You’ve just scheduled a consultation with a divorce attorney.
First of all, this is a huge step toward securing the future you want for yourself. We know the process seems daunting right now. But it’s our job as attorneys to help demystify the process — and that’s exactly what we’ll do at your first consultation.
From there, we’ll be with you every step of the way, helping you to understand your options and assisting you in choosing the path that’s best for you.
Let’s dive in.
1. What is your current living arrangement?
Your lawyer will want to know your current living situation and whether it is beneficial to you, regardless of whether you and your husband are living apart, together, or under another arrangement.
This is necessary because your attorney will want to know if you and your spouse share a home — the value of the marital home is often divided equally between the two partners.
If you have children or other family members living with you, your lawyer must be informed of this as well. If so, it will have an effect on the divorce process.
2. If you and your spouse are separated, how long have you been apart?
If you and your spouse are currently living apart, your lawyer will need to know for how long you have been separated.
This is because decisions on child custody, alimony, property division, and other matters may sometimes be affected by periods of physical separation.
3. Do you and your spouse share children?
Among the most difficult parts of divorce are the issues of child custody and child support. Your divorce attorney will go over with you the many types of custody arrangements, how child support is calculated, and how the court decides custody.
In order to develop a strategy to defend your parental rights, your divorce lawyer will also want to know what your goals are.
4. What are your top priorities?
At our firm, we sometimes phrase this question as, “What keeps you up at night?” This often helps our clients get to the heart of the matter — the most important issues in their divorce that they want to make sure their attorney fights for.
Perhaps you aren’t the breadwinner of the family, and you’re afraid you’ll be left with nothing if you pursue divorce. Or, alternatively, you may be concerned that everything you’ve worked so hard for will just be handed to your partner in a divorce.
Knowing your non-negotiables will make it easier for your lawyer to develop a plan of action to help you. The sooner they are aware of your goals, the better, so your attorney can work to make sure that you get what is most important to you.
5. What are your current real estate assets?
If you or your spouse own property, your attorney will need to know how it is named (i.e. are you both on the title, is it held by a trust, is it owned by a business, etc?) and whether you both have mortgage obligations. They will most likely want to know the current balances of any mortgages, as well.
In a divorce, you will also have to divide up any real estate you own together. For this reason, your attorney will ask for specific information about any present real estate holdings you or your spouse have.
Make sure to list the properties you owned before you got married and the ones you bought or inherited during the marriage, even if the property was sold during the marriage.
6. What financial assets do you share with your spouse?
Any financial assets or accounts that you and your spouse share will also be important for your divorce lawyer to know, such as checking, savings, or investment accounts.
Not all property is considered "marital," or shared. Your divorce lawyer can help you determine which financial assets are shared and which are separate. If you are unsure whether you have any assets that are separate from your spouse, your attorney can help you.
Be sure to specify what financial assets (whether they are earnings, investments, gifts, or inheritances) originated during the marriage, as opposed to any that occurred before the marriage. This will be key information in deciding how these assets are divided.
7. What retirement accounts do you have?
Similarly, be ready to discuss with your lawyer any IRAs, pensions, 401(k)s, or other retirement accounts you or your spouse own.
It is also helpful to know when these accounts were opened — before or after your marriage.
It is common for a client not to know the details of their spouse’s retirement savings. If that is the case, share the information that you know or believe to know so that your attorney is aware that this is an issue for further investigation and discussion.
8. What is your employment status?
Your divorce lawyer will also ask for information about you and your spouse’s employment statuses. This includes information about other forms of income such as investments, stock options, etc.
Again, this is important in helping your lawyer understand what assets are present that will need to be equitably divided in your divorce process.
9. Was there any addiction present in the marriage?
It’s very important that your attorney is made aware of any addiction in the marriage, whether that is a drug addiction, an alcohol addiction, or even a gambling addiction.
An attorney will ask this because if your spouse has used marital funds to pay for their addiction, the use of funds might be relevant in the division of property. Additionally, it is important for your attorney to be aware of any addictions so that proactive steps can be taken to protect assets during the dissolution proceeding.
10. Have you had any concerns about abuse or violence?
If you have experienced any form of abuse or violence in your marriage (or you have concerns about future violence), especially if the police have been called, your lawyer will need to know. Concerns of domestic violence and abuse will absolutely affect the divorce process, especially if there are children involved.
Your lawyer can also help advise you on whether or not you should pursue an order of protection and how waiting to pursue one can affect your case down the road.
11. Do you or your spouse have significant debt?
Whether you or your spouse has significant student loan debt, credit card debt, or if the mortgage for your home is only in one spouse’s name, these issues will all contribute to the complexity of the divorce process.
Further reading: Can a judgment against me affect my spouse?
12. Who manages the finances in the marriage?
Your divorce lawyer will want to know who typically handles the finances in your marriage. If you and your partner share those duties, are there specific areas of your finances you don’t touch or don’t know much about?
Typically, it is common for one spouse to manage all or most of the finances during the marriage. This may result in the non-managing spouse being uninformed and unaware of the financial details of the marriage. In such cases, it is important for the attorney to be aware of the financial practices during the marriage, as it will inevitably affect your case.
13. Do you have any concerns about hidden assets?
If you are concerned that your spouse may be intentionally hiding assets to keep you from getting your fair share in the divorce, let your divorce lawyer know. It is also important to inform your attorney if there are large sums of cash or currency stored in the home or elsewhere.
If you have any questions, your first consultation is a great time to ask them. Our goal is to give you as much information as possible so we can help you make the best choice for you. At our firm, we believe that the more you are empowered with knowledge, the better — we won’t be the lawyer that’s doing everything for you and leaving you out of the loop.
When you play an active role in your divorce case, you’ll be able to leave your divorce feeling like you received what was fair — no regrets, no staying up at night wondering if things had been different, and no staying stuck in the past.
Your first consultation is a free, no-obligation session, so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain from meeting us. Schedule your consultation here!