Information Your Attorney Will Need

Written by Dorothy Ripka, Cordell & Cordell, PC


The relationship with your attorney is the most important one you will form during your divorce case.  In order to create a scenario in which you can get the best possible result, you must remember that your attorney is not privy to the information and facts that surround your family and the martial relationship.  It is your duty to provide this information to your attorney. It is key to discuss what information is relevant and necessary to your case with your attorney.  However, this will article will provide some practical advice to get you thinking prior to such conversations.

I.  Basics.  Information you need to bring to your first meeting with your attorney.

1. Date of Marriage
2. Social Security Numbers
3. Birthdates of everyone
4. Income information for you and spouse
5. Health insurance cost for the children information
6. Information regarding any special needs of kids or spouse

II.  More Detailed.  Information you will need early on to give to your attorney.

1. Information regarding investment and bank accounts, including IRAs
2. Information regarding benefits of parties’ employment, including 401ks, insurance, etc.
3. Information regarding business interests/ownership/options
4. Tax Returns
5. Doctors and school information for children
6. List of witnesses

III. List of Goals.   In order to effectively represent you, your attorney needs to know what you want.  Here are some of the issues you need to think about to formulate goals.

1. Do you want custody?  If so what time do you want your wife to have?  IF not, what time do you want?  Are there concerns regarding her safety with the children?
2. Will there be child support if you get custody?
3. What assets need to be valued by a third party?
4. What assets are your separate property (had before marriage, inherited or bought with funds from the same)?
5. Do you want the house?

IV.  Topics that Hurt Your Case.   You must tell your attorney any issues that can hurt your case.  This can be hard to pinpoint as the client, which is exactly why you hired an attorney.  In order to facilitate this conversation with your counsel, your attorney needs to know the history of the relationships.  To help yourself and your attorney, write a relationship history for your spouse and one for your children.  This information is invaluable for your attorney to get perspective on your case, plus there may be information in there that your attorney will really be able to use that you had no idea is important.

In this history, you must include anything that you have done or failed to do that your spouse which may be brought up to the court as misconduct. Some examples of this type of conduct:

1. An affair.  Even if you are not sure that your conduct was an “affair”, tell your attorney.  Whether you had an intimate relationship, an email relationship, telephone relationship or otherwise, tell your attorney.

2. Physical or Verbal Abuse.  Remember this does not have to be a pattern of domestic violence.  Any incident of intense argument, physical contact, police involvement, etc. needs to be disclosed to your attorney.

3. Financial abuse.  Anything you have done whether illegal or otherwise wherein you have made suspect or inappropriate investments/withdrawals or hidden money, tell your attorney.

4. Use/Abuse/Dependence on Drugs or Alcohol.  Even if you are using a legal drug, disclose it.  It can be interpreted as abuse.  Even if you are a recreational drug user or you do it with your spouse, disclose it.

5. Criminal Convictions/History.  Disclose the terms and provide all court documentation to your counsel.

6. Any other actions that have harmed or endangered members of the family.

Remember your attorney can not protect you and help you to minimize the impact of these issues, if he/she is not aware of the background.  Almost always an incident that is brought to the attention of the court by your attorney first can be minimized and presented in a more positive light than if you wait for your wife’s attorney to bring it up.

V. Topics you might not think to tell your lawyer.  Think creatively to see if there are additional issues that might be relevant.  Some issues you might not think to mention to your attorney, but they are very important.

1. That your spouse has threatened to abscond with the children.  This issue is extremely important if she is not a citizen of the U.S.  Some countries do not honor our court orders and will not help you get your kids back if she runs off with them.  However if there is knowledge up front, there are protections to be taken to protect you.

2. That your spouse has threatened to harm herself or the children.

3. That your spouse has committed any of the above referenced misconduct, and that you are in fear of said actions continuing.

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One comment on “Information Your Attorney Will Need

    Thanks for this – My husband’s teenage daughter came to live with us for the summer, and wants to stay. We have a TRO, but his ex has been dodging process servers. I have experience working in more than one law firm, but have found it difficult to communicate in a non-naggy way what information he needs to provide to the lawyer. I have been compiling information and documenting everything for more than a year, which he thought was me being obsessive. I guess he’ll thank me later…:)

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