Even under the best of circumstances, a divorce proceeding can place extraordinary strain on your emotions, time, and financial resources. The family law and divorce attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman believe that your interactions with your divorce lawyer should help relieve those strains, not add to them.
We represent individuals in New York and New Jersey to achieve optimal divorce settlements in the most efficient manner possible and with a minimum of rancor between former spouses. To save time, money, and stress, review our divorce consultation checklist before your first meeting with your attorney.
Property and Asset Issues
Both New York and New Jersey support the equitable distribution of marital assets. In many cases, this means that one spouse will receive a greater share of marital property than the other. Before your first meeting with a divorce lawyer, you should gather all records of the property and assets that can be claimed as marital property:
- Title, deed, and mortgage information for your primary residence and any other real property that you own jointly with your spouse
- Titles and loan or lease information for any vehicles that have more than one owner
- An inventory of all personal assets
- Business assets or ownership records relating to businesses in which either spouse is a shareholder
- Bank, brokerage, investment, IRA, and other retirement accounts
- Professional degrees and licenses that were earned either before or during the marriage
- Salary, bonus, and commission records
- Any suggestions of missing or hidden assets that may be under the control of only one spouse
If you anticipate disagreements over child custody and visitation rights, prepare a comprehensive list of your child-rearing responsibilities, including how much time you have spent with each of your children. Then, to the extent possible, summarize:
- Your desires for custody and visitation
- Opportunities for grandparents to maintain a relationship with the children
- Each child’s healthcare, dental, and vision insurance needs, including any special healthcare issues that may require in-depth medical care
- Each child’s educational needs from grade school through university
- How much say each spouse will have in each child’s religious or spiritual upbringing
- Whether children will be raised in your home state or elsewhere
- What rights (if any) children will have to assets in estates or trusts
Spousal Support Issues
If you do not have a regular household budget, review your income and expenses for the prior 12 to 24 months to estimate your average daily living costs. Consider whether one spouse was a primary earner while the other spouse maintained a home. You will then be better prepared to address:
- Alimony and support payments that one former spouse might commit to make to the other
- The duration of those payments
- Health insurance coverage for a former spouse that will not be covered by an employer’s group coverage
Special Issues and Unique Situations
Be prepared to discuss any domestic abuse issues, allegations of felonies, and other conduct by either spouse that might have affected the marital relationship.
If either spouse produced a restraining order against the other, make sure you have a copy of that order. Your divorce attorney is strictly obligated to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of any matters that you discuss with him or her.
A New York or New Jersey divorce court will want to see objective proof of your financial situation before it approves a final divorce settlement. Even if you are unable to gather all documents before your first meeting with your divorce lawyer, you should take steps to produce:
- At least five years of federal and state tax returns
- Any pre-nuptial; agreement that you and your spouse signed
- Pay stubs and other proof of income for both spouses
- Utility and credit card bills, automobile and other loan statements, and any liabilities that require regular payments
- Life insurance policies
- Advanced healthcare directives and other end-of-life directions
- Wills and trust documents
- Any appraisals of personal assets
- Physical stock certificates or bonds and other debt instruments
- Contracts or agreements for future payments or services, or restrictions on those services
Call Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman for a consultation
If you gather and prepare as much information as possible before your first meeting with your lawyer, you will save substantial time and expenses and set your divorce proceedings on a solid path toward an advantageous conclusion.
For more information about how to prepare for your first meeting with your divorce lawyer, please call the New York or New Jersey offices of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman to schedule a private and confidential meeting with one of our family law and divorce attorneys.