Meeting a family solicitor for the first time

Family law covers a wide range of areas related to families, couples and children - including divorce, parental rights and responsibilities, as well as child contact, adoption and grandparent rights.

When an individual or family experiences issues and reaches the point where they have to seek legal advice, they are quite often under intense pressure, which can take its toll on life as a whole. A good family solicitor will understand that issues at home can affect children’s ability to cope at school, work performance and health can be affected, and relationships can become strained. Taking these factors into account, it’s important they are sympathetic, kind and professional while seeking to make a positive difference to families.

While there is no law to say you must take legal advice, all these issues need to be handled sympathetically and professionally. Whether you are concerned about the welfare of your children, the impact on your home or business, or your financial situation, a good family law solicitor will help you through these difficult times, so you continue with life, whatever shape that may take after legal proceedings.

Finding family law solicitors

There are a few ways to find the right family solicitor for your needs. Perhaps a friend or family member has been through a similar experience and you can ask them for recommendations. Otherwise, you can do some research and find an experienced and reputable firm in your area that you feel you could work well with. Family law is a particularly sensitive area and whilst some solicitors will operate remotely and will do this very successfully, in most circumstances it is better to meet face-to-face with your legal representative, at least in the first instance.

Remember, if you are looking online, searching for subjects like ‘Inheritance and divorce’, ‘grandparents rights’, ‘guide to divorce and separation’, and more are likely to produce a wealth of links and articles of information. However, make sure you include the word ‘Scotland’, otherwise the search engine will default to England (or even the USA). This is important, as Scottish family law is unique from the rest of the UK.

Alternatively, if you are struggling to find a suitable individual or firm contact the Law Society of Scotland for further assistance.

Once you find a solicitor, you should make a preliminary enquiry to make sure the firm has professional staff available who have expertise in dealing with your specific issue. Also, find out whether the first interview is free of charge (it often is), or ascertain what the fees will be.

The initial consultation meeting

When attending the first meeting with your solicitor, you’ll need two forms of identification showing your name and address. One of these should be photographic identification, such as a passport or driving licence, whereas the other could be a bank statement or utility bill. Without these, your solicitor may be unable to proceed.

Depending on the issues being discussed, you may also want to bring along your marriage certificate or children’s birth certificates. In addition to your contact details, be prepared to disclose information about all the children in your home, their dates of birth and the schools they attend. Your solicitor may also require your employment details, information about your property (its value, any mortgages or loans and the name of the lender) and any other assets, including pensions.

You may also need to provide a list of any debts (including credit and store cards), a brief summary of your financial expenditure and, if you have been married, details about the divorce and any court orders made.

While you won’t necessarily have to provide paper or digital evidence of all of the above in the first meeting, however, having this to hand will undoubtedly speed up the process of the solicitor being able to act on your behalf.

What should you bring with you?

Clearly, every case is unique, so your solicitor will require a history of events prior to the issue coming to a head. If discussing divorce or separation, it is wise to write a report or account of exactly what has happened before the first consultation, as this will help keep the meeting concise while helping you recall the story in chronological order. You will also be spared having to recount any painful or emotional events as your lawyer takes notes.

At the meeting, you should not only have your report ready but also a list of questions that are important to you. Of course, your solicitor will have some other points of their own to add, but the more information you can provide, the better equipped they will be to help you.

Should you feel nervous about the first appointment, consider taking a friend or family member with you.

Bear in mind that the job of the solicitor is to achieve the best possible result available in law and fact. As a result, be prepared for advice that may not tell you what you want to hear. A good solicitor will advise without fear or favour; yes, they will be on your side - but also offer a realistic set of expectations pertinent to your specific circumstances. 

If you require assistance dealing with family law issues such as divorce or separation, your children, cohabitation or civil partnership dissolution, seek legal advice.

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