Divorce is a rocky road, but it’s better to take the bumpy off-ramp to safety than keeping pedal to the metal on a burning highway of a marriage. If you’ve decided to lawyer up for your divorce, you need to be prepared to maximize your time with the attorney by getting your documents in order, asking the right questions, and getting sound legal advice about what you can expect from your case.
Goals for your divorce
Have somewhat of a game plan going into the consultation process. If it helps to write it down so you can get your thoughts in order. Think it over and draft out some ideas in your mind of what you think the best outcome would be. What do you want at the end of this?
Some goals to think about may be maintaining certain assets. Write down what financial outcome you have in mind. Think about shared items and what you want. Who gets the car? What about the dog?
If you have kids, they are probably at the forefront of your mind right now. Think about how you envision a custody arrangement working out, and then decide what would be best for the children and also as good as possible for you.
Your lawyer is your confidant, and they will stick with you through the divorce (provided you continue to pay them!). But even though your attorney will advise you, head into the consultation with the mindset and attitude you want to be seen with if your divorce goes to court. With a good mindset and clear head, approach this meeting as a moment to clearly state what you want and how they can help you make it work.
Questions you should ask
Naturally, you might have many questions before meeting with your attorney. You should write them down ahead of time so you don’t forget to get the answers you need. Don’t be embarrassed about looking at notes while you meet with an attorney. The clearer you are and the more information you provide, the better equipped your attorney will be to help you through this divorce.
Some of the things you will want to find out from an attorney during your consultation are what you can expect the process to look like and what your attorney is like in the courtroom. Are they an aggressive defender or a calm and steady advocate in the courtroom?
It’s also important to know what your attorney’s communication style is like. How frequently will they communicate with you throughout the legal process? How often can you contact them and how will they bill you? Find out the costs involved.
In addition to asking questions, you want to bring your honesty to the meeting. Be frank and forthcoming with your attorney about your strengths and weaknesses and ask them how they view your case, your situation, and your likely outcomes.
Documents, records (evidence!)
When it comes to bringing relevant and important documentation to show your divorce attorney, the more the better. There are a lot of documents that are important to show your attorney and that can be used as evidence on your behalf down the line
Financial records are important, particularly in joint accounts. Remember, you are still responsible for your divorce. This means that while your attorney will help you search for discrepancies in your joint accounts, things that would indicate suspicious withdrawals or payments or transfers, you should also scour these records yourself.
Any documented agreements with your spouse need to be at the top of this pile too. If you have a prenuptial agreement (prenup), bring it with you as that is a paramount legal document during a divorce.
Evidence of problems is also important. If your divorce is taking place under particularly messy circumstances, you need to be ready, and your lawyer does too. Threatening messages, abusive voicemails, crazy screenshots, photographs showing illegal or dangerous actions by your spouse, evidence of destructive or violent behavior, all of that needs to be seen by your lawyer so they can provide you with vital counsel.
Here are all the basics you want to have covered for your consultation:
- Goals and questions written down
- Prenuptial arrangements or other written agreements
- Joint tax returns or income information
- Bank account records
- Physical or photographic evidence of wrongdoing, cheating, harm, or abuse