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What records should I bring when I meet with a divorce lawyer?

Minnesotans who've made the decision to get a divorce often wonder what they should bring to their first meeting with a divorce attorney. In this post we'll talk about some key documents that can help that first meeting go a lot more efficiently.

Records of your income and that of your spouse will be critical if you want to seek alimony or child support, or if you believe your spouse will ask for one or both. Copies of your joint income tax returns for the last three to five years will contain much of the information needed. If there is a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, the attorney will of course want to see it.

Property division is often the most complex and hotly contested issue in a divorce. In Minnesota, the court makes an equitable division of marital property, which generally means property obtained by either spouse or both spouses during the marriage. Property a spouse owned prior to the marriage is not subject to division, so any records documenting such property will be very important.

Appraisals showing the value of your home, property tax statements and documents showing the balance due on your mortgage will be helpful to the attorney. Bank statements, stock portfolios, life insurance policies, and documents related to retirement accounts such as IRAs and 401(k)s are also very important. You should also bring financial statements, income statements and tax returns related to any businesses owned by you or your spouse.

A list of significant personal property including artwork, jewelry, vehicles, furniture, computers and the contents of any safe deposit boxes will also be useful. Estate planning documents including wills, trusts and powers of attorney may also contain important information.

If you can't find an important document, don't panic. In most cases copies can be requested later or the information can be obtained from another source. Bring what you have to the meeting and let the lawyer decide if he or she needs to see additional information.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Checklist: Documents to Show Your Divorce Attorney," accessed Oct. 8, 2016

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