How to Prepare to Meet With Your Divorce Attorney
What to Do Before You Meet With Your Divorce Lawyer
About 9.6 percent of the population in New Jersey is comprised of divorced adults. Although that number is lower than the national average, the rate of married couples who get divorced is still high. About 50 percent of the people in the state are married, and the New Jersey divorce rate for married couples is nearly as high.
Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Divorce Attorney
Although divorce is a difficult experience for everyone, it is also different for each person. Circumstances vary widely, and differing perceptions also contribute to different experiences. If you are preparing to take this step in your life, it is normal to not know where to start. The most important part of getting through a divorce is having an attorney on your side to protect your interests. A lawyer can help you make sense of the process and move forward with more confidence. As you prepare to meet with an attorney for the first time, in order to help put your mind at ease, some questions you should ask include:
- Is your main area of focus family law?
- Can I reach you or get a call back promptly in the case of an emergency?
- Can I meet the other staff members who will be working on my case?
- Are there additional costs for investigators, doctors or specialists?
- What is your price structure like?
- What is the estimate for the total cost of my divorce?
- Can you suggest any ways for me to reduce the costs to fit my budget?
- Can you explain the tax effects of my divorce?
- Will you handle all contact with my spouse or his or her attorney?
- What is your strategy for my case?
Although it is a good idea to contact an attorney promptly, spend some time devising your list of questions. You may leave the meeting with a clearer sense of what you need to do next, what to expect and what to avoid.
Since a family law attorney has handled many divorce cases, it is important to work with one who focuses on this area of the law. Your attorney or his or her staff should be available to handle urgent matters during business hours. Also, you should be allowed to meet them and any legal assistants who will be working on your case. Some cases may require a consultation with a specialist, and there may be additional charges for that. An attorney will advise you about this issue regarding your specific case if there are complex circumstances. The lawyer’s price structure should be transparent and based on a retainer or an hourly fee.
A rough estimate is only an estimate. Your actual costs may be somewhat more or somewhat less. Attorneys will often give you a price range of what you can expect to pay. If there are ways to cut costs, a lawyer who understands the courts and family law proceedings can share these with you for your specific case. Your attorney should advise you about tax implications as well. As a rule, it is better for your lawyer to handle communications with your spouse’s attorney than for you to do it. If you need to maintain contact with your ex-spouse regarding your children, your attorney will advise you on the matter. After your lawyer has accumulated the details of your case and conducted an evaluation, he or she should share and explain his or her strategy with you.
Information to Gather for Your First Meeting
For many people who are going through a divorce in New Jersey, price and strategy are two of their top concerns. To help your attorney devise an optimal strategy in your favor, it is important to be completely honest about everything. Do not hold back details that you feel may be embarrassing. If your lawyer knows everything, it is easier for him or her to prepare a solid strategy. If there is something important that you withhold from your attorney, it may come up in court and could negatively affect the strategy. Remember that your lawyer is your advocate, and private information that you share with him or her is kept confidential.
With these points in mind, it is helpful to provide your attorney with the information that the court needs. There are some documents that you should gather for your first meeting. To save your lawyer some billable time, bring copies with you to the office. Some essential paperwork you should bring include:
- A list of the full names of your children, your spouse and yourself
- Copies of any premarital agreements
- A copy of your current credit report
- Statements showing income for you and your spouse
- Copies of tax returns for the last several years
- Documents that show ownership of vehicles, boats, homes or other property
- Statements from your personal or joint bank accounts
- Statements from retirement, investment, life insurance, savings or other accounts
- A current list of your expenses
- Lists of your assets and valuable items
- A full list of debts that you and your spouse carry
- Health, home, life and other types of insurance documents
- Any child custody or visitation agreements
How Your Divorce Attorney Helps
Once your attorney has the necessary information, the planning process starts. While your lawyer cannot promise you a specific outcome, some details of your case may make it easier for him or her to predict a favorable or an unfavorable outcome. Your attorney will take the time to get to know you, your needs and your past with your spouse. Also, your lawyer will make sure he or she understands your goals. For example, you may have specific belongings that you want as well as certain holidays that you want to spend with your children. It is your attorney’s job to:
- Help reduce some of the emotional stress that you are experiencing
- Negotiate divorce terms that are as favorable for you as possible
- Ensure that you are treated fairly in the process
- Serve as a mediator between you, your spouse and other involved parties
- Be your advocate who guides you every step of the way
If you are ready to start the divorce process, we encourage you to start planning for your initial meeting by following each of the preparatory steps detailed in the previous sections. As someone who has handled many simple and complex divorce cases, Kelly Berton Rocco understands the frustration and stress that come with this big step. Our team members are compassionate and patient, and we work hard to create a safe space where you can share your concerns and get answers to your questions. We are here to provide you with guidance and help give you some peace of mind during this difficult time. Please contact us for a divorce attorney consultation so we can help you come up with a plan. You can reach us by calling (201) 343-0078. If you prefer, you can visit us in person. We are located in Suite 104 of 25 Main Street in Hackensack, New Jersey.