Divorce is never easy, but you can help make the process as smooth and as minimally contentious as possible with a small amount of preparation before your first meeting with a divorce attorney. Regardless of whether you are seeking to file for a divorce in New York or New Jersey, the following suggestions from Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman will make that first meeting productive and efficient.
Consider the issues that are likely to be addressed in the divorce proceedings.
Almost every divorce will involve one or more of four common issues:
- How will the spouses divide their property?
- What custody and visitation arrangements will be made for minor children?
- How much will each spouse contribute to child support?
- Will either spouse have alimony obligations?
Your divorce lawyer will be better able to answer your specific questions and to give you a better feel for how long the divorce proceedings will last if you are prepared to discuss these issues.
Bring relevant documents and materials.
A divorce attorney may ask to review bank statements, brokerage accounts, property deeds and records, and other matters involving the divorcing couple’s finances, including:
- Joint tax returns for the most recent three to five years
- Health and life insurance policies
- Prenuptial agreements that predict asset distributions
- Retirement plan holdings
- Copies of recent pay stubs
- Family budgets
Attorneys are strictly obligated to maintain the confidentiality of the information in these documents and materials, as well as all other information that is discussed in private meetings between an attorney and the client. Do not hesitate to ask your divorce lawyer about how these materials will be used and what effects they will have on the divorce proceedings.
Discuss whether you expect the divorce proceedings to be contentious.
In many cases, before a first meeting with an attorney, the spouses will have concluded that a divorce is in both parties’ best interests. Collaborative divorce proceedings are less stressful and will be concluded more quickly. Nonetheless, even the most cooperative divorcing spouses might object, for example, to alimony demands or limited child visitation rights. You can best prepare yourself and your divorce lawyer for the full divorce process with a frank assessment of the difficulties that can be expected regarding these and other critical issues.
Alert the divorce lawyer to potential emergencies.
A spouse might attempt to freeze the other spouse out of bank accounts, or that spouse might try dissipate the funds in bank accounts before the other spouse can get to them. In other situations, a person might have a legitimate fear of a violent reaction when an estranged spouse first learns about a divorce petition. It is critical that you alert your lawyer to these potential situations at your first meeting. Your attorney can then take immediate steps to protect your finances and personal safety before the occurrence of any emergency situations.
Write down all of your questions and ask your divorce lawyer for a thorough explanation.
You will likely hear a fair amount of legal jargon as the divorce proceedings move forward, including discussions of equitable distributions of community property, commingling of separate and marital property, debt distributions, and marital fault or misconduct. Ask your divorce lawyer to explain things in simple and straightforward language that you can understand. If you are not satisfied with the explanation or the attorney that you have selected is unable or unwilling to clarify your issues, retain a different divorce lawyer that will be more receptive to your questions and concerns.
Bring evidence of infidelity or any other matters that justify the cause for the divorce.
If you do not have direct evidence, bring any information from which you infer a spouse’s unfaithfulness or other conduct that precipitated the divorce, including phone records, bank statements that show unusual spending patterns, and copies of communications between your spouse and third parties.
Schedule a consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer at KGG
The matrimonial lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman represent spouses who are seeking a divorce in New York or New Jersey. We focus on providing the most professional legal representation with the highest level of compassion and understanding that will help spouses through a divorce proceeding with minimal acrimony.
Please call our offices to schedule an initial consultation with one of our divorce lawyers today.