek a consultation and the immediate relief that you want. Then give the rest, or let your lawyer ask you questions to bring out the rest of your story. Your lawyer is your zealous advocate. Don’t try to win him or her over or sugarcoat your story to make yourself seem sympathetic. You don t need to.

Be prepared to discuss both your strengths and weaknesses. Your lawyer will be a better advocate if you are prepared to discuss the good, bad, and ugly, and needs to know the whole truth.

Don’t look for your lawyer for emotional support (although you might feel better after talking to him/her, anyway). Talk to your counselor, best friend, and family members regarding any emotions or things you need to get off your chest before you speak with your lawyer. When you are on the clock with your lawyer, it’s about dry facts. Don’t vent your emotions.

Please follow this advice. Family Court can be expensive, but you can definitely control the cost by good, careful preparation and cooperation with your attorney.