No one gets into a marriage expecting that it will end in divorce. However, when divorce is imminent, and your decision to divorce is firm, you don’t have to go through the process alone. Divorce puts your future and that of your family at stake, making it hard for you to stay focused and collected. You need to act fast and engage an experienced, zealous divorce lawyer to hold your hand through it all and help make the process less complicated and painful for you.
Should I Hire a Divorce Lawyer?
Divorce is a challenging life experience that can get quite messy. When you or your spouse decide to end the marriage, the next step entails figuring out how to go about it and whether or not you’ll need a lawyer to represent your interests in the settlement.
There are situations where hiring a divorce lawyer is in your best interests. These include:
- There is a power imbalance and/or a history of violence and abuse.
- If your spouse has already hired an attorney, you should hire one too to level the playing field.
- Hiring a lawyer may be the only option when you find you can’t reach an amicable solution with your spouse.
- If your partner is destroying or mismanaging property, hiding assets, or threatening you for filing the divorce.
- Hire a lawyer if your spouse is threatening to leave with the children.
- Hire a divorce lawyer if your spouse unexpectedly serves you with divorce papers.
- When you need peace of mind to move forward with your life, a lawyer will represent your interests in the lengthy legal battle and protect your rights to a fair settlement.
You and your lawyer will be ready for the challenging, life-changing ahead with proper planning and preparation. However, you need to be well prepared and have everything relevant to the divorce in order before showing up for that first meeting with the lawyer.
Documents You Should Take to Your Meeting with a Divorce Lawyer
1. A summary of your family history
Provide your lawyer with a detailed summary of your family history. They will want to know everything from when you got married or started living together with your spouse and when you separated. They will also want to know details about your children and the current living arrangement with your spouse.
2. Marriage agreements
If you signed any prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement, a separation agreement, or a child custody agreement, you would need to bring their copies to the meeting with your attorney. These documents will give the lawyer a better feel of your case, so they are in a position to provide appropriate legal advice.
3. Documents filed in the divorce case
If your spouse has filed for divorce, you must bring copies of the filed documents to your meeting with the lawyer. Ensure you have a copy, too, so you and the lawyer can have a copy to look at during the session.
4. Any other Legal documents
You will need to furnish the lawyer with your records to prove citizenship, the existence of the marriage, and the children involved in this marriage. Provide copies of your documents like a birth certificate, marriage certificate, death certificate of a previous spouse, social security cards, and immigration and naturalization documents should be shared with the lawyer.
If you and your spouse are engaged in any other legal matter that affects your marriage, your lawyer should be aware. For example, if there is a child support case or a restraining order, you need to bring a copy of that to the lawyer. Let your lawyer know if there are any court proceedings and judgments with your spouse and any other prior one.
5. Documents related to income and debts
Income debt documents are important to help your lawyer, and in turn, the court understands your actual financial and employment status. This information is important when considering alimony, child support, and property division. Income documents include:
- Your paycheck stubs
- Your spouse’s paycheck stubs
- Business expense documentation if either of you is in self-employment.
- Check ledgers if either of you works for cash
- Copies of federal and state tax returns for you and your spouse for the past3-5 years (individual or joint tax returns).
- Financial statements of net worth for you or your spouse
- Itemized list of secured and unsecured debts in your name, spouse, or joint.
- Any documents that establish your and your spouse’s net worth and income.
6. Documents of financial accounts and pension funds
Bring savings certificates and passbooks for individual or joint accounts, bank statements help separately or jointly, and statements from joint or separate investment accounts. All retirement assets should be disclosed, too, since contributions to the retirement assets are considered marital property during the marriage period. Bring copies of recent statements from 401(k) plans, IRAs, retirement funds, and other pension funds. Financial and income documents contain tons of useful information that your lawyer will find helpful.
7. List of expenses
Prepare a list of all personal expenses and that of your children. You will have items like medical and dental expenses, school fees, monthly shopping, utility bills, and extra-curricular activities on the list.
8. Automobile Documents
Vehicles are marital assets subject to a court-appraised division. They should be disclosed and left to the court to determine ownership. Your lawyers should know what automobiles are in your name, your spouses, jointly-owned or other.
9. Real estate documents
Sometimes spouses don’t even know if they are on the mortgage and the deed or not. Bring a copy of the deed, mortgage documents, real estate financing, tax assessor’s statement, and any other document pertaining to real estate to help your lawyer determine property ownership and answer your questions on the same. These documents shed light on properties likely to be split between you and your spouse by the court.
10. Any evidence of wrongdoing by the spouse in the marriage
If a specific reason or wrongdoing brought your marriage to an end, legally referred to as a ‘fault,’ do let your lawyer know about it. The fault can be domestic violence, infidelity, or harm to the children. If you have any evidence of this, even in an email or a text message, it can be very helpful to your lawyer and your case.
Our team at Vanden Heuvel & Dineen S.C. is here to help you through this process. Contact us today for a free consultation.