Going through a divorce affects one’s life forever. Even when your divorce appears simple and drama free, many find the process to have long-term effects on finances, friendships, or social settings. Whether you are going through a grueling contested divorce, or you and your spouse have come to some agreement on issues and want to pursue an uncontested divorce, it would be prudent to consult with and hire a divorce attorney to handle the process.
When you first meet with a divorce lawyer, both you and the attorney will be looking to find if there is a basis for a professional relationship. At the initial consultation, you and the divorce attorney will want to be comfortable with each other. Each of you will want to have a firm understanding of what to expect from the other.
Most attorneys offer a thirty or forty-five minute initial consultation for free, or maybe for a nominal fee. You should be prepared to discuss your goals and general topics of concern in your divorce. Your attorney should be able to answer your questions fully on the legal process, and be able to give you an assessment on how realistic your goals are.
Even if you do not hire the attorney, information you discuss is nevertheless protected under the attorney-client privilege. It is highly unlikely that you will say anything that will shock them. Therefore, you should feel at ease about discussing personal information with them. Your attorney can only help you reach your goals if they know everything you do about your situation.
To make efficient use of your initial consultation, you should be prepared to discuss facts on several basic areas: financial matters, including debt and assets, income and expenses, child custody and support, and any existing court orders, prenuptial agreements, and separation agreements. You should bring with you relevant documents to discuss these matters with your divorce attorney.
First and foremost, you should have with you any paperwork on your current divorce. If you have been served with paperwork, bring those with you. You should also bring any separation agreements and prenuptial agreements for your attorney to review. If there have been any court orders issued concerning spousal support, child support, or child custody and visitation, have those ready for review.
While it is not necessary to bring detailed records of your financial status, you should have at the ready documents that give your attorney an overview. You should bring copies of the most recent years’ tax returns (three years) and several recent pay stubs for both you and your spouse. If you have other sources of income (e.g., rental income, business income, stock dividends), you should have documents to show an accurate report of those amounts.
You should have a list of all of your regular payments, such as credit card payments, car loans, mortgages, student loans, as well as the balances on each account. At your initial consultation, it is not necessary to have statements for each account, but this will be important later in the process. In addition, you should note your ordinary household spending on things such as utilities, groceries, car maintenance, and education for minor children.
Finally, you should be prepared with documents regarding marital assets. The largest asset at the center of most divorces is the marital home. You should have documentation showing the current value of the house as well as the existing mortgage balance. Also, have documentation showing the current balances of asset accounts like savings accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance.
After reviewing these documents with a divorce attorney, you should be knowledgeable on what to expect on division of assets, spousal support payments, and the custody and visitation of minor children. Divorces can quickly become complex in details and no attorney can anticipate every issue, but your initial consultation should answer most of your questions, and the attorney should be able to give you a general assessment on what you may expect.