Consulting a divorce attorney is the beginning of a difficult and potentially lengthy legal process. You can prepare for your consultation by:
- Researching divorce options, e.g., contested, uncontested, mediation and collaborative
- Gathering financial documents, e.g., tax returns, income statements, bank account statements, etc.
- Prepare a list of your assets, e.g., marital home, real estate holdings, retirement accounts, stocks, etc.
- Assessing an honest assessment of your relationship with your spouse, i.e., cordial, civil, hostile, etc.
- Identify potential contested issues between you and your spouse, e.g., alimony, property division, etc.
This article breaks down a divorce checklist to prepare ahead of your consultation with your family law attorney.
Bring Necessary Documents
Pursuant to Section 3501(a) of the Pennsylvania Divorce Code, all property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is marital property. Providing property and income documents during a consultation allows your divorce attorney to provide you with an accurate assessment of these issues.
You should attempt to obtain copies of your joint tax returns going back three years in most cases. Joint tax returns provide an accurate picture of both spouses’ incomes and assets which could affect property division.
Pre-Nuptial Agreements & Marriage Documents
Pre-nuptial agreements are pre-marital contracts used by individuals with significant assets at the time of marriage, or other issues that require special protection. Specifically, pre-nuptial agreements can shield a person’s assets during the divorce proceedings, or pre-classify and divide assets in the event of a divorce. A properly prepared pre-nuptial agreement can significantly streamline the divorce process.
Appraisals of Assets
Properly appraising assets can help determine the marital value of these assets. For example, if at the time of your marriage you owned a retirement account valued at $50,000, this value at date of marriage would be non-marital property because you acquired it before your marriage. However, if at the time of your divorce the account is valued at $75,000, the increase of $25,000 is marital property.
A common feature of marriages is spouses acquire assets such as vehicles and the marital home. As such, you should obtain a copy of your deed if you own a home along with mortgage statements or a title if you own a vehicle. However, if you purchased property before your marriage and it did not increase in value, you can classify the property as non-marital property.
Property & Asset Lists
While vehicles, homes, bank/brokerage and retirement accounts are the most common types of property, spouses commonly acquire other valuable assets. Spouses may acquire valuable marital assets such as expensive jewelry and financial instruments such as stocks. You should take time to sit down and write a list of other valuable assets so your divorce attorney has an accurate picture of other potential marital property.
If one spouse has limited financial resources, they may be entitled to alimony pendente lite which is financial assistance provided by the primary earner to the opposing spouse during the pendency of the divorce. Additionally, according to Section 3701(b) the lower-earning spouse can request alimony following a divorce. If you expect alimony to be raised during your divorce, you should gather information based on the 17 factors listed in Section 3701.
Prepare Specific Questions
Each marriage is different. Accordingly, each divorce case has its unique issues that must be identified and resolved. As such, you should take time to prepare a list of questions for your consultation which you feel address any unique issues present in your divorce case. The lawyer you speak to should be willing to answer your questions and address your concerns in a knowledgeable manner during your initial consultation.
Talk with an Experienced Divorce Lawyer
A divorce can be a life-altering event that can cause many uncertainties regarding your finances, your children, and the rest of your life. At Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, our experienced divorce attorneys can provide the information and representation you need to successfully navigate this difficult process. To learn more about services, contact us today.