• calendar10th Sep 23 10:00 pm
  • userJamie

How To Prepare For Your First Visit With A Divorce Attorney

Whether you have been divorced before or this is your first time, it can be a scary prospect. If you have never gone through a divorce, you may feel uncertain about what your initial steps should be. Meeting with an attorney can feel overwhelming and confusing. Fortunately, you do not have to go into this meeting blindly. You can prepare for your first visit with a divorce attorney so that it goes smoothly, and you can walk away feeling confident about what is to come. If you are considering divorce, an experienced family law and divorce attorney with Colorado Divorce Law Group at (720) 593-6442 may be able to help.

What Is the First Step in a Colorado Divorce?

The first step in a divorce is filing the paperwork with the Domestic Relations Division of the Family Court in the Colorado District Courts. This may happen before or after your first meeting with a divorce lawyer, depending on whether you feel comfortable filling out the paperwork on your own.

Many people find it helpful to research different divorce strategies to see which one might fit their circumstances best. Knowing whether a couple will be pursuing contested vs uncontested divorce may help you choose a lawyer. Some couples may prefer to attempt a collaborative divorce or mediation, in which case it may be useful to seek out a lawyer with experience in less-aggressive approaches to divorce and conflict resolution.

What Should You Do Before Your First Visit With a Divorce Attorney?

The first visit with a divorce attorney may be brief, but the more prepared an individual is, the more information they can get. The level of precision an attorney can provide in response to a client’s questions will depend to a large degree on the level of detail the client can give them as background, so in general it is better to over-prepare than to under-prepare for the session.

Write Down Basic Personal Information

A divorce lawyer will need to collect personal information about the couple, their marriage, and their family, including:

  • Individual and their spouse’s names
  • Phone numbers
  • Address
  • Email address
  • Dates of birth and Social Security numbers for individual and spouse
  • Children’s names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers
  • Individual and spouse’s employers, occupation, and annual income
  • If there are any children from previous relationships
  • The date of the marriage
  • The date the individual or their spouse moved out of the marital home

Create Written Summary of Marriage and Divorce

While it is not necessary to write a comprehensive history of the marriage and the reasons for the divorce, a summary highlighting any significant issues can be helpful. An individual who has been abused by their spouse may wish to include the dates when abuse took place, any witnesses to the abuse, and the locations where the abuse occurred.

Other issues that may be relevant to a summary of the marriage include:

  • Addictions
  • Financial information such as assets the spouse may be attempting to hide
  • Any concerns that may impact the divorce proceedings, require extra steps (such as getting a restraining order), or influence child custody, child support, or spousal support (alimony)

Identify Related Issues

Identify any issues related to the divorce that you are concerned about. These issues might include things like child support, child custody, spousal support, or division of marital property. Some individuals may also have questions regarding restoring a maiden name or protecting a family business. This is also a good time to begin gathering relevant documents that may be needed, such as tax returns or pay stubs.

Identify Your Main Divorce Goals

There are many issues to resolve in a divorce, but most individuals are particularly concerned about one or two specific issues. The issues of greatest concern vary from one person to another, but common examples include resolving what to do with the marital home and achieving a specific outcome for child custody. By identifying their main divorce goals, an individual can prioritize those goals over things that do not matter as much to them. This approach facilitates making concessions on less significant issues in exchange for favorable outcomes aligned with their goals.

Build a List of Questions To Ask

Before meeting with the divorce attorney, write down all questions that come to mind. Even if a question seems silly or insignificant, it could be more important than it initially sounds.

What Questions Should You Ask When Getting a Divorce?

While creating the list of questions, it is important to understand that the divorce attorney may not have precise answers during the first meeting. Answers may also change as the divorce proceeds. However, an experienced divorce lawyer should be able to provide general answers based on their experience with previous clients.

Some of the questions an individual should consider asking when meeting with their attorney for the first time include:

  • Do you handle cases other than divorce or family law?
  • How much experience do you have?
  • What are your past experiences with cases like mine?
  • What should I expect during the divorce process?
  • Do you practice collaborative divorce?
  • What is the scope of representation and what are the costs (hourly, retainer, fixed price)?
  • Will I have to pay my spouse’s attorney fees too? (Colorado State Legislation allows a judge to order one spouse to pay a reasonable amount of the other spouse’s attorney fees based on each party’s financial resources)
  • Do you think we can mediate, or will we need to go to trial?
  • How often will we communicate about my case?
  • Will you go to all court appearances with me?
  • Is divorce or legal separation better for my situation?
  • How long will it take to get divorced if the divorce is contested and how long if it is uncontested?
  • What is the process of dividing marital assets in a contested divorce?
  • Is spousal support appropriate in my case and would I receive it or pay it?

What Documents Should You Bring to the First Meeting with a Divorce Lawyer?

Like the list of questions and other information an individual may bring to the first meeting, some of these documents may not be needed until later in the process. However, it is always better to be over-prepared than the reverse. Additionally, having these documents ready before the first meeting will make them easy to find when they are needed later. If you are not sure whether a document may be relevant, Colorado Divorce Law Group may be able to help you decide.

Asset Lists

Dividing marital property, even in a contested divorce, will go more smoothly when there is a comprehensive list of all the assets. Be sure to include how the assets are owned (individually or jointly), the value of each asset on the date of the marriage, or on the date the asset was acquired if it was obtained during the marriage, and the current value of the asset.

A typical list might include:

  • Marital home
  • Rental property
  • Brokerage accounts
  • Bank accounts
  • Retirement accounts
  • Cars
  • Personal property
  • Any personal or joint insurance certificates
  • Any wills, trust or estate planning documents that mention assets

Financial Information

A number of financial documents may be useful during divorce proceedings. Common examples include:

  • Tax returns
  • Pay stubs (for at least the past two to three months)
  • W-2s
  • Bank statements
  • Completed financial statements
  • Debts and liabilities including mortgages, credit cards, student loans, and business loans

Copies of Marriage and Divorce Documents

There are several documents related to the marriage and the divorce that will be necessary during the divorce, and some of them should be presented at the first meeting with the divorce attorney. Not every couple has each of these documents, but if they apply to your marriage, you should include:

  • Divorce complaint or petition, if it has already been filed
  • Prenuptial agreement
  • Custody agreement
  • Any other agreements or court orders related to either spouse
  • Individual and spouse’s work schedules
  • Expectations for holidays, birthdays, and other scheduling matters related to child custody

Potentially Incriminating Evidence

Colorado is a no-fault state for divorce, which means that the couple only needs to claim irreconcilable differences as the reason for divorce. However, sometimes the reason a couple is divorcing is relevant to other issues, such as child custody. If your spouse has an addiction, is abusive, has put the family in financial peril, or has engaged in other activities that you believe may be relevant to child custody, the division of marital assets or another aspect of your divorce, any evidence of that could be useful. This can include:

  • Texts
  • Photos
  • Social media posts
  • Videos
  • Notes
  • Police records
  • Medical records

Are You Considering a Divorce?

You may simply be exploring the possibility of a divorce and are curious about what to expect. You may be ready to file so you can move on with your life. Either way, being prepared will help ensure you make the most of an initial meeting with a divorce attorney. If you are considering a divorce or have begun the process in or around Denver, the experienced family law attorneys with Colorado Divorce Law Group at (720) 593-6442 are ready to help you explore your legal options.