Family Law Blog

What Documents Should I Bring To My First Meeting With My Divorce Lawyer? A Checklist.

divorce lawyers in fulton, mdYou 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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)
  9. 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.
  10.  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.
  11. 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.

What is a Scheduling Conference In A Family Law Matter? Pro Tips to Be Prepared

Every piece of paper you receive in the mail regarding your divorce can cause anxiety, but when you receive the notice of your scheduling conference, don’t fret. A scheduling conference is what it sounds like: it’s an opportunity for the court to hear what the issues are, decide how complex your case is, and schedule other events that occur in the divorce process.
In some counties (Howard and Prince George’s counties, for example), the court can hold a hearing on the day of your scheduling hearing.  In other counties (Montgomery & Anne Arundel counties, for example), the court does not hold hearings at the time of the scheduling conference.

To be prepared for your scheduling conference, here are some pro tips:

  1. Wear your Sunday best. This is a serious occasion and you should dress for it. You don’t have to wear a suit and a tie, but you should dress professionally. You are making an impression not just on the Court, but on the attorneys involved and the opposing party.
  2. Plan to arrive at court 30 minutes early. (Remember your mom saying, “If you are not early, you are late.”) Going to court is anxiety-provoking enough, do not make it worse for yourself. Plan for traffic on the road, and plan for a crowd at security as you make your way into the courthouse. Most courthouses have electronic boards that will list the parties by name and the courtrooms they’ve been assigned to.
  3. Bring your calendar. The court will set multiple other dates – for hearings, for parenting classes (if you have children), and for settlement conferences. These dates are hard (if not impossible) to change once you’ve committed to them, so make sure your calendar is up to date and make sure you alert the court if you have a conflict with a proposed date.
  4. Know what you need. The court will ask you if you need any court services (is there a drug/alcohol issue? Is there a mental health issue?) and whether mediation is appropriate. If you don’t know what services are available to you in your county, check beforehand so you can answer the court’s questions quickly and knowledgeably. If you are referred for services, you will likely have to do your intake directly after the scheduling conference, so be sure to listen to the court and look carefully at the papers you receive before you leave the building.
  5. Know what the issues are. The court will ask you what the issues are in your case. That doesn’t mean the court wants to hear the facts of your case, but the court has to determine the complexity of your case and how much time you need: are their support (child support/alimony) issues? Are there property issues? What other things does the court need to resolve?
  6. Make use of what is offered. The court might offer you an opportunity to try facilitation (a process similar to mediation that occurs at the courthouse on the day of the scheduling conference that is free). This can help resolve some or all issues. If you are referred to facilitation, go straight to the facilitation location after you receive your scheduling order from the court. Many times you have to check in to facilitation and it’s done a first-come-first-serve basis, so you may get seen faster if you hustle.
  7. Make sure to reserve enough time for your conference. While you need to be punctual, your case might not get called for 20 or 30 minutes (sometimes even longer in some counties). The court is usually scheduled for multiple cases at the same time, so be patient.
  8. Be polite. This may be your first experience in court, so speak in a loud, clear voice and be respectful to the magistrate or judge on the bench.
  9. If you are going to hire an attorney, do it before your scheduling conference. Because so many date-sensitive issues are resolved at the scheduling conference, it’s important that your attorney be available on the dates as they are selected. Your attorney can help the court understand the issues in your case, too.

McCabe Russell, PA, can help with your divorce or custody scheduling conference. Contact us for your consultation today.


We moved!

We outgrew our old space!  But we love Howard County and we love Maple Lawn, so we didn’t move far.  We’re one building over from our old location.  You can find us now at our new address: 8171 Maple Lawn Boulevard, Suite 350, Fulton, Maryland  20759.  For our friends familiar with Maple Lawn, we’re in the same building as Ranazul and The Pearl Spa.  We’ll post pictures soon.  We’re thrilled with how our new space is coming together.  Thank you for all your support during our move!

Do I have to wait to get divorced? Do I qualify for a Mutual Consent Divorce?

Once you’ve decided you want to be divorced, you don’t want to have to wait. But divorces can take a bit of time, and separating so that you live under separate roofs can be expensive. The mutual consent divorce ground has been around in Maryland for nearly two years now and can alleviate the strain of having to wait.

What is the advantage of a mutual consent divorce?

  • It can be fast. A faster divorce means both you and your spouse can move on to find your own, separate happiness.
  • It doesn’t require living under two separate roofs. Whether it’s because emotions are running high, or because you can’t sell the marital home, or neither of you wants to move out of the house yet, or the finances won’t allow you to have two separate homes, separating homes can seem an impossibility. This ground allows people who are living together to be divorced anyway.
  • It can save you money. As with any divorce, a signed agreement is the cheapest way to resolve the issues between yourself and your spouse.

What are some of the disadvantages of mutual consent divorce?

  • Rushing to get a signed agreement is not always the smartest way to proceed: do you know what assets you each have? Be careful not to give away property or support rights you might be entitled to under the law and that might be important to you as you separate and establish your new life.
  • The faster you are divorced, the faster you have to get your own health insurance if you are covered on your spouse’s plan.

Who does qualify?

  • Divorcing couples who do not have children together or who have adult children.
  • Divorcing couples who have a signed, written settlement agreement that covers at least alimony and property rights.

Who doesn’t qualify?

  • Folks with minor children in common do not currently qualify for a divorce on mutual consent.
  • Folks who do not have a signed, written settlement agreement that covers at minimum alimony and property rights do qualify cannot get divorced on this ground.

Do we have to go to court?

  • If you qualify, both parties have to attend the uncontested divorce hearing and neither person can have asked the Court to set aside the agreement.

Can we still live together?

  • Unlike Maryland’s separation ground, this ground does NOT require living separate and apart.

How long will it take to get the divorce?

  • In our experience, if you already have the signed agreement, you will be divorced within 30-60 days. Like so many things, it depends on the court docket and the responsiveness of your spouse, too.

What do we do if we don’t qualify?

  • You can still get divorced, you just can’t divorce on the mutual consent ground. For most people (including those with minor children), this means you will have to live separate and apart for one year (unless you qualify for an immediate ground for divorce, like adultery).

McCabe Russell, PA, can help with a divorce on any ground, including mutual consent grounds. Contact us for your consultation today.


Legal Secretary / Administrative Assistant

McCabe Russell, PA is seeking a full-time Legal Secretary / Administrative Assistant to join our expanding team. The Assistant will provide primary administrative support to two Partners in the firm’s Howard County office and will be responsible for the following day to day tasks:

  • Scheduling, coordinating, and confirming new client consultations, current client appointments, conference calls, mediations, and attorney appointments
  • Drafting routine correspondence and editing/formatting other legal documents in Microsoft Word and Excel, as well as Adobe Acrobat
  • Generating case status and billing /productivity reports for Partner review using the firm’s internal case management system
  • Drafting and circulating agendas for staff and case management meetings and providing minutes
  • Overseeing implementation of internal administrative policies and protocols
  • Maintaining positive external client relationships
  • Organizing and booking travel arrangements for attorneys
  • Coordinating and managing special projects, including working collaboratively with staff to assure project deadlines are met

The ideal candidate will have:

  • 4 or more years of Legal Secretary / Administrative Assistant experience
  • Strong proficiency in Microsoft Office, Adobe, Excel, and Outlook
  • Experience with Clio and/or Smokeball case management systems is a plus
  • Exemplary administrative, writing, grammar, and proof reading skills

McCabe Russell offers a competitive benefits package including paid health insurance, employer matching 401(k), paid vacation, and performance bonuses. To be considered for this position, please forward your resume, cover letter, and salary requirements to