Collecting information and discovery
Once you've hired your divorce lawyer, you must gather all relevant information for your lawyer's perusal:
Unless you create a separation agreement, your lawyer will use this as a starting point for the discovery process. The lawyer gets as much specific information about the marriage as possible, to work out the financial and children's issues fairly. Most of discovery involves financial matters, for which your lawyer needs specific, accurate details. From the value of items you bought during the marriage to stocks, pensions, and revenue from a business, you and your professionals (e.g. lawyers, mediators, financial planners, accountants, appraisers, etc.) have to retrieve documentation of every dollar value -- including that of premarital assets. For articles on preparing for a deposition and separation agreement, click here.
Contested vs. uncontested divorce
There are two general types of divorce. If you and your spouse can't agree on the divorce terms -- or if one of you doesn't want the divorce -- it's a contested divorce, and a judge will decide the outcome if you can't come to agreement on your own. In an uncontested divorce, both of you agree on how to divide your assets and debts, who gets custody and pays child support, and whether one spouse needs to pay spousal support to the other. Obviously, an uncontested divorce will be faster and simpler. But even a divorce that starts with major disagreements can be worked out if you choose to make it that way, and the majority of cases do settle.
If you're in the United States, ask your lawyer if you're eligible for a "summary" divorce. This is a simpler and faster divorce process which involves less paperwork, fewer court appearances, and less time in negotiation. However, this will only work if your marriage was relatively short and if you have no children, little property, and no intention to seek spousal support. In Canada, the closest would be an uncontested divorce or a joint application.
For more articles on the divorce process, visit http://www.divorcemag.com/articles/Separation_Divorce_Process.
Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
Business Valuators / CPAs