Interview attorneys, financial experts, certified divorce financial analysts, therapists, mediators, and other members of your potential team. It is important to remember that going through a divorce takes a village, and the more information you can get from a different group of professionals, the better foundation you will have to begin the process. Don’t try to go through the process yourself, or based solely on the recommendations of friends. Interview professionals for yourself and get answers to your questions and guidance about your fears and concerns.
The emotional stress of a divorce is exhausting and draining. Getting organized will help empower you to begin your divorce from a position of strength. Being organized and prepared will also help you reduce fees when you begin engaging professionals to help you navigate the treacherous waters of divorce. Attorneys love clients who have source documents. Having things neatly organized in folders will help reduce your costs. Making extra copies of documents for yourself and your attorney will help you save on cost. Be sure to keep everything in a safe and secure place! Bank statements (checking, savings, money market accounts), investment statements (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities), retirement account statements (IRAs, 401Ks, 403Bs), and life insurance policies are all a good place to start. Real estate property records, mortgage statements, and loan applications are all useful. Documents regarding liabilities (credit cards, mortgages, loans, bankruptcy) are also very useful. Finally, tax returns (3-5 years worth) are a great source of information for your attorney including W-2s, pay stubs, commissions, and any other bonus information.
Utilizing a professional to help you manage your emotions is important before you begin the divorce process. Emotions that are raw and unchecked can cloud judgment, and prevent you from making smart and efficient decisions in your divorce. When decisions are driven by emotions, attorney’s fees can skyrocket, and oftentimes the marital estate is depleted rather than preserved for the spouses to split and save for the children.
Virtually every divorce requires a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit that itemizes your expenses and assets. Helping you understand what you need on a monthly basis to support yourself and your family is a critical first step in the divorce process, as it can help the attorney understand how much you need to get in the divorce to be able to make a successful transition. Be realistic, as in a divorce you are oftentimes doubling the expenses with the same amount of income, so there is not always enough money to go around and for everyone to get what they want in a divorce. The goal is to get what is fair, and to get what you need and be realistic about your expectations.
Don’t buy the first one you see. A smart consumer shops around, and selecting an attorney should be no different. When selecting an attorney it is critical that you find the right fit for you. Personality can often be as critical a factor in selecting an advocate as legal expertise. Some good questions to ask an attorney at the initial consultation to help determine if he or she would be a good fit are questions tailored towards discovering information related to experience, personality and expertise. As with doctors, finding a specialist to handle your divorce has advantages over hiring a general practitioner. Attorneys who focus their practice on a particular area of the law become intimately familiar with handling that aspect of the law. It is important that you ask the following questions in your initial attorney interview: How long have you practiced law? What type of cases do you generally handle? What percentage of your practice is devoted to family law and divorce? Who is your typical client? What is your approach or philosophy in handling a divorce? How will I get updates on the status of my case? What is your retainer and hourly rate? What percentage of your case load is in the county where my case will be? What is your relationship and experience with the Judge’s in my county? Is your retainer refundable, and can you give me an approximate idea of how much the total process will cost?
At Bivek Brubaker & Prescott, we are happy to answer any questions you might have in regards to your divorce. So please, do not hesitate to call us and speak with one of our highly qualified attorneys!