What to Bring to Your First Attorney Meeting
What Should I Bring to my First Meeting/Consultation with the Divorce Attorney?
To adequately represent their client and reach the most advantageous outcome, your attorney must gather all relevant information concerning your case. Not only is it important for a client to share relevant information with their attorney, but it is also important for the client to be completely transparent and truthful with their attorney regarding the facts of the case.
Once you have selected an attorney to handle your case, the next step is to provide your attorney with all the information necessary to handle your case. The best time to provide your attorney with information and documents relevant to your case is during the initial attorney-client meetings.Below is a checklist of documents and information which you should be prepared to share with your attorney early in the case. Bringing these documents or disclosing the below information to your divorce lawyer as soon as possible, will give your lawyer the tools necessary to position your case for success.
First Attorney Meeting & Divorce Consultation Checklist
Your Goals for the Case
What About Family Law/Divorce do you want to Learn?
Why are you Seeking a Divorce?
Details About your Relationship
Relevant Personal Information
Was there any Abuse or Adultery in the Relationship?
Custody, Visitation, or Child Support Issues?
Separate Property / Non-Marital Property
Be very specific about your goals for the case regarding the division of property or assets, custody and visitation issues, child support and alimony payments, etc. You must do more than tell you attorney that you want your "fair share." Be specific. Your attorney will not know your specific desires or goals unless you share them.
It is not uncommon for clients to have a number of questions concerning the legal process, pleadings, case outcome, etc. It is helpful for a client to make notes of their thoughts or questions and to bring them to attorney-client meetings. By grouping these thoughts and questions in one place, they can be easily addressed, rather than overlooked or forgotten.
First, it is important that you express your concerns and desires regarding your case to your attorney. Otherwise, you and your attorney may be working toward different goals. Second, share with your attorney what caused your relationship to deteriorate. Was there adultery, abuse, or abandonment? It is important to share the cause of the breakup with your attorney because this can influence an attorney's review of several key aspects of your case.
In addition to providing your attorney with personal information, it is also essential to provide them with the details concerning your relationship. When and where did you get married? Did you sign a prenuptial agreement? Have either of you been married before? When did you and your spouse separate? Are you still living in the same household? Provide your attorney with all of this information, including any supporting documentation.
Gather as much personal data about you, your spouse, and your children as you can, and share all of this information with your attorney. Write down your names, home and work addresses and telephone numbers, ages and places of birth, Social Security Numbers, and income(s).
Your lawyer will need to know if you were ever a victim or a perpetrator of abuse. Additionally, your attorney will need to know whether you or your spouse ever committed adultery during your marriage. Despite the fear you may have revealing this information, your silence could prevent your lawyer from doing his or her job in representing you.
Specifically, knowing about any abuse will allow your attorney to acquire orders of protection for you and your children. Informing your attorney of any adultery, especially if committed by your spouse, will allow your attorney to begin collecting evidence which may be used at trial. If you have photos, audio or audio-visual recordings, or any type of correspondence which substantiates the adultery or abuse, make sure to bring this evidence to your attorney.
Do you have children, and are there issues which will involve children such as custody, visitation, or child support? If you and your spouse had children during the marriage, it is important to discuss with your attorney your ideal plan concerning the custody of your children and any child support that you anticipate.
Do you believe you have property which should be considered separate property (such as property you owned prior to the marriage, was gifted to you during the course of the marriage, or you inherited) and should not be divided as part of the divorce? If so, it is important to identify this type of property as soon as possible and begin preparing the relevant documents to substantiate your claim.
Financial Information & Legal Documents
Financial information and legal documents will likely play a crucial role in your family law case. You will need to bring your lawyer up to speed on your financial situation and any other relevant legal documents. First, you should create a budget detailing how much you spend each month on items such as housing, utilities, food, clothing, personal grooming, gifts, vacations, and other expenses. If you have children, make sure to factor the child or children's expenses into your budget as well.
Bring documentation regarding the assets and debts held by you and your spouse, your income and expenses, your employment, your investments, and any property you own. Additionally, bring copies of documents regarding any pending lawsuits, bankruptcy, judgments, and/or garnishments. If you are the defendant in the case, it is especially important to provide your attorney with the complaint with which you were served.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of the financial documentation you should try to gather (and provide copies to your attorney) as soon as possible. Note that most of this information will need to be provided during the discovery phase of your case. Getting that information to your attorney early on in the case will save you time and money.
- Last three years' tax returns, W2's, 1099's, and evidence of income of you and your spouse;
- Real estate warranty deeds or quitclaim deeds to the property you own;
- For all current real property you own, copies of security deeds, promissory notes, and settlement statements;
- Notes for car loan(s);
- Any stock certificates, bonds;
- Recent statements for IRA, 401-K or other retirement or pension plans;
- List of any equipment you want which is worth more than $1,000.00 in value;
- Notes you have signed to any banks, individuals, savings and loans, credit companies, or other lending institutions;
- Any and all credit card statements for the past 12 months;
- Any other personal debts or notes signed to anyone, including family members;
- Any financial statements prepared by you and/or your spouse in the past 3 years (including various applications for loans that you may have filled out);
- A current budget of your living expenses;
- A list of your specific assets and debts; and
- A copy of recent bank statements, showing the current balance in each checking and savings account.