If you're considering divorce, you should take steps to educate yourself about the process and your rights as a spouse and/or parent. Consider the qualities you should look for in an attorney. Once you've made the appointment, there are things you can do to prepare in order to make the meeting as productive as possible:
- Develop a list of questions. Take the time to write down any concerns you have regarding your separation or your children. You may have specific questions about what to expect or what your rights are with regard to particular items and writing them down will ensure you have the chance to discuss them. You may also want to ask about your attorney's experience, the length of the process, or the costs. If there are certain incidents you want to discuss with your attorney, take the time to note important dates and key points to keep yourself organized.
- Prepare a schedule of your assets and debts. In order to give the attorney an idea of what will be involved in your case, it would be helpful to have a list or schedule of your major assets (e.g., properties, vehicles, and retirement accounts) and debts (e.g., student loans, mortgage statements, credit card debts, and medical bills) ready to discuss. If the ownership of one or more of these items is disputed, you may also want to prepare to explain your reasoning with supporting documents.
- Gather your tax returns and pay stubs. In order to address spousal support, child support, and other financial aspects of your case, the attorney will need to have a picture of your and your spouse's incomes. Income records for you (and potentially your spouse) will assist the attorney in answering your questions more accurately.
- Bring copies of any existing pleadings or relevant legal documents. If you or your spouse has already filed documents with the court, the attorney can better answer questions about your next steps if he or she has those documents available. Similarly, if you and your spouse signed a separation contract or prenuptial agreement, the attorney will need to see the content of those documents before he or she can give you specific answers. If paternity or parentage is a factor in your case, bring birth certificates or other supporting records.
- Gather any relevant information or evidence. Depending on the issues in your case, it may be helpful to bring certain evidence to your meeting. If you know your spouse is alleging (or intends to allege) inaccurate information and you have documentation or evidence to the contrary, bring that information with you so the attorney can better assist you in preparing your response or strategy.
- Arrange for childcare. If you have young children, make arrangements for care so you can come to your consultation without them. It is important to shield the children in your family from your court case as much as possible and the attorney may decline to meet with you in the presence of your children.