Attorney Checklist for a Divorce Case

By Jim Thomas

Under almost any circumstances, divorce is a traumatic process. If the divorce is uncontested and you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are in complete agreement as to all the terms of the breakup, you might elect to proceed without an attorney. However, a good divorce attorney can be an immense help if your divorce is contested or there are complicated issues, such as child custody and visitation rights. A divorce lawyer often will walk you through the steps necessary to make the divorce as painless as possible.

Under almost any circumstances, divorce is a traumatic process. If the divorce is uncontested and you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are in complete agreement as to all the terms of the breakup, you might elect to proceed without an attorney. However, a good divorce attorney can be an immense help if your divorce is contested or there are complicated issues, such as child custody and visitation rights. A divorce lawyer often will walk you through the steps necessary to make the divorce as painless as possible.

List of Assets and Liabilities

You will need to furnish your attorney with a complete list of your marital assets and liabilities as well as any personal assets and liabilities that do not count as marital assets, such as property you owned prior to marriage. Proof of assets includes payment stubs, bank statements, certificates of deposits, records of stock portfolios and valuations of personal property, such as home furnishings, art, clothing, jewelry, computers and home office equipment. A list of liabilities includes credit card statements, mortgages, property tax statements, loan documents, utility bills and bills for such items as school tuition and medical bills.

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List of Documents

Your attorney will need copies of contractual documents that relate to martial assets. These include employment contracts, life, auto, property and health insurance policies, pension and retirement account statements, and the contents of safety deposit boxes or bank accounts in the Cayman Islands.The checklist of documents also includes copies of legal papers, such as your birth certificate, Social Security card and will, as well as advance health care directives and powers of attorney in case you become incapacitated and your appointed agent must step in to make medical or financial decisions on your behalf.

Practical Checklist

Some attorneys offer more than just a checklist for documents, assets and liabilities. For example, the Garg & Associates law firm includes in its preparation for divorce checklist a number of practical recommendations that can smooth the process. The recommendations include getting a cell phone in your name and a new email address, so you can keep your communications private, stopping direct deposit paychecks from being deposited in a marital bank account, stopping contributions to any retirement accounts, continuing payments to your mortgage and car payments and making sure your health insurance remains in effect.

Custody and Visitation Checklist

If you have kids, family court will require you to come up with a parenting plan that deals with all issues relating to your children. If you fail to do so, the judge will decide the issues himself. You and your attorney need to discuss the type of custody arrangement you desire, propose a detailed visitation plan for the noncustodial parent, and decide who will make major decisions in the life of the children, such as where they go to school and church. If you are seeking child or spousal support, you must prepare a request based on your state's child support payment guidelines, adding circumstances that the court should consider if you are asking the judge for modification from the guidelines.

Emotional Checklist

Garg & Associates also offer suggestions for coping with the emotional trauma of divorce. The law firm advises you to go to counseling and, if you have children, send them to a therapist as well. In a contested divorce, you should be prepared for legal attacks from your spouse, which can include such allegations as infidelity and child neglect or abuse. Be absolutely honest with your attorney in discussing such allegations, so he can provide the best possible representation. Do positive things for yourself, such as exercise. This will enhance your health, sense of well-being and ability to cope with stress.

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Things to Do When Headed for a Divorce

References

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How to Prepare for Divorce While Married

If you are considering a divorce, there are some important steps you should take before filing a complaint. These steps will help you be more prepared for the divorce process and ensure your financial needs are protected during the divorce. Also, the more organized you are before filing, the easier it will be for your attorney to understand your case.

How to Choose a Good Divorce Attorney

As of 2012, there were just over 1,268,000 licensed attorneys practicing across the United States, according to the American Bar Association. Since attorneys typically have specific areas of expertise and methods of practice, if you're going through a contested divorce, you'll want to find an attorney that's right for you. You should take some time to research lawyers in your area -- and not rely on luck when choosing your divorce attorney.

How to Find a Forensic Accountant for a Divorce

A forensic accountant is a professional who provides complex financial analyses for divorce cases. He can also conduct detailed investigations to find information on your spouse’s finances -- and may testify as an expert witness in court. You can find a forensic accountant through a referral from an attorney, a large accounting firm or a professional forensic accountant organization.

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