What to Bring for the Lawyer
Once you have decided to file for divorce and have selected your attorney, you will need to prepare yourself for the process ahead - which starts with your first meeting with the lawyer. This meeting will lay the groundwork for you and your attorney’s work together, so it is important to come prepared, know what to expect, and start the partnership off in a way that enables the process to be as smooth and efficient as possible.
Here’s what to bring for the lawyer in your very first meeting.
Bring a brief background of your marriage and family life. When you first meet with the attorney, bring a brief background of your marriage and family life with you. Include the names, birth dates, and social security numbers of all family members, the date of your marriage, whether any of your children are from a previous marriage, or if any prior marriage ended amicably. This description will be very helpful to him or her, even in a no-fault divorce state. No fault divorce is when a divorce can be granted without a court requirement of evidence of wrongdoing by either party.
Bring any and all evidence that shows or supports your decision to divorce. Some states require grounds for divorce. If your state is one of these, bring as much evidence as you can that shows your husband is not a fit husband, including names of witnesses to your husband’s behavior, photographs, and police reports. If your husband has been unfaithful, bring any proof, and testimony from your private investigator, if you hired one. Bring any information that you have about any addiction, conviction, or sentence of imprisonment.
Bring your full financial statement. Take a financial statement with you of all your known assets and liabilities (debts) to your first or second appointment (see below for a list of what to include). If you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, bring a copy of it. Once you decide that the lawyer is the right choice for you, give him or her this information. If you do not have a financial statement, do your best to make a list of what you own and what you owe. Let your lawyer be aware of the things that you do not know. Bring a copy of your tax returns for at least the last three years, pay stubs, and your most recent annual social security statements, if you have them.
Download our Breaking Bonds Balance Sheet here, which clearly lists out all personal assets and liabilities to consider during your divorce.
Tell you lawyer which assets are not marital property, such as inherited assets or personal gifts. If your separate assets were used to purchase property, include a copy of the settlement statement from when you bought it.
Let your lawyer know if you used separate funds for a remodeling project and how much you spent. Bring the most recent statements, receipts, or copies that you have in your possession.
Protect key records and documentation. Remember that your husband is likely to remove important records from your home as soon as he is aware that you plan to divorce him. You may never see them again, even after he has received an official request for documents in a divorce proceeding. You are legally entitled to this information, but abusers do not play by the same rules as the rest of us. Read the tax returns, emails, and computer files. Look through file cabinets, desk drawers, sheds, storage units, and safe deposit boxes for statements, documents, and other evidence.
Breaking Bonds is dedicated to your specific needs as an abused woman, and we offer free holistic support as well as practical guidance to help you through this difficult time. Download the free 11 STEP PREP Guide here to get started, grab a copy of Breaking Bonds: How To Divorce an Abuser & Heal, and check out our full list of resources for complete support during the process of your divorce. We are with you.
Rosemary Lombardy is a financial advisor with over 35 years of experience, and the founder of Breaking Bonds, a comprehensive resource platform for abused women. Although her professional expertise is in financial matters, her perspective on marital abuse, divorce, and recovery is deeply heartfelt and holistic. She draws on decades of personal experience, as well as the experiences of others, to help inform abused spouses so that they will become empowered to leave their abusers and begin to heal.
Rosemary Lombardy's new book, Breaking Bonds: How to Divorce an Abuser and Heal - A Survival Guide is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and anywhere that sells books.