Preparing for an Initial Consult with a Divorce Attorney
Getting ready for the first meeting with your divorce attorney can be a nerve-wracking experience when you don't know what to expect, but it doesn't have to be. There are steps you can take to prepare yourself not only for the first meeting, but for the lawsuit.
Before You Consult an AttorneyKeeping a diary of events will be extremely helpful to both you and your attorney. Try to keep up with dates, times, and possible witnesses. Jot down a detailed narrative of what took place. Also, consider documenting the condition and location of any personal or real property with photographs or video using a camera, video camera, or your cell phone. Prior to meeting with your attorney, write down any questions you have so that you don't have to rely on your memory during your meeting.
Questions to ExpectWhile every attorney will differ in their approach in an initial consult, each attorney will inevitably need to know the cause of the divorce. Arkansas requires fault unless there has been an 18-month period of separation. Therefore, the attorney will most likely discuss the "grounds" for divorce with you.
The attorney will also want to know the date of marriage, place of marriage, date of separation, where you are residing , where your spouse is residing, if there are any minor children born of the marriage, and what their names are. The attorney will need social security numbers, drivers license numbers, and dates of birth on everyone in the family, if available. The attorney will ask for your employment information and your spouse's employment information, discuss income, what you would like to see happen with regard to custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, alimony, and real and personal property depending on the specifics of your situation.
Documents and Information to Gather for Your AttorneyWhile your attorney probably won't expect you to have this documentation with you at the initial consultation, you will need you to gather and organize important documents, such as bank and brokerage statements, property titles, insurance policies, 401(k) plans and IRAs, mortgages, and promissory notes attached to any mortgages and deliver them to your attorney so that he or she can properly ascertain the ownership of the property. Your attorney will also want tax returns, ideally the last 4 years, a list of assets and liabilities, and a detailed list of your time and money contributions to the marriage.
Dos and Don'ts in DivorceDO stay in close contact with the members of your family law team.
DO NOT keep information from your attorney.
DO insulate the children from the marital conflict.
DON'T talk negatively about the other party in front of a child. Little ears hear more than you think.
DO pretend everything you say, text, or do will be on the front page of the newspaper and read aloud to the Judge. Facebook and Twitter posts are admissible in Court. Be on your best behavior.
DON'T involve yourself in domestic disputes.
DON'T threaten your spouse or harass him or her in any way.
DON'T leave phone messages, e-mails, or texts that can later be used in the lawsuit.
DO consider changing passwords on computers and internet accounts, if appropriate.
DO discuss your options with regard to changing or closing bank accounts or credit cards with your attorney before taking any action.
DO estimate the amount of money you will need to meet living expenses. Establish a budget and set aside sufficient funds to meet that budget.
DO discuss with your attorney whether you should consider other employment as necessary, or whether it's best for you to not be employed at this time.
DO explore the tax consequences of critical choices such as alimony, spousal support, selling your home, or liquidating 401(k) or stocks.
DO pick your battles. There are some disputes that aren't worth the legal fees you will incur by litigating trivial issues.
If remarriage is in the picture, DO think about prenuptial agreements, and commit to staying in control of your finances after you remarry.