Every relationship has to start somewhere, including the attorney-client one. Going to see a lawyer might be intimidating to some people, particularly when their marriage is falling apart, they are unable to see their children, or they are facing any of the other difficult issues that people face in Family Court. Knowledge can help ease anxiety, and knowing what to bring to the first meeting with an attorney when facing a divorce might make the process a little easier. Fortunately, my friend, Mark Chinn, published the following article a few months ago at his family law blog (which is one of the best of its kind) to answer this question:
In the initial assessment, the attorney attempts to assess the following things:
- What are the reasons for the divorce?
- Whether there is provable fault by either party
- What the child rearing has been and what are likely custody outcomes
- What the finances are: how would assets be divided, how would each person survive in the event of a divorce
- What the client is hoping to achieve in the long term
As a part of this process, the attorney will advise the clients on the basics of the laws on how to divorce, custody, division of property and child and spousal support. At the conclusion of the assessment, the attorney should provide alternative courses of action and perhaps make a recommendation.
What can the client do to facilitate the best possible initial assessment?
- Court Documents: If there has been a court filing, the client must bring previously filed documents. The last order entered by a court is an absolute must if the client is seeking post divorce advice. Certainly, if a client has recently been sued, the client must bring the suit and the summons served upon them and be prepared to say exactly when the papers were handed to them.
- Financial documents: (Note: the idea is to provide a basic understanding of the finances. Detail will be developed later)
- Financial statements given by either party to lenders if you have them
- basic financial statements prepared by either party
- the latest pay stub for both parties if you have them
- the latest statements for savings, stock and pension accounts if you have them (Note: the attorney will be interested in a basic idea of what was acquired during the marriage versus what was acquired before the marriage and what was received by gift during the marriage.)
- Tax returns for the last three years if you have them
- a social security earnings history if you have one
- Basic Timeline of Events: (Too much detail would not be useful in an initial assessment)
- Proof of Fault: such as telephone records, copies from Facebook, letters, recordings, pictures, cards, etc, pictures of bruises, doctor bills from abuse, etc.
- Payment: Oftentimes it is important to protect against the other party knowing about the appointment, so make arrangements to pay by a method the other spouse will not be able to detect, such as cash or cashier’s check or checking account to which the other spouse does not have access.
Source: “The First Appointment: What to Bring to the Initial Divorce Appointment” published at Mark Chinn’s Family Law Blog.