Divorce can be emotionally taxing, financially burdensome, and, at times, confusing. You aren’t expected to have all the answers – that’s the responsibility of your divorce attorney. And one of the best ways to get started on the right foot with the dissolution of your marriage is to be prepared for the first meeting with your divorce lawyer.
Here are five things you should take to the first meeting with your Michigan divorce lawyer:
You no doubt have oodles of questions about all aspects of the divorce process. But once you’re in front of an attorney it’s easy to forget the important queries. Keep a written list of all the questions you have and don’t be afraid to ask every one of them. The more information you know, the better you can aid your attorney throughout the divorce process, and the less work everyone will have to do all the way around. Here are some questions to consider asking:
- How long will the divorce take?
- Should I consider mediation?
- Have you worked with my ex’s lawyer before?
- What is the strategy for my case?
- How often do I need to be in touch with you?
- How often will you contact me?
- What are the next steps?
- Will I be working directly with you or also with a paralegal?
- What are your fees?
2. Financial Information
Your Michigan divorce attorney needs to have a basic understanding of your marital accounts. The financial facts of your divorce case are critical when it comes to separating joint assets and debts, and also when determining spousal support and child support that you must pay or that you will receive. It’s wise to bring along the following financial documentation to your first meeting with your attorney:
- The last two years of tax returns
- Pension plan, IRA, or 401(k) information
- Most recent bank statements – checking, savings, money market accounts, lines of credit, etc.
- Year-to-date pay stubs
- Real estate information, including deeds, mortgage statements, and escrow papers for all properties you own separately or jointly with your spouse
- Monthly living expenses
- Autos owned jointly or separately
- Debt details – credit cards, mortgages, student loans, etc.
- Prenuptial agreement or divorce papers, if either applies
Filing for divorce is like applying for a home mortgage – every bit of financial information is relevant, no matter how big or small in value.
3. Biographical Information
Your attorney will request your biographical information – full name, phone numbers, place of employment, date of birth, social security number, driver’s license number, and the like. But it will be helpful if you already have these details in a printed document, and provide the same details about your spouse. Also include a print-out of joint information including the date of your marriage, date of separation, and the names, ages, and birth dates of your children.
4. A Narrative of Your Marriage
Your attorney will have a series of questions for you about your marriage and impending divorce, but it is also likely that he or she will request that you tell your tale in your own words. It will be easy enough for your attorney to take notes or an assistant to take dictation, but typing up a narrative of your marriage will give your attorney all of the details in one place for easy reference so that he or she is paying attention to the story you’re speaking at the time of your meeting. Describe yourself and your spouse and your history together, including all marital problems – past and present – as well as details about your children. Identify what you think the problems might be during the divorce, why you’re seeking a divorce, and what you hope to get out of your divorce, from parenting time to assets.
Divorce can be sticky and uncomfortable. It can be embarrassing and mortifying and humbling. But your divorce attorney is not there to shame you or sit in judgment of your behavior. Be 100 percent honest about your entire relationship, your own indiscretions as well as the faults of your spouse. Your weaknesses are just as important to the divorce proceedings as your strengths. Answer any questions your attorney asks you with complete transparency. The information you share is confidential and what you may think is irrelevant could be the difference between long-time spousal support and a finite number of years of support.
Be organized, forthcoming, and prepared. Your Michigan divorce attorney is your advocate. Even if no one else is in your corner, your divorce lawyer is. Being prepared means you may be able to finalize the divorce faster and in a far less costly manner than if you or your attorney or paralegals must take time and effort to hunt down relevant documentation.