By Cynthia Weiss Stein

Cynthia Weiss SteinIn order to prepare for your initial consultation, you should prepare a concise timeline of the major events in your marriage and separation. This should include all important dates such as date of marriage, dates of children’s birth, dates of employment, date you bought your home, date of separation, and any other important dates that may be relevant to your case. That will help you keep your thoughts in order when you tell your story to the lawyer.

It is also a good idea to gather certain financial and legal documents. This information helps your lawyer conduct an accurate analysis of your case. In many cases, you will not be able to access all of this. Don’t worry, just make a list of the items you believe exist that you cannot find. Your lawyer will know how to handle that. Do not obtain any information through illegal means. If you aren’t sure about what is legal, ask your lawyer.

When you meet, your lawyer may ask for additional information depending on the specific issues in your case. If you cannot get all of the necessary information, your lawyer can serve discovery requests to obtain additional documents.

Here is a checklist of commonly needed items to guide you in your information gathering ahead of your initial consultation.

  • Most recent tax return (federal and state) with all schedules and attachments, including W-2s, 1099s, and K-1s
  • Most recent paystubs for both you and your spouse
  • Year-end paystubs for both you and your spouse for the previous year
  • Tax documentation for income from any other source for you or your spouse
  • Employee handbooks, current and/or recent annual compensation letters, statements on employer sponsored retirement or stock accounts
  • Information about expenses for children, including daycare costs, tuition for school or preschool, camp costs, extra-curricular activity costs, and cost of medical insurance coverage
  • Insurance declaration pages and most recent invoice
  • For real estate – deeds, appraisals, applications to lenders, mortgage statements (including second mortgages, home equity loans, and home equity lines of credit) for date of separation and most recent
  • For bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts (including 401k, IRA, and pension plans) – current and date of separation statements for all account whether titled jointly or separately
  • For stock options and restricted stock units – statements and vesting schedules
  • For business interests – most recent tax return, partnership or shareholder agreement, current and date of separation profit and loss statements, general ledgers
  • For motor vehicles – know the year, make and model of all cars, trucks, etc. Printout of full webpage from kbb.com showing value of each motor vehicle
  • For other assets, any official statement, appraisal, or communication about ownership and/or value
  • For safes and safe deposit boxes – list of contents
  • For debt – statements showing total balance due on date of separation and current for all credit cards, car loans, mortgages, parent plus loans, or debt of any kind incurred during marriage, whether jointly or individually
  • All court orders and prior court filings in your case, including temporary / interim orders and final orders, support orders, custody orders, protection from abuse orders, whether reached by agreement or after trial
  • All written, signed agreements between you and your spouse
  • Prenuptial or post-nuptial agreements
  • Wills and trusts of which you are a beneficiary and statements for any accounts you may use associated with these funds
  • Your own estate planning documents.
  • Any other documents that you think are important to show your attorney

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