In actuality, you do not need to bring anything to your initial meeting with your attorney. However, if you want to be efficient, there are a number of documents that will be needed in almost every case. The sooner you provide these to your attorney the sooner your attorney can get your case positioned for settlement or trial. (It also saves your attorney the time of having to chase you down to get you to produce these documents, which ultimately saves you money in attorney fees.) The following is a non-exhaustive list of what you will need to gather for your attorney:
1. Copies of your last three most recent paycheck stubs.
2. Copies of Federal and State Income taxes for the most recent tax year.
3. Documentation of all other income for the past 48 months, including the source of the income and the amount of income received year to date.
4. Verification of work-related child care expenses.
5. Verification of cost of health/dental insurance for children’s portion (e.g. difference between cost of single and family plan).
6. Most recent statement of each bank account.
7. Most recent brokerage statement or documentation of purchase and/or value for each investment.
8. Copies of all deeds, mortgages, liens, etc. including current tax assessments for all property.
9. Declaration page(s) of life insurance policies and documentation of cash surrender value. (This only applies to whole-life policies. Term policies do not have a cash value.)
10. Documentation of benefits accrued in pension, profit sharing, 401(k) or other retirement plans, including most recent statements of each such plan and the name, address and phone number of plan administrator. If any portion was acquired prior to the marriage, provide documentation of the value as of the date of the marriage.
11. Payoffs of any vehicles and copies of titles.
12. For each business interest, list name of business, extent of interest or title in business (i.e., owner, shareholder, partner, etc.), provide a copy of last income tax return filed by business and documentation of income earned (or portion received) through business during last twenty-four months.
13. Provide a list describing any other assets you have an interest in, including any documentation as to the value of the non-marital interest, date asset was acquired, and source of non-marital interest (trace and document non-marital funds used to acquire each asset).
14. For each asset in which you claim a non-marital interest, provide the basis and approximate value of non-marital claim. Documentation tracing any non-marital assets shall be produced if available, and if not currently available, shall be produced when available or as specified by separate court order.
15. For each debt, provide the last statement or documentation of unpaid balance, or explain why documentation is not available. A short summary of why the debt was incurred would be helpful as well.
16. For each debt designated as “non-marital,” list the party you think should assume responsibility for said debt and why.
When you deliver this information to your attorney, the more organized you can make the information, the better. A neatly tabbed three-ring binder is much, much easier to review than a garbage bag full of documents that may or may not have any relevance to your case. We have had numerous clients show up with garbage bags and shoeboxes full of documents that we have to wade through to get their case prepared for trial. They then get upset when we have to charge them to do that. Save yourself the money and the stress, get organized and help your attorney help you.
Photo courtesy of alborzshawn
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