Jonathan Marks, STL Moms: Choosing the Right Attorney For a Divorce

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Margie Ellisor: Well if you’re searching for a divorce attorney, you need to be prepared to answer some questions. Jonathan Marks with the Marks Law Firm here with us this morning with more on how you can be ready for that first meeting. Good morning to you.

Jonathan Marks: Good morning, Margie.

ME: Yeah. I mean these are pretty basic, but some may take a little bit of thought.

JM: Absolutely.

ME: Yeah. And the first thing is, “You want to know what your assets are.”

JM: Right, you want to walk into that first meeting having an idea of what property is going to have to be divided between the two of you so that your attorney can start to make a general list of what to look into.

ME: And on the flip side of assets, you need to know what debt you have as well.

JM: Exactly. I mean everybody should be familiar with what the, you know, secure debt is from a bank or lending institution, but also may be good a list of your credit card debt would be as well.

ME: Okay. The next thing you should be prepared to answer is, “Do you think your spouse is hiding any assets?”

JM: Yeah. It doesn’t typically happen in most divorce situations, but in some high asset divorces or in businesses where cash is paid as opposed to charge, it may be something you should have an idea of discussing with your attorney to look into for you.

ME: “Your attorney may ask you what do you most want out of this divorce,” what do you mean by that?

JM: Yeah, that’s the most important question.

ME: Yeah.

JM: Giving your attorney an idea of what your goal setting is, having an idea of what those top three to five things are that you need out of the divorce allows your attorney to really make sure that they are focused on your goals and needs within the situation.

ME: Alright. Next question is, “What are you most willing to give up?”

JM: So that’s the flip side of that situation, you know, if you’ve got ten things that are on your list, at least the attorney has an idea when you’re negotiating for a settlement how to give up something that may seem important but you’re willing to forgive as long as you get something at the very top of your list.

ME: Yeah, your example was maybe you want to keep the house but you have some jewelry you don’t care about that appraises for a high value or something like that.

JM: Yeah. Typically you see it with a home and retirement some offset that if you’re not worried about things down the road but you want to secure yourself today with a home to make stability for the kids that maybe you trade off a little retirement to keep more equity in the house.

ME: And you mentioned kids. If you happen to have kids, what custody arrangement do you seek?

JM: Absolutely. So when you walk in the door, no one’s expecting you to have your whole parenting plan worked out, but a general sense of what you think is going to make, you know, a fair situation for both parents on a week-to-week basis, should be, you know, top of mind awareness.

ME: Mmmhmm. “How comfortable are you with your finances?”

JM: So, depending on whether you’re employed, or you’re a stay-at-home parent, you need to have an idea of what you think you need to be able to be able to meet your reasonable needs on a monthly basis. So some general idea of what it takes to be able to pay your monthly expenses is a good idea.

ME: Yeah, and following that you’ll probably follow up with, “Well, do you think you’ll need spousal support?”

JM: Right. And so, certain individuals, whether employed or not, are going to maybe have a false sense of what should be paid on a monthly basis, and that allows you to have a realistic conversation as to what the court would award in terms of the support.

ME: Yeah. And the next one is, “How ready are you for divorce?”

JM: Yeah, that doesn’t always seem like a straight question, but some people walk in and they’re not really sure that they want to go through the situation, they’re getting some general info. Then you have the spouse that wasn’t really expecting to be hit with divorce papers and then is having a conversation with you that may be more emotional in nature as opposed to kind of thinking about what has to be done in the process.

ME: Yeah, and this finally, “What questions do you need answered?” So you’re not a mind reader, Jonathan, is what you’re saying. You don’t know everything.

JM: I am not.

ME: Okay.

JM: No tarot cards. Yeah, you really just want to have an idea, you know, what things you need to tell the attorney, and that question and answer session will also give us a better idea specifically of maybe what your needs are. So if we maybe didn’t get you to understand what your goals were, that typical question and answer session will allow me to figure that out.

ME: Alright, some good questions. Thank you so much. Family law attorney Jonathan Marks, we appreciate it.

JM: Thanks, Margie.

ME: For more information on the Marks Law Firm, just head to the STL Moms tab.

You need an experienced divorce attorney on your side.