Whether you have made the decision to end your marriage or are simply seeking information to determine your options, meeting with a divorce attorney is often the first step. Because these initial meetings typically cover a wide range of topics, it is important to prepare for the meeting in advance since the meeting is not only a good source of information for you, but also an opportunity for both you and the attorney to determine whether you are a good fit for each other.
Assets and Liabilities
The attorney will probably stop to ask questions as you explain your situation. Your attorney will want to know the following information about your assets and liabilities:
- What you and your spouse do for a living and what are your incomes?
- Do you own your home and, if so, when was it bought, what is it currently worth, how much is owed on the mortgage, and who is on the deed and mortgage?
- Do you contribute to a retirement account or pension and what is the current balance?
- Where do you bank and what are the approximate balances in your accounts?
- What do you and your spouse drive and how much is owed on each vehicle?
- Are there other assets such as investment accounts, businesses, other vehicles, etc?
- Do you have any debt and, if so, how much and what is the purpose of the debt?
- Did you have any property prior to the marriage or receive an inheritance or gift during the marriage that you would like to retain as your separate property?
If child custody is an issue, information about information about your children such as their ages, where they go to school, what you believe their preferred schedule would be, and what is your work schedule and your spouse’s work schedule.
If you and your spouse have been in discussion about the terms of the divorce, the status of those discussions is helpful to give the attorney an indication of what the contested issues will be. Since even the most contested divorces include at least a few agreements as well, having an understanding about what will be disputed can help your attorney give you a better idea of what to expect and formulate a strategy moving forward.
Finally, if any court proceedings have been initiated, make sure you bring a copy of any pleadings you have received as well as any correspondence from your spouse’s attorney with you to the consultation.
Discussion of Options and Next Steps
The second part of an initial consultation will usually be the attorney explaining your options moving forward, such as a divorce or dissolution, discussing an initial strategy, and a high-level analysis of the case, such as the potential for spousal support.
The final part of an initial consultation is often questions from you. In most consultations, many of your questions will have been answered simply in the course of the conversation, but having a list of questions prepared in advance is helpful to make sure you get all the information you are seeking.
Because an initial consultation lasts about 45 minutes and there is a good deal of information to cover, preparing in advance can help make the most of both your time and the attorney’s time. If you decide to move forward, more details and documentation will be gathered, your attorney will give you specific instructions and do’s and don’t, and you will develop a strategy moving forward.