By Melanie Friend
A consultation with one of our family law attorneys will provide you with valuable information about your legal options and the process that lies ahead of you. In order to maximize your consultation hour, consider the following tips.
Of course, some of the documentation or information listed below may not be available at the time of a consultation because one spouse controls the finances or for other reasons, and that is both understandable and perfectly fine. We can provide advice about how to approach that type of situation as well. For those with access to the information, however, investing a bit of time in preparing for the initial consultation can pay dividends in the form of leaving the office with a more specific plan of action and greater peace of mind during a stressful time.
For a separation or divorce:
- Bring documents pertaining to your income and your spouse’s for the past few years. This typically includes tax returns, as well as W-2s or 1099s. If available, bring a recent pay stub for you and for your spouse. Information regarding income is necessary to a productive discussion of spousal support or child support.
- Bring documents pertaining to assets you own and debts you owe, whether these are titled jointly or separately. These documents would include such items as recent retirement account statements, bank statements, investment account statements, tax assessments or appraisals for real estate, and titles to vehicles.
- Bring documents pertaining to debts you owe, whether jointly or individually, such as mortgage statements, loan statements, and credit card statements.
- Know whether or not you and your spouse have life insurance policies, and if so, what company writes the policy, what type of policy it is, the death benefit, and the beneficiary on the policy.
- Know important dates and personal information for you, your spouse, and your children, such as birthdates and social security numbers.
- Be prepared to describe to the attorney what factors contributed to the breakdown of your marriage. Though always personal and often painful, providing your attorney with specific details helps in the assessment of your case and better equips the attorney to represent your interests.
For custody, visitation, and child support:
- If you have concerns about your child’s safety in the care of the other parent, list those issues for the attorney, and provide specific examples to support your concerns.
- Give some thought to the custody arrangement you think would best serve your child, so you can discuss your ideas with the attorney.
- Bring documents pertaining to your income and your spouse’s for the past few years. This typically includes tax returns, as well as W-2s or 1099s. If available, bring a recent pay stub for you and for your spouse. If either parent is self-employed, bring documentation of the amount of self-employment tax the parent paid in the last year.
- Know who provides the health insurance for your children. If possible, bring documentation showing the cost of insurance for the employee or primary insured as an individual, compared with the cost for the employee or primary insured plus the child or children. This information is necessary to the child support calculation.
- If your child attends daycare, before-and-after care, or other child care is necessary during the time you work, bring documentation of the monthly cost. Child care costs often vary between the school year and summer, so be certain to provide information for both.
- If either parent pays child support for a child of another relationship, know the amount of support paid.
- Some children have medical or educational needs that require specialized care or an increased amount of financial support. If this applies to your child, be able to provide the attorney with an understanding of the child’s needs and the costs associated with meeting those needs.