Are you nervous to make calls when you don’t know what the person on the other end of the phone will ask you? I’ll admit it: sometimes I am. I’ve tried to combat this in my seasoned old age, but sometimes it still creeps in and gets to me. “Am I going to look stupid? What if I don’t know the answer?” It still gets to me!
So, if you’re thinking of calling in for a consultation for a divorce or custody case, but you’re holding back because you’re afraid of the questions that the receptionist might ask you, I’m pretty sure you’re not alone. I don’t have exact statistics on this, but I think a lot of people feel this way. And I’m glad you’ve found your way here, because I think I can take some of the mystery away surrounding the call.
What questions will the receptionist ask when I call to schedule a consultation about a divorce or custody case?
Mostly, the receptionist will ask pretty simple questions.
What’s your name?
You probably know that one. We mean your legal name. I know; as women, we sometimes have a LOT of names. Your maiden name. Your married name. Maybe you want to resume your maiden name. Maybe you’ve even started to use it again. That’s fine. You can give either one – but if we’re filing for divorce or filing your paperwork with the court, we’ll need to use your full legal name.
But don’t worry; we can change your name back to your maiden name or help you resume any other previous name you’ve had before as part of the final divorce process. If you want a different name than one you’ve had before, you’ll have to do a name change petition separately, after the divorce is finalized, but that’s easy, too.
Where do you live?
We ask this for two reasons: one, to ascertain which office is going to be closest to you for a consultation, and, two, for the purposes of determining where your case would be filed.
Typically, a divorce is filed where the parties last lived as husband and wife. You could, potentially, agree to file elsewhere, but you would want to discuss the specifics of that with an attorney. It’s possible, too, that an uncontested divorce might be finalized somewhere else (like Norfolk, because of its famously friendly policies), but we’re just trying to get basic demographic information here.
Is a case already filed, or do you have any court dates pending?
We need to know what’s happening and, if you have a court date coming up, we need to find you an appointment with someone who might be available to take the case. The more lead time you have the better, too; it’s possible that, if your court date is too near, no attorney will want to take it because they won’t have time to prepare. Better to figure this out now, rather than later.
Why are you calling today? What’s going on?
This isn’t a trick question. This is, basically, to determine whether your case is divorce or custody or something else; maybe, even, to determine whether it’s something we typically handle. If someone says, “Oh, I want information about adoption,” or “My kids were removed from me and abuse and neglect charges are pending,” we’re not the right fit. So, it’s better to ask now.
What days/times are good for you for a consultation?
Yup, we’ll try to help you schedule at a time that’s convenient. We’ll ask, sometimes, whether you have a preference of attorney, or date and time. We’ll ask whether you prefer Zoom, phone, or, depending on covid numbers at the time, even potentially in person.
What if I have a legal question that I want to ask?
A receptionist in a family law firm can handle a LOT of questions, but they can’t answer legal questions. We’re not allowed to let non-attorneys answer legal questions. (And you don’t want them to – they might be wrong!) There’s a general feeling that, somehow, people working at law firms absorb the information (like, do they think osmosis is at play? I’m not sure), but I can assure you that is not always the case.
Family law cases are complex. There’s no way that someone who isn’t handling the cases full time knows the nuanced details necessary to answer complicated questions, or to give you an analysis of the legal options available to you. They cannot answer legal questions.
Will they tell me how the firm operates? I don’t know what I’m getting myself into.
It’s going to depend on how much you ask. It’s possible that you could just schedule an appointment and get off the phone, but if you’re expressing hesitance, or asking more questions, the receptionist will give you more information – usually, about retainer agreements, retainer fees, attorney fees, hourly billing, pro bono work (which we don’t do, just so you know), and more.
Likewise, in general, the receptionist will not ask detailed questions, beyond what is needed to follow up on the points that you’ve raised. Some women will go on and on, and we’ll talk to them for an hour. Others are quick and to the point. Our receptionists will meet you where you are, and try to help talk you through the next steps.
No one is trying to trip you up, or make you self conscious. We’re used to people who aren’t sure what’s important, and we’re not expecting you to analyze a case like a lawyer would. Our receptionist won’t, either! She’s just trying to get basic information down to help find the right lawyer for you and get you an appointment as soon as possible. That may involve a little detail – like, if you said, ‘I’m here because I want to learn more about divorce.’ Okay, great, fine – scheduling you for a consultation for divorce.
Or, alternatively, you could explain the entire history of your marriage. That’s not necessary, of course, but some people need to talk. We know. It’s so hard! We’ve dealt with thousands and thousands of divorcing women (and, in some cases, have been the divorcing women ourselves). Everyone in our office is sensitive to your concerns. No one is trying to make it harder on you.
Call. It’s okay. We’re nice. I promise. And don’t worry about stuttering or fumbling through the call; or of calling, forgetting to ask a critical question, and calling back to ask it. It wouldn’t be the first time, nor would it be the last.
For more information, or to schedule a consultation with one of our divorce lawyers (we don’t bite!) give us a call at 757-425-5200.