When you are considering getting a divorce, many things are usually taking up real estate in your mind. You’re worried–and possibly excited–about the future, feeling a lot of emotions and aren’t really sure where to begin. It’s here that a consultation with an experienced divorce attorney really comes in handy as you’ll have the chance to get a general idea of what issues your divorce entails and what your options are. This crucial information will inform many of your next steps, so to make the most out of this initial meeting, here’s what you should discuss.
Your Financial Situation
The attorney you are meeting with might ask that you bring specific pieces of financial information to the consultation. However, if you’re unable to get this information, your lack of access should be mentioned to the attorney and discussed at your meeting.
At the very least, bring the following to the consultation, plus anything else you have that is relevant to your financial circumstances at the moment:
• Employment: Copies of the most recent paystubs from you and your spouse and descriptions of your jobs.
• Tax returns: Copies of the past three years’ tax returns for both of you, including the supporting paperwork, such as W2 forms and 1099 forms.
• Asset info: Information about all the assets you and your spouse own jointly and separately. This includes things such as your family home and any other real estate, retirement accounts, cars, businesses, bank accounts, and investment accounts, along with their estimated values.
• Debts and liabilities: Information about all of the liabilities and debts you and your spouse have, including mortgage loans, personal loans, car loans, credit accounts and so on.
• Budget data: A general overview of your monthly budget, including insurance, food, clothing, transportation, education, entertainment, utilities and other shelter and personal expenses.
Your Children (If You Have Any)
During your consultation, you will learn some general information about issues relating to your children. This may include custody arrangement, college costs, special needs, child support, holiday parenting schedules and the parenting plan in general, health issues and other matters you will need to address during the divorce.
Spousal Support Awards
If the possibility of spousal support–also known as alimony–applies to your case, your attorney can go over it with you. Your marriage situation may suggest you will be able to successfully seek spousal support or that you will have to pay it to your spouse. You may learn what factors will be considered in the offering or calculation of spousal support. It’s important to know whether spousal support may be awarded in your case as it will become part of your finances for some time, whether you will receive it or pay it out.
All of Your Options
There is more than one way to approach a divorce, so you can ask the attorney about the potential options you and your spouse may have, which include avenues both in and outside of the courtroom setting. Outside of court, options include collaborative divorce, where you and your spouse and your respective attorneys work together, or mediation, where a third party helps you and your spouse come to an agreement. Keep in mind that out-of-court avenues are usually less expensive than the traditional litigation route, but they do require voluntary participation and a willingness to try on the part of both spouses.
The Fees and Costs
You can ask about the attorney’s fee structure and retainer requirements at your consultation so you can plan accordingly. If an attorney refuses to share this information in clear detail, it’s best to consult with another attorney.