As a Divorce Attorney who is a Family Law Specialist certified by the Ohio State Bar Association with more than 41 years of experience in the area of divorce and dissolution, I think that it is important prior to your first meeting with your Divorce Attorney that you understand that the first meeting is very important in providing your Counsel with the information necessary to provide you with good advice.
Whether you are considering a divorce or dissolution during your first meeting with Divorce Attorney you should be prepared to address both the financial aspects of your marriage and also if there are children what is called the allocation of parental rights ( shared parenting versus sole custody).
Financial history to provide to a divorce attorney
In addressing the financial aspect of your case, at your first meeting with your Divorce Attorney, you should provide your counsel with as much financial information which you can assemble. Generally, I like to have at least 3 years of information for each of requested item. By having the advantage of reviewing 3 years of financial information your Counsel will have the ability to determine and discuss with you whether there have been any unexplained changes in your finances. In addition, with the information indicated below your Divorce Attorney will be able to provide you an estimate as to child support ( if applicable), the division of what is called the marital estate ( and which would include the payment of debts) and the payment of spousal support if appropriate.
The documents which I like to review at the first meeting are as follows:
- Complete Tax returns for the past 3 years. It is important to present to your Counsel the entire return rather than simply the first few pages of the return. A lot of information is contained in the return that is not reflected in the first 2 pages of the return.
- Copies of monthly statement for any retirement account in which either you or spouse contribute or participate. When providing this information it is also important to provide at least the last 3 years so that your Counsel can make sure that there have been no loans or withdrawals made from the account. It is also important that you provide your Counsel with the balance in any retirement account whether the funds in the account are vested or unvested.
- Copies of all investment accounts which you maintain or your spouse maintains. This would include not only investment assets which are privately held but also would include employer sponsored benefits such as stock options and what is called restricted stock. Many employers provide a yearly statement detailing these benefits and providing estimates of value. If those statements are available they should be provided to your counsel.
- A list of all debts which either you or your spouse currently pays. This would include not only consumer debt such as credit cards but also obligations such as student loans, and obligations which may be secured by retirement accounts. It is also important to provide copies of past statements so that debts can be examined to determine whether the debt has been incurred during the marriage and whether the debt benefits the family. If a debt was not incurred during the marriage or if incurred during the marriage not be incurred for the benefit of the parties marriage and thus may not be a marital debt allocable between you and your spouse. If there is real estate a copy of the current balance on the first mortgage should be provided. In addition, if there is either a second mortgage, line of credit or Home Equity Line of Credit copies of the most recent statement showing the balance should be provided. You should also be able to provide your counsel with an explanation of the use of the funds which compose the a second mortgage, line of credit or Home Equity Line of Credit.
- Many spouses during their marriage have received gifts of cash or property from a family member. If those gifts of cash or property can be identified and have not been commingled with marital property these assets called separate property can be distributed to the spouse who received the gift.
- Copies of all monthly statements for the past 12 months for any checking, savings or money market account either in the name of spouse, joint accounts and any accounts in the name of your spouse and any 3rd party. This would also include any business accounts for any business in which either spouse has an interest.
Why choose Gary J. Gottfried as a divorce attorney?
I have been asked many times by a perspective client why they should select my firm to represent them in a divorce or dissolution of marriage matter. When asked that question, I provide the same answer each time. Whether you have a complex case or a simple case you want someone who has the specializes only in the area of family law and has the experience to guide you through the pit falls of a domestic relations matter. It is important that when you interview an attorney to represent you in your family law matter that the attorney has the experience.
It is not rude or inappropriate to simply ask the attorney what his or her experience is in the area of family law. As a family law specialist certified by the Ohio State Bar Association, with 41 years of experience in the area of family law, my firm practices exclusively in the area of family and has the experience to guide you to a successful resolution of your case.