DIVORYour First Meeting with a Divorce Attorney
Preparing for your first meeting with your new divorce attorney may feel confusing and overwhelming. This article should help your cut out the nonsense and streamline the conversation.
If your safety is at risk, this issue should be the first thing you speak with your attorney regarding. There are tools that your attorney can use, such as Stalking-No Contact Orders and Orders of Protection, to ensure you are protected through every legal avenue possible.
Second, your attorney needs to know if anything has been filed yet and whether there are upcoming deadlines. If anything has been filed with the court, you should definitely bring it to your new attorney. It may be the initial pleading or, if you are changing attorneys, the whole case file.
After the first two assessments: safety and previously-filed documents, there are five (5) major areas that your attorney will want to explore with you.
1. Marital History: Obviously, your attorney will need to know when and where you were married and how long you have been separated for. It is also important to discuss the nature of your relationship with your spouse as it may be helpful when determining strategy. Did you date for a long time prior to marriage? Was it a short engagement? These are the types of questions that you most likely already know that answers to, but your attorney will not.
2. Income/Employment: It does not hurt to bring a few years of tax returns to your initial meeting. Your attorney will want to know the education level and income of you and your spouse throughout the marriage. Other significant information is how long you/your spouse have been at that income level and you/your spouse’s prospective future achievable income.
3. Assets: What kind of property do you and your spouse have? Property includes liquid money, retirement accounts, pensions, personal property, such as jewelry and cars, and real property, such as the marital home. Make sure to inform your attorney if you think there is a risk that your spouse will drain the accounts once you file for divorce. While those funds can usually be tracked, it is better to proactively stop it than to spend money tracing it.
4. Debts: Credit card balances, mortgages, car notes, 401(k) loans, and student loans are the most common types of debts divorce attorneys see. Is there a risk one party may file for bankruptcy and discharge their portion of marital debt? Who controlled the finances in the marriage?
5. Children: Last, but certainly not least, are the kids. This item should probably be first on the list for those that have children, but it is last on this list because not everyone does. It is important to give your attorney quick run-down on the lives of your kids: their genders, ages, schools, and whether there are special needs involved. It is also important to inform your counsel about their primary care-giver and whether this will be an area that can be resolved amicably with your spouse. It seems like divorces are either centered around children or finances. Some couples solve custody rather easily, but have deep conflicts over the financials, and vice versa.
You would be surprised how just thinking about these issues prior to meeting with your attorney will streamline the process and eliminate any misunderstandings. Good luck.

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