The first trip to a lawyer’s office can be quite uncomfortable; however, knowing the information and documents that you should bring to an initial meeting or consultation will make matters more clear for you and your attorney.
First, you should be prepared to give your lawyer a background of your relationship with your spouse, such as:
- How long have you been married?
- Do you have any children together, and are there any children from a prior marriage?
- What types of assets have you accumulated during the marriage?
- Are there debts, including credit-card debts?
- Do you or your spouse have any property that was acquired prior to marriage or acquired during marriage through gift or inheritance?
If there are children of the marriage, will there be a “custody” battle between you and your spouse? Be prepared to be candid regarding the caretaking of the children — which parent routinely handles particular responsibilities and daily care of the children? Don’t approach the initial consultation with an unrealistic picture of your involvement, or an exaggerated story of your spouse’s lack of involvement, with the children. Be ready with honest answers regarding parenting styles and skills, including the strengths and weaknesses of both you and your spouse. A lawyer’s evaluation of your chances of success in a custody case will only be as accurate as of the facts that you present.
Prior to the initial consultation, you should gather documents that would be helpful to the lawyer in rendering advice to you. At a minimum, you should bring to the initial consultation the previous two years’ tax returns and several recent pay-stubs for you and your spouse, if available. If any particular issues regarding interests in property exist, you should be prepared with minimal documents and records such as trust documents, Articles of Incorporation, partnership agreements, and the like.
Finally, if you have been served with a petition for divorce or other documents by your spouse, it is imperative that you bring copies of all documents that have been served upon you. You should also make an organized list of questions for your attorney.
Being prepared for an initial consultation with an attorney with the appropriate information and documents will greatly assist the attorney in advising you and providing you with the necessary guidance to successfully make it through the divorce process.
J. Lindsey Short, Jr., is a partner with former Houston firm Short Carter Morris. He is also a past-president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.