Even the most amicable divorce will be difficult on a practical and emotional level that requires consultation. It is difficult to keep focused on what you need to do when you are ending a relationship you thought would last forever.
One of the smartest things you can – and should – do is to prepare yourself to meet with a family attorney as soon as possible. Choosing the right attorney is crucial to your future. Most attorneys offer a free, initial consultation, so you can actually “interview” one or two before making a final decision.
From my experience, potential clients get more value from their initial (free) consultation when they are prepared. This allows us to get straight to the issues and challenges that may arise. Here are some suggestions on ways you can prepare yourself before your first meeting with a divorce or family lawyer.
Think of all your questions and write them down:
You may think you know what to ask the attorney. However, going to your first meeting without prepared questions is like shopping for groceries without a list. You are almost sure to forget something. When you begin your list of questions, don’t edit. Just write down whatever comes to mind.
Have Your Financial Papers Ready
Discussions about money are never easy. However, they are especially necessary when preparing for your divorce. Your divorce attorney needs to know the details of your finances to offer the best assistance. It is a good idea to have copies of these documents with you during your first meeting. These papers should include:
- You and your spouse’s, or joint, tax returns. This will provide your attorney will an abundance of information.
- Proof of income for both of you.
- All bank statements, including checking, savings, and retirement accounts.
- Any insurance policies.
- All assets, whether in your name, your spouse’s name, or joint. This includes personal assets such as automobiles, jewelry, and furniture.
- A complete list of debts – mortgages, other loans, credit cards, etc.
- Any prenuptial agreement, if such a document exists.
It’s good to get started in gathering these documents at this point. If a case is initiated, you will at some point have to exchange these documents through a process called mandatory disclosures.
Prepare a Detailed List of all Relevant Marital Information
This should provide your attorney with a picture of what has led to the divorce. Was there abuse, infidelity, or other issues? Is there another person in the picture? Is the current relationship reasonably amicable or hostile?
While you are at it, prepare a document with your and your spouse’s name and address. Include the names and ages of any children, if applicable. Have everyone’s social security number, place of employment, phone number, birthday, etc.
Be Absolutely Honest
The details of your marital breakup are without a doubt personal and painful. Perhaps you are embarrassed by one or two of your actions. To represent you in the most efficient way possible, your attorney needs all information and all details during consultation. He or she should learn them from you rather than from your spouse’s representative. Your attorney cannot be effective if he or she is caught off-guard in court.
Questions Your Attorney Will Ask
Your attorney needs to know your current situation. How long have you been married and/or separated? Are you currently living apart? What are your plans for the children, if any? What do you want from the divorce: alimony, custody of children, certain assets, or just a smooth an exist as possible? Your attorney will also need to know whether your spouse wants a divorce or if he or she will oppose such a motion. Is your spouse cooperative or hostile? All this information will help your attorney form a picture of the situation and help him or her prepare for the next step.
Just as your attorney should not be caught by surprise, neither should be. Ask him or her what the next steps are and what you can do to prepare yourself.
Divorce is never easy. However, you can alleviate some of the stress if you are prepared for what comes next.
The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.
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