What Documents Do I Need To Bring To A Divorce Lawyer?

Preparing to Meet with a Divorce Attorney

While a divorce is simply the dissolution of a marriage at its most basic level, many complex issues arise during the divorce process. In some cases, the parties can agree to work through many of these issues, making the process much easier. However, an amicable divorce is never a guarantee, especially early on in the process. Thus, it pays to be prepared.

If you meet with a divorce lawyer for the first time, you will want to bring along certain documents. Having these documents with you when you meet with a divorce lawyer will help your lawyer get a better idea of the potential issues that may lie ahead.

Financial documents

Some of the most important documents your attorney will want to review relate to your financial situation. This includes:

• Bank statements;
• Brokerage account statements;
• Savings bond information;
• Retirement account or pension information;
• Tax returns from the past three years (including all schedules);
• Recent paychecks;
• Your employment contract;
• Mortgage loan statements;
• Car loan statements;
• Life insurance policies;
• Health insurance policies;
• Car insurance policies;
• Statements for any other personal or secured loans; and
• A list of monthly bills and their average amounts.

Business information

If you own a business individually or with your spouse, it is important to bring any documentation related to the business when you meet with a divorce lawyer, including:

• The Partnership Agreement or Articles of Incorporation;
• Business tax returns from the past three years; and
• Financial statements from the past three years.

Documents relating to physical assets

Many couples have accumulated significant physical assets over the course of a marriage. You will want to bring along documentation of these assets, including:
• Deeds to any real estate;
• Appraisals for any real estate;
• A list of vehicles and their estimated values; and
• A list of any other potentially valuable assets, such as artwork collections, antiques, jewelry, family heirlooms, etc.

Current estate planning documents

Your attorney will want to review any current estate planning documents you have, should something happen to you during the divorce. Bring a copy of the following:

• Your will;
• A living will;
• Any trust agreements;
• Power of attorney documents;
• Advance Healthcare directives; and
• Guardianship paperwork.

Potentially harmful evidence

While some divorces are amicable, it generally will not serve you well to assume that yours will be. The better approach is to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. This is especially important to child-custody determinations, as the court will want to see how you and your spouse co-parent. Along those lines, if you know of any inflammatory evidence against you or your spouse, you should let your attorney know. This includes the following:

• Text message;
• Voice mails;
• Emails;
• Video recordings;
• Allegations of abuse or neglect;
• Police reports; and
• Involvement of child services.

Again, you do not necessarily need to use this evidence or think that your spouse will use it against you. The important thing is to let your attorney know what is out there in case negotiations devolve.

A list of questions 

Finally, you should put together a list of questions that you have for your divorce attorney. Understandably, you may not exactly what to ask or where to start with your questions. You can start by listing your concerns and asking your attorney how they fit into the divorce process and whether you can do anything to protect yourself from moving forward.

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