In order for your attorney to advocate successfully, he or she needs all the facts relevant to your case. When a marriage ends, there are many things at stake –the parties' assets, the custody of their children, child support, and alimony. Your lawyer needs an accurate picture of how things were during the marriage to determine how things should be following the divorce. When you meet with your attorney to review the facts of your case, it is helpful to bring a folder of pertinent materials.
Try to bring your most recent pay stubs (for at least the current and previous months) and if possible, evidence of your spouse's income. You should also bring a record of your bank accounts. Other relevant paperwork includes mortgage statements, property tax statements, income tax returns, employee benefit statements, and any records of outstanding debts, such as student loans or credit card statements.
After discussing your accounts, your attorney will likely ask about any real property that you own (such as a house, apartment or vacation villa), as well as automobiles, jewelry, artwork and other personal items. If you are unsure of what something is worth, try to provide an accurate description of the item so that the attorney can properly investigate.
You should also bring recent bills indicating your average monthly expenses. This may include utility bills, medical bills, and charges for your children's daily activities (such as sports uniforms or piano lessons). Also relevant are life insurance policies, health insurance policies, and homeowner and automobile insurance policies.
Care of the Children
It is helpful to provide an accurate account regarding how the children are cared for. Who takes them to and from school and school-related activities? Who deals with medical care, dental visits and childcare? If there are records such as emails or letters that demonstrate your frequent interaction with schoolteachers, physicians or other persons involved in the care of your child, these may establish your role as an active and involved parent in your children's lives.
The “Smoking Gun”
You may want to present evidence of an extramarital affair, domestic violence, or criminal activity. While adultery does not directly impact the outcome of a divorce, it may be relevant to distribute of assets if the guilty spouse has been using the marital assets to finance the affair. Domestic violence is always relevant, particularly if there are minor children of the marriage. Criminal activity may impact the outcome of the divorce if one of the parties was using the marital assets to violate the law.
You should bring copies of any agreements made prior to or during the marriage. These include prenuptial, postnuptial and separation agreements.
Below you will find a checklist of the items you may need for your consultation.
Pay Stubs (yours) _____________
(your spouse's) _____________
Bank Statements _____________
Mortgage Statements _____________
Property Tax Statements _____________
Income Tax Returns _____________
Employee Benefit Statements _____________
Your Investment Portfolio _____________
Credit Card Statements _____________
Student Loans _____________
List of all Real and Personal Property (homes, cars, artwork, jewelry, furnishings and other valuables, including the contents of any safe deposit boxes)
Real Property Appraisals _____________
Personal Property Appraisals _____________
Utility Bills _____________
Childcare Expenses _____________
Medical Bills _____________
Children's Activities _____________
Life Insurance _____________
Health Insurance _____________
Automobile Insurance _____________
Homeowner's Insurance _____________
Relevant emails, letters or other correspondence
Prenuptial, postnuptial or separation agreement