Ending a marriage requires property division, settling debt, reviewing paperwork, thinking about your family’s future, and dealing with difficult emotions. An attorney may assist you in the divorce process and help protect your interests. To make the best use of your first meeting, you should prepare as many financial documents as you can prior to the meeting. This can give your attorney a better understanding of your situation and allow them to get a jumpstart on your case.
Tax returns can serve as a roadmap of a couple’s financial situation. If you can, provide the last two years of your tax returns including W-2s, supporting tax schedules, and attachments to your attorney.
These documents usually contain more information than just a couple’s income. They can also show pension plans, investment accounts, and other important assets. Tax returns can provide guidance to the courts when deciding the alimony and child support that you eventually receive or pay.
Bank and investment statements
Bring the most recent statements, preferably from the last three months, for all checking, savings, and other bank accounts, along with money market accounts and certificates of deposit. If you and/or your spouse were members of a credit union account, these accounts will also have information about any loans that were provided.
Monthly bank statements also contain other essential information, including direct deposits of paychecks and social security, as well as military retirement.
If you can, bring the last twelve months of your paystubs to the meeting. These documents reveal important information about your monthly income, which is an essential factor in deciding alimony and child support.
Additionally, paystubs show whether either spouse earned bonuses or commissions throughout the year. These indicate compensation for mileage, cell phone use, meals, and other expenses. Health benefits, cafeteria-type plans, and retirement deductions from your pay are also shown. These can all provide a more complete overview of your financial situation.
Bring the most recent statements, preferably from the last three months, for any pension plan, individual retirement account, or 401(k) plan that you or your spouse have. These statements can show the amounts of deposits into the plans over the last year and whether the deposits were made by an employer or through mandatory employee contributions. Again, this information plays a vital role in determining support.
Real estate is usually among a couple’s largest assets. Bring all deeds, mortgage statements, escrow documents, appraisals, and refinancing documents for all property currently owned by you or by you and your spouse. Provide this information for all property you have previously owned.
In addition to bringing these documents, you should remain focused during this meeting. Before your appointment, write down any questions, concerns, or issues. This will help assure that your attorney is aware of your concerns and can begin protecting your rights.