Divorce affects every aspect of your life. Asking questions important to
you during your initial consultation with a divorce attorney/mediator
is key to navigating your path to a successful divorce.
As a highly skilled divorce attorney/mediator for more than 35 years, I
have assisted thousands of spouses in finding the right path for their
divorce. Whether it’s mediation, negotiation, or litigation, being
prepared is the first step.
Preparing for your divorce consultation is an important first step.
When spouses call to schedule their consultations, in order to maximize
their time with me, we suggest they prepare the following:
A List of Questions
Think about what is important for you to know. The reason you go to a divorce
attorney/ mediator is so you are properly educated and to learn all the
options available to you. There is more than one way to get a divorce.
Therefore, no question is too small or trivial. It is important that you
are well informed. So make a list of the questions that are important
to you and your family.
Consider what you would like after your Divorce. People get divorced and
hope to move on with their lives in as positive a way as possible. Considering
how you wish to do this is important.
If for example, you have no desire to stay in the marital home but would
like to see your children at least twice a week, it is important that
your attorney knows this. If the attorney/mediator knows what you want
from the get-go, she will be able to represent you to the best of her
Start Gathering Asset Information
Gather all current statements for all checking accounts, savings accounts,
credit card statements, and other deposit accounts.
If you or your spouse hold significant cash, such as in a safety deposit
box, gather this information.
Make note of any stocks, bonds, investments, mutual funds, secured notes,
and other liquid and non-liquid investments and their value.
Make copies of all documents showing how title is held to any real property
along with your most recent statements, plus a copy of statements as close
to the date of separation as possible.
If a security is held in certificate form, provide a copy of the certificate.
Also, provide the cost basis of each security/investment owned. (The original
cost of each asset is needed on all non-retirement account assets.)
Gather any retirement accounts and pensions and deferred compensation plans,
such as 401k, defined benefit and defined contribution plans. Provide
a copy of the latest summary plan documents (with terms and conditions
of the plan) and most recent benefit statements plus the statement as
near as possible to the date of separation.
Any copies of deeds to property, mortgages, or equity loans are something
your attorney may need. Division of property is an essential part of the
process, so disclosing this is very helpful to a divorce lawyer.
Pull together your tax returns. This is usually standard. Lawyers will
most likely request the last three years of tax returns from a client,
so you should be prepared. Tax returns are used in conjunction with pay
stubs and other evidence in the calculation of spousal and child support.
Also provide copies of checks or records of tax refunds if received individually
by either party before or after separation. If you expect a refund but
haven’t filed your returns yet, provide a copy of your extensions.
Spousal support and child support are calculated by income including what
you and your partner earn. Therefore, evidence of income aids the attorney
in assessing whether you are entitled to or should be given spousal and
child support and how much.
Gathering pay stubs, bank statements, and credit card statements is a good
first step. There may be debt from the marriage and there may be substantial
assets sitting in accounts. Either way, it is important that these are
fully disclosed to your attorney so that she can assist you with a resolution.
Reviewing bank statements and credit card statements is very useful. I
often recommend that clients summarize these so that I am able to get
an accurate overview as quickly as possible.
Job benefits are, in my experience, a relevant part of the financial picture
but are often ignored. Consider:
a. employee benefits
b. retirement plans
d. life insurance
e. health insurance
For any life and Disability insurance policies, provide declaration pages
showing face amount, date, type of policy, insured, owner, beneficiary
(ies), cash value and/or loan value.
If a policy is term without cash value, you should collect the documents
showing the death benefit, beneficiary, and premium and whether it is
an individual policy or a policy through your employer.
Now, you don’t need all of this for your initial consultation, but getting everything together and being familiar with what exists puts
you in the driver’s seat.
If you are ready to take the first step towards your divorce, call me.
I will help you put your checklist together and answer all your questions.
For more than 35 years I have been successfully helping divorcing spouses
to find the best path to divorce, and I will help you, too!
I look forward to speaking with you.
Lois Brenner is referred to as the “Lawyer's Lawyer” and
is recognized for handling sophisticated and complex cases discretely
and creatively, including those involving high net worth individuals,
business owners and executives, lawyers, doctors, celebrities, and public figures.