What Your Divorce Attorney Needs from You

 During the dissolution of a marriage, everyone needs a divorce attorney.  The attorney gives you advice, explanations and guidance throughout an emotional and often complicated time in your life.  Many clients do not realize, however, that the attorney needs a lot from the client as well.
A divorce is more than the end of the legal relationship between a husband and wife.  It is more than the dissolving of a family unit.  It is the complicated untangling of a financial ball of yarn.  During a marriage, it’s easy to overlook the complex nature of the criss-crossed pieces of string, as long as they are knit together to keep a family secure.  Once the family’s financial sweater must be unraveled, however, it is critical for the client to understand all of the different strands, and be able to explain and clearly lay them out individually for the attorney.
                In order for your attorney to be properly prepared to negotiate, mediate and/or litigate your divorce, he or she will need the information below.  Some of it will remain confidential – a part of your case file that the attorney uses for his or her own purposes.  Some of it, however, must be produced to the opposing party.  Having the threads of information simply organized to present to your attorney as close as possible to the beginning of the case will make the untangling process much less stressful for you.
                You should be prepared to provide your attorney with the following information.  On behalf of Daniels and Taylor and all our attorneys, thanks so much in advance and we look forward to working with you.

  1.  A coherent “story” of the marriage – this critical to formulating case strategy, whether the information is kept confidential under the attorney-client privilege or shared with opposing counsel as leverage.  This story is not just what you or your spouse may have done that led to the demise of the relationship, but an explanation of how the relationship functioned throughout its entire course.
    1. What was the good in the marriage – e.g., co-parenting, support of extended family;
    2. What was the bad – e.g., unavailability/remoteness of a spouse, breakdown in communication, lack of intimacy;
    3. What was the ugly – e.g., affairs, verbal/physical/financial abuse, alcohol, drugs;
    4. When, including dates as specifically as possible, did the good, the bad and ugly start and, if applicable, end.

  2. A  complete financial picture of your relationship with your spouse
    1. Identify all assets – this can be done by providing your attorney with:
      1. Net worth statement, prepped by client or financial advisor;
      2. Personal financial statements submitted to lenders; or
      3. Any other documents showing purchase or ownership.
        ALSO, be sure to:
      4. Identify possible separate property.  These types of property may not be subject to equitable division in your divorce, and may include property that was:
        1. Owned by either spouse at time of the marriage;
        2. received as a gift to one spouse during the marriage; or
        3. received by one spouse through inheritance during the marriage.
    2. Identify debts – yours individually, your spouse’s individual debts and any joint debts you may have incurred – including bank or store credit cards, small loans, mortgages, home equity loans and car loans.  This can be done using:
      1. Periodic bills / statements
      2. Net worth statements, prepped by client or financial advisor
      3. Personal financial statements submitted to lenders
    3. Identify all marital and individual expenses and the intervals in which they are paid – monthly, annually, etc.  This includes mundane household expenses, personal expenses, religious / charitable donations and extraordinary expenses such as orthodontia, prescriptions, private club memberships or travel sports teams dues.
    4. Identify ALL sources of income for BOTH you and your spouse
  3. Collect and organize documents – you will almost certainly be required to turn these over to your spouse’s attorney in the discovery process, as we will almost certainly request that your spouse turn over similar documents to us.  It is standard legal practice to request these documents, and not an invasion of privacy, and attempt by your attorney to pry into your personal business or an attempt by your spouse to harass you.
    1. Personal tax returns for the past five (5) years.
    2. Family monthly budget.  This often-overlooked document is critical to show historical spending patterns, which are important to understand when discussing temporary and permanent support issues.  The budget can be a document that has been:
      1. created/managed contemporaneously by Quicken-type program; or
      2. recreated by you through a review of bank and credit card statements for the past two (2) years or so.
    3. Current account statements for the following types of accounts, whether held individually by either spouse in his or her own name, or held jointly in both spouses’ names:
      1. Checking
      2. Savings
      3. Investment
      4. Retirement
    4. Documents regarding any real property such as the marital residence, vacation property, timeshare/vacation points clubs and rental property owned by either spouse.
      1. Deeds
      2. Appraisals
      3. Documentation regarding the sources of any down payments
    5. Business interests
      1. Valuations
      2. Ownership agreements / contracts
      3. Secretary of State documents
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