When preparing for divorce – whether you’re thinking of mediation, a collaborative process, or you feel that litigation is your only option – the first step is the same. Get ready and take the first step by consulting with an attorney- but come to your meeting prepared.
Check the Mediation Checklist.
Regardless of the type of divorce process you eventually choose, the Checklist will spur ideas about issues that will need to be resolved, and what kind of information you will need to provide to me as your attorney in order to get the best advice and outcome.
Presenting these documents at your initial consultation (or sending them to me in advance) will help us get started and assess your situation:
- Tax returns for the past 3 years, for both parties if filed separately;
- Most recent checking, savings, brokerage, credit card, and mortgage statements;
- Most recent pay stub for either or both parties;
- Life insurance benefit statements and medical insurance plans;
- Real property and personal property values and appraisals.
If any of this information is not readily available or not available without letting your spouse know you are thinking of speaking with an attorney, it can be obtained at a later time.
Compose a narrative of the marriage.
Whether on the computer or “old school” with pen and paper, write the “history” of your life together: how you met, why you married, problems that led you to where you are today…the good times and bad. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or organization. Aim for freeform stream of consciousness if that makes the task easier for you.
Include as many anecdotes as possible to give life to the history and paint a clear picture of your experiences and needs. It may prove to be a difficult task, but the narrative provides crucial insight into your situation. Include a section on “the worst things your spouse has to say about you” so I know what to expect from your spouse or his/her attorney. An “unfortunate things that I have done during my marriage that my spouse may or may not know about” section is also critical; I need to hear the downside from you first, rather than be ambushed in court with potentially harmful facts or accusations. Please do not be embarrassed or shy about this; I cannot help you if I do not have the whole story – the good, the bad and the ugly. If you and your partner are committed to mediation, each of you may submit your own individual narrative to me, reviewed separately and confidentially. Many clients have told me that sitting down and working on their narrative assignment helps them to begin to move forward emotionally and focus on their financial future as well.
While legal issues in divorces are rarely unique, your individual story provides me with valuable insight in identifying your personal concerns and providing the best advice and solutions. Gathering as much information as possible to present to your attorney in the initial consultation will also reduce costs by doing your own legwork and will make the most productive use of your attorney’s time.