Checklist: Issues To Discuss With Your Divorce Attorney

Divorce is complicated. Legally, financially, and emotionally, divorce takes a toll. The process of ending a marriage brings many questions. 

What will be in the best interest of the child or children? How is child custody determined? What divorce laws does my state follow about our marital property? What is the most equitable way to divide our assets? What liabilities do I have to my spouse's debts?

In many cases, it's best if you have legal advice. Divorce attorneys can help alleviate some of your legal and financial stress. They will advocate for a division of property that works in your favor. They can help work out the best co-parenting or custody arrangement for you.

If you do retain a divorce attorney, you can help save your attorney time by gathering important documents before your first meeting. Doing this beforehand gives your attorney a quick and helpful look at the property and assets likely involved in your divorce case. This will allow you to work together to secure your short and long-term interests.

Main Issues to Discuss with Your Divorce Attorney

The divorce checklists below, organized into general categories, provide a list of issues to discuss with your divorce lawyer. They also give you an idea of what documents you'll need to gather. Not every item listed will apply to you and your divorce.

Issues Relating to Children

____ Child support

____ Legal custody of child or children

____ Physical custody of child or children

____ Visitation with the non-custodial parent

____ Grandparent visitation

____ Visitation with stepchildren

____ Health insurance for children

____ Dental insurance for children

____ Uninsured health care costs

____ College education and costs

____ Beneficiaries of life insurance policies

____ Other accounts for the children

____ Claiming children as dependents for income tax purposes

____ Religious upbringing of children

Property Issues

____ Staying in the marital home

____ Equity in the homestead or marital home

____ Other real property

____ Home furnishings

____ Business assets

____ Professional practices

____ Professional degrees

____ Retirement benefits and accounts (pensions, IRAs, 401(k) plans)

____ Student loan debt

____ Estate plan

____ Motor vehicles

____ Recreational vehicles

____ Personal property

____ Savings accounts

____ Stocks, bonds, and investment funds

____ Eligibility for ex-spouse's Social Security benefits

____ Compensation for contributions as a homemaker

____ Hidden assets

____ Debts

Spousal Support Issues

____ Entitlement to spousal support or alimony

____ Temporary support order during the divorce

____ How much?

____ How long?

____ Continued health care coverage through COBRA

Other Issues

____ Domestic violence

____ Order for protection

____ Child abuse

____ Parental kidnapping

____ Legal separation

____ Changing your name after divorce

____ Post-divorce nonfinancial support

____ Divorce mediation

____ Attorney's fees and expenses

Documents to Have Ready

____ Individual and business income tax returns for the past three to five years (federal, state, and local)

____ Proof of your current income and pay stubs

____ Proof of your spouse's current income and pay stubs, if available

____ Prenuptial agreement

____ Postnuptial agreement

____ Separation agreement

____ Bank account statements

____ Certificates of deposit

____ Pension statements

____ Retirement account statements

____ Trusts

____ Stock portfolios

____ Stock options

____ Mortgage documents

____ Property tax statements

____ Credit card statements

____ Loan documents

____ Utility bills

____ Other bills (such as school tuition, unreimbursed medical bills, lessons for children, etc.)

____ Monthly budget worksheet

____ Completed financial statements

____ Employment contracts

____ Benefits statements

____ Life insurance policies

____ Health insurance policies

____ Homeowner's insurance policies

____ Automobile insurance policies

____ Personal property appraisals

____ Real property appraisals

____ List of personal property (including home furnishings, jewelry, artwork, computers, home office equipment, clothing, family heirlooms, etc.)

____ List of property owned by each spouse before marriage

____ List of property acquired by each spouse separately by gift or inheritance during the marriage

____ List of contents of safety deposit boxes

____ Student loan statements

____ Wills

____ Living wills

____ Powers of attorney

____ Durable powers of attorney

____ Advance health care directives

____ Other legal documents

Every divorce is different. Every couple enters and leaves a marriage under different circumstances and with different assets. To ensure nothing is overlooked, it is a good idea to have an honest conversation with your attorney about all your property and assets.

Get Legal Help with Your Divorce

There are many legal issues involved in a divorce. They can be complex, which is why it can be overwhelming to go through a divorce without an attorney. Having a divorce or family law attorney is the only way to protect your rights and ensure you receive what you deserve. Contact a local divorce attorney who can answer any questions and help guide you through the divorce process.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • You may not need an attorney for a simple divorce with uncontested issues
  • Legal advice is critical to protect your interests in a contested divorce
  • Divorce lawyers can help secure fair custody/visitation, support, and property division

An attorney is a skilled advocate during negotiations and court proceedings. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Divorce is an ideal time to review your beneficiary designations on life insurance, bank accounts, and retirement accounts. You need to change your estate planning forms to reflect any new choices about your personal representative and beneficiaries. You can change your power of attorney if you named your ex-spouse as your agent. Also, change your health care directive to remove them from making your health care decisions.

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