If you are considering getting a divorce (or have been served with divorce papers), then it’s in your best interests to speak with a divorce lawyer. Every divorce is different and may involve multiple issues. These can include dividing up property and debt, child custody matters, and spousal support.
In order to understand your particular case, the lawyer will need accurate and detailed information from you. It’s in your best interest to come prepared so that you can get the most out of your consultation. While every lawyer has their own interview and consultation process, the list below are some common questions asked in a divorce consultation.
- Do You Have a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement?
- Why are You Seeking a Divorce?
- Do You Have Any Children From the Marriage?
- How Much Property (and Debt) Do You Currently Have with Your Spouse?
- Will You or Your Spouse Seek Alimony (Spousal Support)?
- What Should I Bring to a Meeting with a Divorce Lawyer?
- Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Help with My Divorce?
One of the first things your divorce lawyer will want to know is whether you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place. A prenuptial agreement is negotiated and signed before the marriage occurs; in contrast, postnuptial agreements occur after the wedding. Both of these are considered “nuptial agreements”, or agreements made in connection with a marriage.
If you and your spouse have in fact signed a nuptial agreement, then it typically will dictate how your income, property, and debts will be divided during a divorce. However, nuptial agreements generally cannot limit child support or custody.
When properly constructed, both pre and postnuptial agreements are considered to be legal and enforceable. If you have a nuptial agreement, then you should bring a copy of it to your divorce consultation appointment. Most importantly, if you have any concerns about the validity of the agreement, then make sure you make this known to your lawyer.
Most states divorce laws allow for both no-fault and fault divorces. In a no-fault divorce, you do not have to prove that your spouse caused the conflict or separation. Instead, you simply acknowledge that you can no longer get along in the marriage.
In a fault-based divorce, you must show that your spouse caused the marriage to end somehow. Common reasons for a fault divorce include spousal abuse, adultery, and abandonment.
In a fault-based divorce, the underlying circumstances may impact several of your rights. These may include your right to marital property, child custody, and financial support. For instance, an abusive spouse may have difficulty obtaining sole or primary custody of a child.
Your lawyer will need to understand how custody, visitation, and support obligations will influence negotiations and proceedings in connection with the divorece. They will also have to present the court with information about your children’s best interests, upbringing, and financial needs.
When you divorce, you will need to divide up your marital property and debts between you and the other party. Depending on your situation, this can be a complicated process. The lawyer will need to understand what assets and debts are involved in the proceedings. He or she will also need to know if there are certain property or assets that you want to retain (such as real estate, vehicles, family heirlooms or other valuables.)
The rules on marital property division will vary from state-to-state. Most states divide marital property based on the legal theory of equitable distribution. However, nine states have laws that apply community property rules. Community property states include:
- New Mexico;
- Washington; and
In these states, most marital property will be divided evenly between the spouses. The divorce lawyer can help you determine what property and assets will be involved in your divorce and what assets and debts will be considered separate property.
Spousal support or alimony is paid to a spouse after the divorce to help them achieve financial independence. It is typically acknowledges a spouse’s contribution to a marriage. The amounts may be paid in a lump sum or on an ongoing basis. Like child support, alimony can become a complex issue that can impact negotiations.
If you plan on seeking spousal support, then make sure you bring it up with your attorney right away. If you do not plan on seeking spousal support, then let them know. They can advise you as to whether that is a wise decision, as you need to request alimony by a certain point in the divorce. If you do not, then you most likely waive your right to request it unless something serious and unexpected occurs.
It is important to bring detailed information and certain documents to your first appointment with a divorce lawyer. He or she may want to see:
- Your marriage license;
- Your children’s birth certificates;
- Any court filings or documents related to the divorce proceeding;
- Financial information about your bank accounts, assets, debt, and income;
- Any nuptial agreements; and
- Any other evidence or information related to your divorce.
This information will help the lawyer evaluate and understand your divorce claim, so that the process goes more smoothly. This includes any documents that show proof of ownership of various properties, like the deed to your home or the deed to your car.
Selecting and hiring a lawyer is an important decision. For many people, divorces are too complicated and emotionally charged to handle on their own. A local divorce lawyer can help you understand your legal rights, file the appropriate paperwork, and facilitate a workable separation.