Shari B. Veisblatt and Stephanie H. Winegrad, family lawyers in Cherry Hill, answer:
In Pennsylvania, the client plays an integral role in the divorce process. There are three ways a client can assist her lawyer to make the process go more smoothly. First, it is helpful for the client at the outset to gather and organize the financial documents such as retirement accounts, bank and credit card statements. If the client is organized and gathers the appropriate financial documentation her lawyer will be able to have a better handle on the composition of the marital estate. Second, it is important to document as much as possible. In the divorce process, there is much “he said, she said.” Lawyers often believe what their client tells them unless the other party has documentation to prove otherwise. Third, listen to your lawyer’s advice and not your friends or relatives who have gone through the divorce process. Pennsylvania law is not the same as New Jersey law. In fact, each county in Pennsylvania has a different procedure and while your facts may sound the same as your friend’s case, each divorce case is different. To be helpful to your lawyer, remember to be organized, document everything and listen to the advice you are given.
In New Jersey, most attorneys will schedule a consultation to review your matter. This consultation will assist you to understand the divorce process, allow you to determine your comfort level with that attorney and help identify your goals moving forward. To get maximum benefit from your consultation, make a list of all assets/liabilities acquired since marriage. If you are able, also locate current account statements for the assets/liabilities contained on your list. If you have pre-marital assets, also make a list of those assets and locate statements to evidence the date you acquired those assets. Additionally, bring your most recent pay stubs and your last three income tax returns. This will assist in reviewing your matter by identifying potential problems, help you think “outside the box” to resolve issues unique to your matter and to address concerns regarding equitable distribution and support.
New Jersey is an equitable distribution state; which means assets are divided “fairly.” If you are unable to settle, the Court will determine fairness. Your attorney will review your documents in conjunction with the equitable distribution statute to provide a sense of how assets will likely be divided. Your attorney will also review your tax returns, coupled with the list that you prepared to discuss whether your matter is an alimony case.