Working well with a family law lawyer

If you're paying for a lawyer, it can be expensive. If you're getting a lawyer from Legal Aid (including getting advice from a family duty counsel lawyer), they only have a certain amount of time to spend with you.

Ask your lawyer how much time they have to help you with your case. Their time on your case includes your emails, phone calls, and meetings; preparing for and attending court; doing legal research; and  reviewing and preparing legal documents.

Manage your time

Here are some ways to make the most of your time with your lawyer:

Be on time

  • Write the dates and times of all your appointments and court appearances in your calendar.
  • Be on time for every meeting with your lawyer and every court appearance.
    • If you have an emergency, let your lawyer's office or court clerk know as soon as possible that you’ll be late.

Be prepared

  • Write out your questions before every meeting so you don't forget anything.
  • Bring paper and a pen so you can write down the answers to your questions.
  • Bring a friend or advocate with you if you can. They can:
    • take notes of what the lawyer says and what each of you agree to do, and
    • remind you about any questions you wanted to ask.

Be focused

  • Talk only about your case when you meet.
  • Ask questions if you don't understand something.
  • Tell your lawyer clearly what you decide at each stage of your case.
  • Contact your lawyer when you need to. Their paid time includes time spent on phone calls and emails.
  • Prepare for your calls and keep them as short and focused as possible.

Be responsible

  • Answer all your lawyer's questions as soon as possible.
  • Do everything you told your lawyer you would do.

Manage your information

All the communication between you and your lawyer is confidential. It can’t be shared with anyone else without your permission. Be honest with your lawyer.

  • Give your lawyer all the information they need for your case. Our page Preparing to meet with a family law lawyer can help you organize the information your lawyer will need. (You can also download and print this checklist, if you'd rather work from a paper copy.)
  • Keep a copy of everything you give to your lawyer. Organize your copies and keep them safe in a large envelope, file folder, or binder.
  • Keep a record of your calls to your lawyer, including the date and the details of what you talk about.
  • At each meeting, write down:
    • what decisions you made,
    • what tasks you each agreed to do,
    • when you each promised to do your tasks, and
    • how much time you spent with your lawyer.

Communicate when there’s a problem

If you don't understand or don’t agree with something your lawyer is saying or doing, ask questions and talk about it with them. It’s more effective to discuss a problem than to change lawyers.

Changing your lawyer in the middle of a case can make things harder for everyone. For example, a new lawyer would need extra time to get to know you and your case.

If you do have to change lawyers:

  • do it respectfully, and
  • don't do it when it might hurt your case (for example, the day before a court appearance).
Updated on 4 December 2020