Believe it or not, a divorce (whether you’re the spouse seeking one or not) requires as much planning as a wedding, if not more. However, feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety and grief that often accompany divorce can make even the simplest of tasks feel impossible. This is especially true in the beginning stages of a divorce, when emotions are oftentimes at their peak.
Consulting with an attorney is an important first step in the divorce process. Meeting with your prospective attorney not only allows you to evaluate whether you feel comfortable with him or her, but will also allow him or her to give you a “big picture” initial assessment on what the process may look like for you. Provided with the right information, an experienced divorce lawyer will be able to provide you with advice on the best ways to proceed, what you should expect, and what you are entitled to. It is very important that you convey complete and accurate information to the attorney in order to obtain the best advice.
Preparing for a consultation in advance of your appointment will help organize your thoughts, clarify your objectives, and will equip your consulting attorney with the information necessary to give you the most accurate advice. Here are five things that you can and should bring with you to ensure you get the most out of your divorce consultation:
1. Tax returns, W-2’s, 1099’s, and recent paystubs
Capturing as much information regarding your income and your spouse’s income is an important first step in the divorce process. If you bring tax returns and any other information regarding you and/or your spouse’s income, your prospective attorney may be able to calculate what support, if any, may be paid to you during and after the divorce, or what support you may be expected to pay.
2. Prior Agreements or Orders
If you have a pre-nuptial agreement, a post-nuptial or separation agreement, or were previously divorced and have a post-judgment matter that you are seeking assistance with, make sure to bring the agreement or order with you so the attorney can better evaluate the impact, if any, that same will have on your case. Similarly, if you are in the midst of an ongoing divorce and are seeking to retain new counsel, make sure to bring a copy of all prior orders with you, along with any other documentation that has been served, exchanged or filed thus far, that is in your possession.
3. Narrative of Important Events
It is important to list, in chronological order, any and all incidents of domestic violence between you and your spouse, and whether or not the incidents involved your children, if any. Your list may also include incidents that may have concerned you, or that you feel are important for the attorney to know, regardless of whether they are violent in nature. Coming prepared with a list is important, because it may be difficult for you to re-hash these incidents with the requisite specificity while you’re at the consultation. A list may also be important in determining whether any immediate action should be taken.
4. List of questions
You are going to cover a lot of ground at a consultation, so it may be easy for you to lose sight of what burning questions you may have at the outset. Coming with a list of questions that you want answers to ensures that you leave with all of the information you wanted.
5. Wish List
Having a list of what is most important to you can be extremely helpful in assisting the attorney in creating a roadmap of the divorce that is tailored to your specific desires. For example, keeping the marital home may be the most important thing to you. If your attorney knows that from the outset, he or she may be able to propose a plan that will include keeping your home as opposed to listing it for sale, which is oftentimes the default at the conclusion of a trial.
Whether you are looking to commence a divorce case or have just been served with divorce papers, the process can quickly become overwhelming without the right guidance. Since every family is different, the roadmap to your divorce will be unique to you and your situation. That is why it is important to ensure that your consulting attorney has as much information as possible with which to guide you in the right direction. The attorneys of Petroske Riezenman & Meyers offer a free consultation to their clients to ensure that they are educated on their options and what they can expect moving forward.