2021 was another challenging year many of us would like to forget. Unfortunately, the months following the holiday season are statistically the most prolific time for choosing to divorce.
This is due to several factors other than coincidence: (1) December 31 is a good time to draw the line for financial issues; (2) many couples “white knuckle it” through the holidays to have one last time together for the family’s sake; and (3) January is a new beginning and people want to start their lives over through divorce.
Many people will soon be lining up to get a consultation or virtual conference with a divorce lawyer. It will greatly reduce the cost (attorney’s fees) if you prepare for the meeting in advance. There are several records that can make the difference in your case if you have assets that must be distributed or need support.
Do your best to gather this information upfront and have as much of it organized as you can before your first appointment or virtual conference. Most attorneys would be impressed if you have all, or even most, of this information available because it will make their job much easier.
Tips: Preparing for Your Virtual Conference with a Divorce Lawyer
If you need support or custody, it is very helpful to have a diary with information that details your spouse’s conduct as far back as possible. Patterns and habits can help your divorce lawyer elicit helpful information for your case. If you are asking for custody, diaries can show who the primary caregiver was in the past. Many judges want to keep the status quo for the children’s sake.
There are many documents that your divorce lawyer will need to represent you depending on the complexity of your financial situation. At the very least, your attorney will need copies of tax returns, income & expenses, assets, relevant legal documents, and children’s records. If you and your spouse have an accountant, he or she may have copies of these records. Current and historical checking, savings, retirement, and tax accounts should be collected and organized.
Proof of Misconduct
If you are alleging spousal misconduct, you will need to collect any evidence of the misconduct. This includes medical records, statements of witnesses, and any criminal proceedings. Substance abuse, financial irregularities, abandonment, or other allegations are important to detail with supporting evidence.
You will need to gather information about any marital assets you may own or share with your spouse, including any assets that may be owned separately by your spouse. Separate property must be identified and considered.
In general, if either spouse or the children have a medical condition those records will be needed to support claims for custody or support.
Contributions of the Homemaker
When one spouse works and the other cares for the children and home, any records or evidence of that will be helpful in supporting any claims for support or distribution of marital assets. All courts recognize the contributions of the dependent spouse to the marriage, and documentation of that is very powerful.
If you have family members or friends that will support your claims of misconduct or cause for divorce, it is good to get written accounts before you meet with your lawyer. Many times, witnesses can forget or get confused after time, and having a written account will help their recollection later.
Send the Information to Your Lawyer on CDs
Once you have gathered all of this you will need to take these files of information to where the data can be copied onto one or more CDs, which you should send to your lawyer as soon as you retain them. You will not need it for the initial virtual conference, but it will prepare you to be responsive to the attorney’s questions.
Be Prepared to Partner with Your Divorce Lawyer
All of this preparation should be done as discreetly as possible, especially if your spouse is unaware of your intentions and would be uncooperative later. Most of this information should be kept somewhere within reach and available for your inspection. If not, your divorce lawyer will have to obtain it through formal legal discovery, which is costly and slow. The more information you can gather without using your attorney, the better.
Every new step in life, especially a divorce, can be daunting. The better prepared you are, the better you can partner with your attorney for positive outcomes for yourself and your family.