Once you have determined that you want to move forward hiring or just meeting with an attorney to start a divorce process, there are things that you can do and documents you can gather to ensure that that meeting is as productive as possible. The attorney won’t need your entire life story at your first meeting, but if you can send a packet of important information ahead of time, the attorney can better prepare to identify the bigger issues that your case may present and can give you a much better direction on what needs to be prioritized. This article focuses on the financial side of your divorce; preparing to discuss child custody issues will be covered in other posts.
Put together the following basic information in one document. These things may seem like things that you could run through easily with your attorney in person, but to have this all pulled together in one document you can email or hand to your attorney when you sit down can save a lot of time:
- You and your spouse’s dates of birth (and children if you have any)
- The date and place of your marriage
- The address and phone number of where you live – and that for your spouse if different
- Where your children go to school, how long they have been in that school district and a one-sentence description of how each child is doing in school
- You and your spouse’s places of employment, annual income (separate) and how long you have each worked at your current job
Gather as much financial information that you can in advance of your first meeting with your lawyer. This is important because your lawyer needs a full understanding of the financial picture of your marriage – not only to help you understand what my happen to certain assets or obligations but also to help you plan now to put you in the best position down the line. Your attorney can work with you on setting up a plan for who should pay what bills during the pendency of the divorce or how best to protect your retirement account values (to name just a couple). Pull together recent statements and make a list of your best understanding of the following – whether you or your spouse (separately or jointly) have any of the following and include current balances if possible:
- Income Tax Returns. Completed personal, corporate, partnership, joint venture, or other income tax returns (federal, state and local), including W-2, 1099, and K-1 forms, for the last 5 years.
- Business Financial Statements. Do either you or your spouse own a business? Do you have access to current P&L or balance sheets?
- Income Information. Payroll stubs and all other evidence of income (investment property, rental/lease agreements, dividends, interest, royalties, lottery winnings, etc.) since the filing of your last tax return.
- Banking Information. A list of all bank accounts, whose name they are in and what the current balance is.
- A list of any brokerage statements, stock holdings, bonds, mutual funds.
- Retirement Accounts. A list of 401ks, IRAs, etc., and whose name they are in.
- Agreements. A copy of any premarital agreement (“prenup”) or post-marital agreements regarding property that you and your spouse have signed together after you were married.
- Debts. A list of outstanding debts, loans, auto payments, lease payments, etc.
- Automobiles. A list of cars, whose name they are in and who drives them.
- Property. A list of all real property you and/or your spouse owns – such as your marital residence, a vacation home, family property that has been inherited or owned by multiple family members, etc.
If any of the above information is too difficult or time-consuming to get prior to your first appointment with your attorney, a best guess is just fine for your first meeting. Do not put off meeting with your attorney until you gather the above. It is not an all-inclusive list and your attorney will ultimately need more information – and it is not a required list. It is merely provided as a roadmap to help you better prepare for your initial meeting and to answer questions your attorney will have.
Absolutely no two cases are the same, which makes it extremely important to meet with legal counsel to gain guidance on how the Court may approach your assets and debts during the pendency of the divorce and at the end of it. It is crucial to meet with an attorney to develop a comprehensive plan to ensure you put yourself in the best position, financially, at all stages of your divorce. The Law Office of Bradley R. Tengler, P.C., can help you sort through this and analyze your situation and that of the other party. Reach out today for assistance and for a thorough income review.