What to Bring to Your Divorce Consultation
Taking the first steps in a divorce can be a daunting experience. Each divorce, like each relationship, is different, so while parts of the process may be predictable, there are always variables that create specific needs and circumstances that can be harder to anticipate.
Planning correctly from the start is one of the best ways to get the outcomes you want from your divorce proceedings and planning with your divorce lawyer begins as soon as your initial divorce consultation does. To find the right divorce attorney for you, and for your divorce attorney to begin building the right case, you’ll need to provide them with details about your marriage, financial status, family composition, and reasons for divorce.
There are several things you should plan to bring with you to your divorce consultation to help you present the best possible case for your desired outcome.
The first thing you should make sure you have when you consult with a divorce lawyer is an outline of the facts you want to share with them. You may feel like you know the story of your marriage well enough, but it can be easy for important information or details you wanted to share to slip your mind when you have so much to consider and work through during a consultation. It’s better to have it written down to reduce the chance that you forget to say something you wanted to include.
Include information on:
- How your relationship began
- When the topic of divorce first came up
- Whose idea it was for a divorce and why
- What steps, if any, have been taken for reconciliation
- What kind of assets you have
- Who takes care of your children
- How many pets you have
- Any safety concerns you may have
The more facts a divorce attorney has when you first meet with them, the more accurately they can begin to set your expectations for the proceedings. So, while you don’t need to write a memoir for your attorney to read, it’s important to be open and willing to share information that allows them to understand you and the nature of your marriage.
Your divorce attorney will also need to understand your financial information to begin planning for your divorce process. Everything from splitting assets to alimony payments to child custody arrangements can be impacted by the details of your financials, and your spouse’s, so you’ll need to share that information with your attorney as soon as possible. Financial documents to bring to your divorce consultation include:
- Pay stubs
- Tax returns
- Bank statements
- Credit card bills
- Household bills and mortgage payments
- Insurance plans
- Retirement accounts
- Stock options
- Receipts for major purchases
If either you or your spouse are self-employed, or if you own a business together, bring bills and savings information from your businesses as well.
Anything you have a record of that impacts your income, or your spouse’s income, should be shared with your divorce attorney. An experienced lawyer may see opportunities and importance in some of your financial records that you don’t see yourself, so it’s important to provide as much as you can, rather than just what you think is most relevant.
You may have records or other legal documents that can impact your case in a divorce, so it’s crucial to share this information during a divorce consultation. Things like:
- Your marriage license
- Prenuptial agreements
- Children’s birth certificates
- Wills and living wills
- Power of attorney forms
- Any other legal records that relate to your or your spouse, such as police reports or relevant contracts
These documents will help your divorce attorney know where the opportunities and obstacles are in helping you achieve what you want out of your divorce proceedings.
You don’t want to risk forgetting to ask an important question, whether it’s about your options in your divorce or about the attorney you’re considering hiring to represent you. Don’t feel like any question you have is too small or seems too silly— it’s important to find the right divorce attorney for you and for you to feel comfortable and aware of the process. If you want to know something, don’t be afraid to ask!
You should also note what you hope to get out of your divorce and what your goals for the cost and timeline for the divorce will be. Your divorce attorney will be working for you to try and get you the results you want, and they won’t be able to do that if they don’t clearly know what those wants are. You also won’t be able to tell if you’ve found the right attorney for you until you know if they’ll work within your budget or have the right experience with niche issues in your case.
Be sure to also take note of additional questions, ideas, and goals as the meeting goes on so you don’t forget to cover anything you want to.
It may feel risky to divulge so much information to an attorney you haven’t decided to hire yet. But rest assured, most of the legal rules around attorney-client privilege begin with your first consultation, even if you never hire that attorney to represent you, and even if the consultation is free and you never pay them any money. This is so you can have the security to speak openly in order to make the right plans and hiring decisions.
The best way to find the right representation and to build your strongest case is to have an open, honest conversation during your divorce consultation. Find lawyers in your area to meet with so you can start planning your future.
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