How to get a free divorce consultation and what to expect

If you’re considering divorce, you may want a consultation first. Here’s what you can expect.

What's Inside

What's Inside

Divorce in the United States typically costs thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. But the exact amount may be significantly higher or lower depending on the specifics of your case. So let’s face it: If you’re considering pursuing a divorce, the cost is likely something on your mind.

One important but often underused tool to help you gain a better understanding of what your divorce case might tally up to is an initial divorce consultation.

This article explains the different types of initial divorce consultations, including both paid and free divorce consultations and what to expect from each. It also discusses how to prepare for your consultation so you can get the most out of your scheduled time and things to think about when choosing an attorney to assist with your case. 

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Initial divorce consultation options

The initial consultation with an attorney is often one of the first steps in the divorce process. This may be an opportunity to vet potential lawyers to represent you moving forward. 

Even if you ultimately choose not to hire a divorce lawyer, the initial consultation may still be beneficial. It can help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your case and your options moving forward. 

That said, not all divorce attorneys handle the initial consultation in the same way. Below are some examples of the types of initial divorce consultations, so you have a better idea of what you may expect.


Paid initial consultation at attorney’s standard rate

One common option that attorneys may offer is a paid consultation at the attorney’s standard billing rate. For example, say an attorney’s hourly rate is $250 per hour, and they spend one hour reviewing your case details and discussing your case and options with you. In this instance, the consultation fee would be $250. 

People are often hesitant to pay a fee for an attorney’s time before even deciding whether to hire them. However, doing so may be beneficial in the long run. Paying this fee may help ensure that the client receives dedicated time and attention from the attorney, allowing for a more thorough review and comprehensive legal analysis of the case. 

Free divorce consultation

Alternatively, some divorce firms may offer a free initial consultation. As the name implies, this type of consultation is free, so there is no hourly rate or flat fee charged for the attorney’s time spent during this consultation. 

This is often an opportunity to discuss the basic details of your case with an attorney to see if they have the background, experience and bandwidth necessary to represent you moving forward. Notably, because this consultation is free, it’s not uncommon for attorneys to place certain limitations on the meeting. Below are some examples of such limitations: 

  • Time limitations (for example, a 15- or 30-minute consultation maximum)
  • Location limitations (for example, no in-person meetings and phone or video consultations only)
  • Scope limitations (for example, no review of your documents—such as financial statements or prenuptial agreements—included prior to or during the consultation)

Since there’s no standard way in which a free consultation must operate, if you see a free divorce consultation advertised, you may want to contact the attorney to ask for details before signing up. 

Free intake call with paid strategy meeting

Some firms may offer a hybrid of the above options. For example, this might look like a free initial call with an intake representative to begin, and then a small fee for a more in-depth strategy session with a lawyer. 

During the free initial call, an intake specialist or paralegal may: 

  • Ask questions to gather relevant information about your case
  • Assess your needs at a high level
  • Take notes for the attorney to help get them up to speed prior to the paid strategy meeting

This may allow the attorney to have a more focused and detailed discussion of the case with the potential client during the strategy meeting. And it reduces the time the attorney spends on the intake and meeting preparation process. In the end, this may help maximize the attorney’s time and reduce the cost to the potential client. 

Divorce consultation checklist: What information to have ready

Regardless of whether you schedule a free or paid consultation, most clients and attorneys find it helpful if the client has some basic information prepared in advance. This way, the client is ready if questions about these details arise during the meeting. And that means you use your time effectively and efficiently.

Below are some examples of information and documents you may wish to gather: 

  • Name and contact information for yourself and your spouse
  • Date and location of your marriage
  • Specific grounds sought for the divorce
  • Any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements between you and your spouse, if applicable
  • Names, ages and birth dates of any children
  • Financial information for you and your spouse, including information related to bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments, real estate interests, business interests and other assets and liabilities
  • List of goals, concerns and priorities for the divorce, including issues related to property division, child custody and spousal support

Questions to ask a divorce lawyer during your divorce consultation

The initial consultation often provides clients greater clarity on their legal options and the strengths and weaknesses of their case. 

It’s also an opportunity to learn more about the attorney to determine whether they might be a good fit for you. During your initial divorce consultation, consider asking about topics such as: 

  • The attorney’s background and level of experience in divorce matters
  • Their record of success in past similar cases
  • The attorney’s fee structure and anticipated costs of legal representation in your case
  • Their proposed legal strategy and timeline for the case moving forward
  • How often you should expect them to communicate with you, and how quickly they’ll respond to your calls or messages
  • Whether you’ll work directly with the attorney or with other attorneys or staff

How to choose a divorce lawyer

There are many divorce lawyers to choose from, but not all will be right for your needs and goals. Many people find it advantageous to hire an attorney with some or all of the following attributes: 

  • Significant experience practicing family law, particularly divorce cases
  • Extensive litigation experience
  • Positive reviews and testimonials from former clients to gauge the lawyer’s reputation and credibility
  • Strong communication and negotiation skills
  • Empathy and compassion
  • Availability and accessibility

Compatibility is another thing to keep in mind. You’ll likely disclose a great deal of information and spend a significant amount of time with your divorce attorney. So many people select someone they trust and can see themselves working with until their case is settled, however long that may take. 

How an attorney may help

The initial divorce consultation is only the first step. Although you’re under no obligation to hire any attorney you consult with, having legal representation in your corner for your divorce may be beneficial. 

An experienced family law and divorce attorney may help you:

  • Understand the types of divorce in your jurisdiction
  • Assess what options might be available to you
  • Prepare your legal strategy
  • Draft and file necessary legal documents with the court
  • Negotiate the terms of your divorce with your spouse
  • Litigate your claims in court when a divorce settlement resolution isn’t feasible

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Frequently asked questions

How much do divorce lawyers charge?

The current average hourly rate for divorce attorneys in the United States is around $270 per hour. But the cost of a divorce lawyer in any given case may vary widely depending on a variety of factors such as the attorney’s geographic location and their level of experience. It’s also worth noting that while many attorneys charge an hourly rate, some may also offer their services on a flat-fee basis.

What is the cheapest way to get divorced?

An uncontested divorce is generally cheaper than a contested divorce. However, this option won’t be feasible in every case. An uncontested divorce requires both parties to reach an agreement on all underlying terms of the divorce. Further, just because a divorce is uncontested doesn’t mean it will necessarily be “cheap.” Even in uncontested divorces, there may be filing fees, mediation costs and other expenses that you need to pay.

Do I need a lawyer to get a divorce?

No, you don’t need a lawyer to get a divorce. The parties are generally permitted to represent themselves in divorce proceedings, and it’s not uncommon for individuals to do so in certain circumstances. That said, having an attorney’s guidance and legal expertise in divorce law and proceedings may provide significant value to your case moving forward, especially if your spouse has their own attorney.

How do I find a good divorce lawyer?

Finding a good lawyer for your divorce may require some research. Many people choose to look for someone with extensive experience handling general family law matters as well as specifically divorce cases. Checking online reviews and testimonials from past clients and other attorneys in the area may be another way to find a good divorce lawyer who has achieved positive results in the past and has a positive reputation in the legal community.

Disclaimer: This article is provided as general information, not legal advice, and may not reflect the current laws in your state. It does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not a substitute for seeking legal counsel based on the facts of your circumstance. No reader should act based on this article without seeking legal advice from a lawyer licensed in their state.

This page includes links to third party websites. The inclusion of third party websites is not an endorsement of their services.

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