Divorce generally isn’t cheap. Most Family Law Attorneys charge by the hour – and you’d be surprised at how fast that retainer disappears!
Attorney’s often have more clients than they have time to spend chasing down paperwork.
If they have to contact you more than once with the same request or wait too long for you to respond you will likely pay for it in dollars.
The good news is, you can be your Attorney’s dream client and save yourself time, emotional distress and money by being ready for action before you even begin the litigation process. Your best game plan involves organization and knowledge and providing documents your attorney will need without them having to ask for them.
So what can you do ahead of time to prepare for your divorce? Read on.
The list of documents below would be best given to your Attorney in a well-organized folder, or even on a thumb drive to upload digitally. When I was managing a Divorce Attorney’s office, I preferred receiving paper copies so we could easily scan them for electronic filing, and keep the copies in the client file.
It’s helpful to prepare and have the following 7 documents on hand for your divorce attorney:
1. Your driver’s license. Your Attorney will likely make a copy in their office during your first visit.
2. A list of substantial material assets and their value (your cars, your houses, your businesses, your boats, your plane, your expensive jewelry, time shares, that Renoir or Van Gogh, stocks, bonds, gold coins, etc.)
3. A complete list of annual/ monthly income for both you and your spouse – as well as a list of your necessary monthly expenses.
4. A list of the names, dates of birth, addresses and social security numbers of all your minor children as well as your spouse. Include address changes for the last 5 years and who lived there respectively.
5. Copies of the last three years of complete tax returns, (federal, state and local): If you can’t get a copy of these, there are companies online that enable you to order old tax returns, especially federal.
6. Credit card statements for the last 3 years – and a list of all the credit card accounts for both you and your spouse.
7. Statements from all Bank Accounts going back 3 years – and a list of all the Bank Accounts for both you and your spouse.
Not all of these documents will be needed to file for divorce, but if you do go to court, your Attorney will likely ask you for all this and much more, so it’s good to be prepared.
Whether or not your Attorney asks for them, it’s wise to keep complete and up to date files on all your financial matters. So in addition to the above, consider having on hand: statements for your mortgage, retirement and savings accounts, health insurance policies, life insurance, deeds, bills, and titles. If you have children, make sure you have certified copies or originals of all birth certificates, social security cards and passports for them.
When you are in the midst of divorce, compiling these documents can seem like quite a tough mountain to climb. Your spouse may not always assist you as they aught.
Do your future self a favor and keep this documentation well organized and on hand before you even begin to discuss divorce. What’s the downside?