A great deal of an initial meeting with an attorney about a divorce involves collecting key information and discussing your particular goals for the divorce process. To help facilitate that initial meeting, we present ten common questions you should be prepared to answer. In this post, we will discuss the first five questions; in the next post, the remaining five.
1. What assets do you own?
When a couple divorces, the couple must divide all property. To do so, you must first identify all of your property. The assets that you hold in your name and that you acquired before your marriage would be your separate property. The assets you hold jointly or acquired during the marriage would be marital property. In order for your attorney to assess the degree of complexity of your case, you should have an inventory of your property ready – not just tangible property, like houses or cars, but intangibles like insurance policies or pension funds.
2. What debts do you have?
Equally as important as knowing all of your assets is knowing the nature of your debt, both debt in your name only, debt in your spouse’s name only, and jointly held debt. In order to properly discuss property distribution options, your attorney needs a clear picture of your financial health. Mortgages, credit card debt, loans – all these items impact the outcome of your case.
3. Do you think your spouse is hiding assets?
Spouses may like to think better of their mates, but during divorce it is not uncommon to find that one spouse has either depleted or hidden certain marital assets, or held marital assets that the other spouse did not know existed. Locating hidden assets can take time and ingenuity, so if you suspect that may be the case in your situation, you need to let your attorney know as soon as possible.
4. What do you want most out of the divorce?
Every divorce is unique because of the different facts, personalities and challenges involved. In order for your attorney to give you the best advice, you need to think through the “end game,” how you envision life after divorce. What you desire may not be legally feasible or may be selling yourself too short; only after a thorough discussion with your attorney will you understand possible outcomes and your preferences for these different outcomes. Also, ranking your most important two or three goals helps your attorney see what room for compromise might be available when the time for settlement discussions arise.
5. What are you most willing to give up?
The flip side of knowing what you want most out of the divorce should be figuring out what might be the least important, or perhaps, the places you would most likely trade to get what you want. So, for example, if you really want the marital home but have little interest in keeping a particular piece of jewelry that has a high appraised value, you could trade the jewelry to help keep the house. Knowing these potential trades helps reach a settlement, and importantly, helps keep your attorney strategically on the same path as you.
We will share the remaining five questions in our next post.
If you have questions about what you should bring to your first meeting with your divorce attorney, contact us – we can help.