Before meeting with a divorce lawyer for the first time, you likely have a few questions, such as “What do I need to bring to my first divorce lawyer?” and “What will a divorce lawyer ask me?” Good questions.
When consulting with a divorce lawyer, bring all legal and professional documents related to monthly earnings, bank accounts, real estate, and other assets owned individually and jointly. You’ll also want to bring a list of questions you have about the legal process.
Here’s an in-depth look at what to bring to a divorce lawyer.
Table of Contents
- 1 What to Bring to Your Consultation With a Divorce Lawyer
- 1.1 A Factual Outline of Your Marriage and Reason for Divorce
- 1.2 Documents Related to Income
- 1.3 Documents Related to Real Estate
- 1.4 Documents Related to Joint Financial Accounts
- 1.5 Documents Related to Automobiles Owned
- 1.6 Important Legal Documents
- 1.7 A List of Questions and Goals
- 1.8 Any “Incriminating” Evidence
- 1.9 Documents Already Filed in the Divorce Case
- 2 Conclusion
What to Bring to Your Consultation With a Divorce Lawyer
During your first meeting, bring all documentation you think might be relevant. You’re always better off providing information to your attorney and letting them decide how to proceed instead of potentially holding something back that might help your case.
Here’s a rundown of standard documents you’ll want to bring to your divorce lawyer consultation.
A Factual Outline of Your Marriage and Reason for Divorce
While you might feel like you know all the details about the dissolution of your marriage, it’s easy to forget essential elements. One of the best ways to prepare for an initial consultation with a divorce attorney is to create a written document.
Describe when your relationship began, when the subject of divorce was first mentioned, and if one party initiated the idea of a divorce more than the other. Also, you’ll want to provide info on your total assets, as well as details about any children or pets.
Information related to income plays an important role when determining alimony, child support, and property dissolution.
When meeting with your divorce lawyer, bring official documents that help prove the income of you and your spouse, including paycheck stubs and income tax returns (for at least three years).
Additionally, you need to bring all information on any businesses you or your spouse own, even if it’s a side business.
Real estate, such as a home, is typically the most significant asset involved in a divorce. If you purchased any property during the marriage, it would likely need to be equitably divided. Property purchased before the marriage might end up shared as well, depending on the ruling.
You’ll need to bring any legal documents that show property ownership. They’re typically available from your mortgage company or bank. Additionally, you’ll need to bring:
- Mortgage statements
- Tax assessor statements
- Anything related to refinancing
During the divorce process, you and your spouse will both need to disclose your assets completely. You’ll need to bring all bank statements, whether they’re in your name only or shared jointly by you and your spouse.
In addition to bank statements, also bring official documentation and statements for any savings passbooks, savings certificates, and investment accounts.
Aside from real estate, automobiles are typically another major asset that will need documentation. Bring titles and registration for all vehicles owned by either you individually, your spouse individually, or the two of you jointly.
For legal purposes, the term “vehicles” includes cars and trucks and boats, snowmobiles, ATVs, and motorcycles. You’ll also want to bring documentation about any secured debt on the vehicles.
Important Legal Documents
Your divorce attorney will want copies of standard legal documents. Bring your:
- Marriage license
- Any prenup agreements
- Wills (including living wills)
- Birth certificates for any children
- Power of attorney forms
- Adoption certificates for pets or children
Also, you’ll want to show your lawyer any other legal records that involve you or your spouse, such as police reports. Even if the document doesn’t make you look good, you want to show it to your attorney as soon as possible, so they’re not surprised by it later.
A List of Questions and Goals
Your attorney is the one person in the entire process who is 100% committed to looking out for your best interests. However, they can’t do that effectively unless you communicate your goals. Before the meeting, prepare questions to ask a divorce lawyer, as it’s easy to forget your concerns once you’re in the office.
Make sure to tell them about your ideal outcome. Do you want sole custody of the children? Do you feel you deserve a portion of a business your spouse started while you were married? Do you just want the whole thing over with as quickly as possible?
Don’t feel shy about discussing costs, either. Your attorney should know how much you want to spend, and you should understand how much they charge, so the two of you can develop a legal strategy that’s both effective and cost-effective.
Any “Incriminating” Evidence
You’ll want to provide your attorney with any incriminating evidence that shows cheating, abuse, or similar behavior. Examples of what to bring to a divorce lawyer include:
- Social media posts
- Text messages
- Bank statements/receipts
Like many other states, Washington has no-fault divorce laws. However, gathering any incriminating evidence can still benefit your case, especially in child custody issues.
Will a judge award you more money or property if your spouse cheated on you? It’s unlikely, but evidence of abuse can sometimes grant you certain protections or place restrictions on their ability to contact the children.
Documents Already Filed in the Divorce Case
Bring copies of any documents that have already been filed with the courts regarding your divorce. For instance, if your divorce was originally uncontested, you might have filed basic forms online through the state’s website.
If issues later arise and you want a good divorce lawyer on your side, they’ll need to know about any paperwork already in the court system.
Examples of what to bring to a divorce lawyer that you might have already filed with the court include:
- A Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
- A Parenting Plan
- An Order of Child Support
- A Summons
If you’re not sure, explain to your attorney as much as you know, and they can search court records to find any documents related to your case.
If you’re getting divorced, you’ll want to find a lawyer as soon as possible, as you need an expert dedicated to protecting your best interests. No matter your goals for your divorce, you’re far more likely to achieve them with an attorney on your side.