What to Bring to Your Divorce Consultation
A divorce is a life changing event. Sometimes a divorce is amicable and sometimes it is contested. Either way, it is wise to hire an attorney with whom you are comfortable and who you trust to look out for your interests in the divorce settlement.
Your first meeting with an attorney is called a consultation. It is usually through this consultation meeting and reference checks that a person decides whether or not to hire an attorney. In order to make the best use of the consultation and to see if you like the attorney's advice and style, it is useful to bring all of the relevant information concerning your divorce with you.
You do not need to worry about the attorney sharing confidential information even if you do not hire the attorney. The American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Responsibility, which have been substantially adopted in many jurisdictions, prevent the attorney from sharing information learned in a consultation except in limited circumstances if the information relates to a former client.
Since the information that you bring to the consultation is privileged, you should consider bringing the following types of documentation with you:
Any Legal Paperwork Related to the Separation or Divorce:
If you have been served with any papers from your spouse or if there is already a formal separation agreement then it is important that you bring it for your attorney's review.
The legalities of divorce have much to do with separating the marital assets. In order for your attorney to do so fairly and with your best interests in mind it is important for the attorney to know exactly what you and your spouse take in as income, have as assets, spend on expenses and have as liabilities.
- Income: This includes all of the money that is made from working and investments. If there is a family business then that information is also relevant. Often, your attorney will ask to see recent pay stubs for you and your spouse and your past three years of tax returns.
- Assets: Assets include real estate, personal property and, investments including retirement plans. It is helpful for you to provide your attorney with a list of the assets owned by you, by your spouse and by the two of you jointly.
- Expenses: This includes all of the money that you regularly spend including things such as your money bills, grocery costs and money spent on the education and care of minor children.
- Liabilities: Liabilities include any loans or mortgages that you have outstanding including student loans, residential mortgages, car loans and private loans.
Prenuptial Agreements or other Contracts
If you and your spouse have ever entered into a prenuptial agreement or another contract that would be relevant to your divorce or distribution of property then it is important for your attorney to review the agreement as soon as possible.
Documentation Concerning the Children, if any
If you and your spouse have children together then it is important to make your attorney aware of your wishes regarding the care and custody of the children. If there is any documentation concerning the children such as relevant medical or police records that show neglect or abuse then those are relevant to share with your attorney. Also if the court has appointed a Guardian ad Litem for your child(ren) it is important to make your attorney aware of the appointment.
Divorce can be a difficult time for many people. The right attorney can help you focus on the future and secure a fair distribution of property and a beneficial custody arrangement for your children. Therefore, it is important to provide a prospective attorney with all of the relevant information at your first consultation.
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