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Five answers you should know before calling a divorce attorney

Divorce By: Jennifer Siegal-Miller, Esq.

When you first consider divorce, there are so many questions you want answered. How long does it take? How much will it cost? Will I be able to support myself after the divorce? Will I have to owe or pay alimony or child support? When will I see my kids?

Most people call a family law attorney, and set up a meeting (consultation), to get the answers. You should, however, be prepared to provide the following information to a divorce lawyer.

Dates and Details

What is the demographic information of your family: birthdays, social security numbers, the date you were married, the date you separated, dates you or your spouse started your jobs, the date you or your spouse retired, when you move to Florida. All of this basic information helps an attorney identify the primary issues in a potential case.

For example, the ages of the children indicate whether there are issues of custody and visitation. Knowing the length of the marriage, allows the attorney to more accurately address questions about alimony. You will likely be nervous before your meeting, and basic information you usually know “by heart” will be hard to recall, so write it all down before you go, and bring your notes with you.

Where do you live?

All of us know our address. However, do you know your county? If you and your spouse are separated, do you know their address? Is it in a different county? Or a different state? Bringing this information to your first meeting allows the attorney to determine the proper jurisdiction. This is called jurisdiction – does a particular court, in a particular place, have the authority to hear and decide a particular matter.

Addressing jurisdictional issues early in a case is imperative, not only to resolving the matter correctly, but also promptly, and cost efficiently. If you and your spouse reside in different states, you might want to consider consulting attorneys in both states to determine if one state’s laws are more beneficial to your position.

What are your assets?

assets and liabilitiesWhat did you acquire during the marriage (i.e. bank accounts, real property, retirement assets, cars, boats, etc.)? What did you have before the marriage? Having the ability to accurately inform an attorney about your assets, and when you acquired them, allows the attorney to accurately evaluate what needs to be divided in the divorce, and what you could be awarded at the end of the divorce.

It is often the case that one party is less educated on the details of the families’ finances. Whether by choice, or because one partner has not allowed them access. Before your initial consultation, take some time to investigate, and educate yourself generally on what your assets are, where they are, and when you acquired them.

What are your liabilities?

Similarly, to knowing what you own, it is also helpful to know what you owe, (mortgage on your home, home equity line on your home, credit card debt, student loan debt, etc.), and when these debts were acquired. Just like looking into what you own, it is a good idea to also investigate what you owe before your consultation. Being informed about both sides of the equation during the consultation will allow the attorney to more accurately assess your case.

Are you involved in any other legal cases?

Is there a bankruptcy or foreclosure action currently pending? Is there a domestic violence injunction in place? Does a third party have custody of the children? If other proceedings are pending at the time of your consultation and/or that will be ongoing during your divorce, it will greatly impact what your divorce attorney has the ability to do for you. The other matters will also impact strategy, as well as the order in which things are addressed. Bring copies of pleadings or orders that you have from these other proceedings to your first meeting so the attorney can look into them and get a global view of your legal issues.

While no attorney will be able to answer everything after one meeting, being able to provide the answers to these five questions will hopefully help you leave your initial consultation, with more answers than questions.

Those needing assistance in divorce or other family law matters may contact me at jennifer.siegal-miller@henlaw.com or by phone at 239-344-1386.

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