You’re about to go through a divorce – either you’re thinking about it, or maybe you’ve been served with papers. You know you need to talk with a lawyer, so you found one. Hopefully, the lawyer was referred to you, but if not, then you probably found him/her on the internet or even in the Yellow Pages. You’ve called. The staff was friendly and professional and you now have an appointment next week.
But you have no idea what to expect. Referral or not, you don’t know this lawyer at all beyond what his/her website tells you. You don’t know what you’ll talk about, what you should bring with you, what questions you have. All you know is there are a thousand things swimming in your head and you have no sense of organization about them at all.
Relax. Everyone who goes through a divorce experiences this at some point. I have a pretty comprehensive intake form that I try to have my potential clients fill out ahead of time, and I’m sharing it with you because I think answering these questions (as best you can) is a great way to help you focus and feel a little more organized. Plus, it can be a great timesaver at your first meeting. Don’t worry if you don’t know all the answers – the lawyer will help you.
You may wonder if you should bring anything with you. There again, there are practically innumerable options of what you could bring. Findlaw has a really good, comprehensive list that you probably want to consider at some point, but for your first meeting, I recommend just sticking with the basics, which probably include some or all of the following (as applicable):
- tax returns (ideally, at least the last three years)
- pay stubs, both yours and your spouse’s (ideally, the most recent one, and the last one from each of the last two years)
- the most recent statement for each account with money in it (checking, savings, 401k, IRA, pension, etc.)
- the most recent statement for each debt with your and/or your spouse’s name on it, or that you and/or your spouse have been paying (mortgage, car loans, credit cards, etc.)
- lease agreement (if you are renting your home)
- any documents you think may be relevant to the reasons for your divorce or that you would like the lawyer to review
You may not have all of these documents, and that’s okay. Just do the best you can, and make a note of what you don’t have or can’t access, so that you can discuss with the lawyer what you may need to do to obtain those documents you don’t have.
I also think you should start working on what your post-separation budget and expenses will look like, which can be one of the scariest things about the prospect of going through a divorce. I have also provided a blank “Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit” which Georgia Courts require of both spouses, but it is generic enough that you can work on this no matter where your case will go forward. Working through this form is a good first step as you try to figure out what you need out of your case in order to move on with the next phase of your life. Again, don’t worry if you don’t know all of this information or if this is difficult for you to work all the way through – just do the best you can, as it will benefit you in the long run, and the blanks you can’t fill in are another good topic of discussion for your meeting with the lawyer.
One shameless plug: I have written a book on the post-divorce process that you may want to check out, no matter who you eventually hire to represent you. Some of the subjects I touch on in that book can help shape your plans and process during your divorce. You can see more information about that book at www.PostDivorceCompass.com.
I am obliged to tell you that nothing in this post is legal advice or should be taken that way. That said, if you would like more information or to schedule an appointment with me regarding your own divorce, please call me at 404.891.1770 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Once you hire me, I’ll happily give you all the legal advice you can stand.
Thanks, and good luck!