What Documents Should I Bring To My First Meeting With My Divorce Lawyer? A Checklist.
You should not put a lot of pressure on yourself when you visit with your lawyer for the first time, but some documents can be helpful to your new attorney in assessing the issues in your case. Remember the military adage, “Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.” While the documents can seem personal, you should feel comfortable enough with your divorce lawyer that you are comfortable sharing – it will help you and your attorney be ready. Here are some of the most useful documents you can bring:
- Intake Form. Most family law lawyers have an intake form that gives them a snapshot of the issues and your goals, and gives them important details about you and your family. At McCabe Russell, we don’t require you to fill it out our intake form advance, but if you can, it helps us move forward.
- Agreements. If you and your spouse signed a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement (or if you’ve been working on a separation agreement), your attorney will need a copy.
- Previous years’ tax returns (with attachments). There is a lot of information in a tax return that can be helpful to your attorney. If you can, bring one or two years to your initial consultation. The attachments (W2s, 1099s, etc) can also be very helpful, so don’t omit copying those.
- Last 3 Paystubs (yours and your spouse’s). Like a tax return, pay stubs have crucial information on them (for example: rate of pay, hours worked, bonuses received) that can be helpful in assessing the financial issues in your case.
- Mortgage Statement and/or Copy of Deed. It’s not uncommon for clients not to know what is owing on their own mortgage or even whether they are on the mortgage. Bringing a mortgage statement and a copy of the deed can help your lawyer determine the answers to these important questions.
- Bank, Investment, and/or Retirement Account Statements (401ks, IRAs, 403bs, etc.). Even if you can only put your hands on one or two, account statements contain a ton of information and can help your attorney both assess and prepare.
- Other debt information (car loans, credit card debt, etc). As with the other documents, credit card statements contain a ton of information that can be useful to your attorney – the debt information, of course, but your history of spending (and your spouse’s) can also assist your attorney as you move forward.
- Text Message History. If your spousal or parenting relationship is at issue, the text or email dialogue between you and your spouse can be very helpful to your attorney. It gives the attorney a sense of how you and your spouse or co-parent communicate, and it gives your attorney an opportunity to coach you through good and bad responses. If you can download the text history in a way that includes the dates and times of the texts, that can be especially helpful in piecing together a timeline. (See our list of helpful apps)
- Calendars/Journals. If you’ve been keeping a calendar of events or journaling, you should consider bringing those to help jog your memory about timeline and events.
- Inflammatory Documents. Don’t hold back from your attorney. If there is a document (an email, a text) that you think looks bad for you, let your attorney see it.
- A List of Questions. Your first meeting with your attorney is your chance to allay your worst fears – you should ask whatever questions you have. You have an attorney-client privilege with your lawyer, so ask away! It may be helpful for you to read through our frequently asked questions about divorce, custody, alimony, and more.
The attorneys at McCabe Russell, PA, have helped hundreds of clients with their divorces. Contact us for your consultation today.
Heather is the firm’s managing partner and divorce law guru. Heather knows all the ins and outs of divorce in Maryland and DC, and she knows exactly what to do to put her clients in a position to accomplish their goals.
Find out more about Heather McCabe