December 1, 2023

A child custody lawyer’s initial consultation is an important chance to determine if you and the attorney are a good match. Knowing what to expect helps you make the most of the first meeting. The lawyer will likely ask questions about your relationship history with your child’s other parent, your current custody arrangement, what initiated this change, and details of any abuse, neglect, or other concerns. Be prepared to give a timeline and overview of your situation leading up to this dispute. The lawyer also will inquire about your long-term custody goals. 

Assessment of jurisdiction and legal standards  

Since custody laws vary by state, the lawyer will determine the applicable legal standards and jurisdiction where the case should be filed. Different legal considerations apply if you’re unmarried, married, divorcing, or separating. The lawyer will assess relevant state statutes and key legal factors like the child’s home state. The attorney will ask you to provide any documentation relevant to making a strong case like certificates, police reports, school or medical records, or correspondence with the other parent. Obtain any documentation concerning custody, visitation, child care, or concerns regarding the other parent’s caregiving. The lawyer requests records as needed.

Explanation of different custody types

To educate you on options, the lawyer will explain different custody arrangements like physical custody, legal custody, joint custody, split custody, and visitation schedules and rights. Based on your goals and situation, the lawyer outlines which custody requests to pursue. The attorney describes what to expect in your local court system in terms of processes, timelines, paperwork, mediation requirements, and personnel. Knowing the ins and outs of the family court system in your jurisdiction is helpful for the lawyer in charting a course.

Discussion of case strategy and preparation

In addition to court procedures, your child custody lawyer will discuss their strategic approach to building your case like what evidence to gather, experts to consult, negotiations to initiate, and pre-trial motions to file. Thorough preparation is key to custody success. Since legal fees are a major factor, the attorney should provide a cost estimate for their full representation including projected hours and hourly rates. Understand what expenses are covered and what billing arrangements or payment plans are available. Get free estimates from multiple lawyers. A strong law firm has experienced support staff and resources to draw upon when building cases like investigators, paralegals, child psychologist connections, and parenting evaluators. Ask about the lawyer’s backup support, expertise, and networks.

Before concluding, you and your lawyer should outline action items for each of you to complete before the next meeting, such as filing temporary motions, gathering specific evidence, or identifying supportive witnesses. A plan provides direction and focus. A thorough initial consultation allows the client to clarify any uncertainties and for the lawyer to provide their experienced perspective. Voice all your pressing questions to make the most informed decisions. With patience and preparation, this crucial meeting sets your custody case on the path to the best possible outcome for your child.