Child Custody Initial Consultations: How to Make the Most of Your First Meeting with Your Lawyer

March 3, 2021
Laura E. McGarry

For many parents, taking the first step to meet with an attorney to discuss custody of your children can be a scary and lonely process, especially if you have never worked with an attorney before. This article will provide information about what to expect during a custody initial consultation and how to make the most of that time.

At Russell, Krafft & Gruber, we view the initial consultation as the first substantive opportunity to meet with a client to gather as much information as possible and prepare a game plan for what will happen next. In custody cases, that involves discussing details about you, your children, the opposing party, and your goals concerning the custody of your children.

Information to Bring

The following is a list of information you should have prepared before you meet with your attorney for an initial consultation:

  • The opposing party’s name, date of birth, address, marital status, and a list of anyone that the opposing party lives with (including their dates of birth, if known)
  • The names, dates of birth, and school information for each of the children
  • The addresses at which the children have resided for the past five (5) years with the dates that they lived at each address and with whom they lived
  • A general idea of what you would like the custody schedule to look like
  • Details about why that custody schedule is in the best interest of the children
  • Information about any prior custody cases involving the children
  • Information about any criminal history, involvement with a child welfare agency, and involvement in any protection from abuse action for any of the parties and their household members
  • If you have an existing custody order and want to modify it, bring that order along with any documentation you have about the prior custody case.

Of course, you should also address any additional information that you have about your custody situation with your attorney, but this list is a good starting point.

Additional Notes on Custody Initial Consultations

I find that many clients benefit from writing down the information above, along with any questions they may have, before their initial consultation. Having notes to reference ensures that your attorney is getting as much information as possible and prevents you from forgetting to ask any questions that you may have.

Keep in mind that initial custody orders or changes to existing custody orders can affect child support. I will address preparing for an initial consultation about child support in a future post.

Although a majority of custody cases are litigated between parents, the Pennsylvania Custody Act does permit third parties, including grandparents, to file for custody. The information above applies to initial consultations in those situations as well.

If you are concerned about custody of your children and would like to discuss your options, contact one of our family law attorneys to schedule your initial consultation.

If you’re also looking for ways to manage custody amicably, check out our posts on balancing the holidays and navigating arrangements during COVID-19.