Here are some tips to maximize your time and provide an opportunity for your family law attorney to give you the necessary legal advice. Preparing the following in advance may greatly help both you and your lawyer:
1. Summarized Family History
This information includes when and where you were married, the names and dates of birth of your children, patterns of employment and education for both you and your spouse/partner, and any other relevant information about your divorce and marriage. You may also want to include your separation story and what led to the breakup of your relationship. In order to prevent forgetting a major detail that could be extremely helpful to your case, make sure you prepare this well in advance and periodically add to this narrative as additional details come to mind.
2. Prepare Your Financial Documents
One of the biggest disputes in a family law case is over finances. Your family law attorney will need to have an understanding of your financial situation in order to understand what the process is going to look like moving forward. You should include assets and liabilities for each spouse/partner individually as well as joint assets in gathering your financial documents; your lawyer may give you forms to complete called an Inventory and Appraisement (detailing the liabilities and assets of both parties separately and jointly) and Financial Information Statement (detailing your monthly income and expenses such as your living expenses). These assets can include:
- Personal assets such as vehicles, furniture, jewelry, etc. (a general description should be sufficient)
- Real estate
- Bank accounts, stock or investment accounts, retirement accounts and employer benefit accounts
- A list of each spouse/partner’s debts and joint debts such as mortgages, credit cards, bank loans, etc.
3. Gather Tax Returns
Any information that would show the income of both of you and your spouse/partner, including W-2s, 1099s, and as much a complete copy of each year’s tax returns as possible. Tax returns can tell your lawyer a lot of about the overall financial situation which tend to be a central issue in a divorce.
4. List Of Expenses for Your Children And Custody Plan
If you have children and your divorce will involve custody, visitation, or child support issues, considering what you would like to happen and be ready to tell your lawyer what your goals are. If your children incur additional expenses such as sports or extra-curricular activities/lessons, tutoring, private school, travel, uninsured medical and dental expenses, please be sure to tell your divorce attorney what your children’s needs are.
5. Be Honest With Your Attorney
While many of the details of your divorce may be sensitive, it is absolutely essential that you are completely honest and forthcoming with your attorney. Being honest allows your family law attorney to prepare for the legal process without being caught off-guard about new information or changes in the case.
6. Ask Yourself Questions
Every client has questions about the divorce or family law process, mediation, expectations, and potential outcomes. Preparing questions in advance and continuing to ask questions as they arise will give you a peace of mind about the legal side of the divorce or family law process. However, it is also important to ask yourself questions that will better guide your family law attorney and divorce proceedings. Some questions may include:
- What are my goals?
- What is most important for the children?
- What are my most pressing concerns?
- What am I most worried about?
- What is the most negative thing that my spouse/partner will likely say about me or our relationship?
- What are the biggest obstacles to overcome in order to get an issue sorted out with my spouse/partner?
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