Checklist: Documents to Show Your Family Law Attorney
Are you seeking legal advice before getting married? What should you take with you when you meet a family law attorney? Don't worry! The checklist below can help you prepare. You can also learn more about circumstances where it might make sense to meet with an attorney before you get married.
Why Do I Need a Family Law Attorney Before Marriage?
Before the wedding, it's important to seek legal help to make sure you follow the proper steps to get a marriage license and a marriage certificate.
Emergencies or Eloping
State laws about marriage are tricky.
Getting married is more complicated than going to the clerk's office for a marriage license. The process can take longer than you expect. Some states have many steps, such as getting an affidavit and a notary to notarize the affidavit.
What if you want to get married right now? Thankfully, there is a way to skip the waiting process.
A family law attorney can apply for a waiver. The waiver will allow you to skip the waiting period and get married faster.
Do you want to change your name as a newly married couple? When should you change your name? Before the wedding? Or after the marriage ceremony? How do you change your name? What are the steps?
Having an experienced family law attorney to walk you through the steps will make the process much easier.
Prenuptial, Postnuptial, and Separation Agreements
You may also consider getting a prenuptial agreement (prenup), postnuptial agreement (after getting married), or a separation agreement.
These agreements can be complicated, but they can help protect your finances and property in the event of a death, divorce, domestic legal dispute, or legal separation. Agreements are helpful for property division to decide who owns what property upon death or divorce.
If you have already signed a prenuptial agreement without seeking legal advice, the prenuptial agreement is not valid if someone forced you to sign the agreement. A family law attorney can help if someone forced you to sign a prenuptial agreement.
Preparing To Meet a Family Law Attorney
Before meeting with your attorney, it is important to prepare.
Ensure your family law attorney has all the information they need to help you in the best way possible. You can do this by gathering documents to show your attorney.
Start by gathering the documents in the checklist below. Then, make copies of them to give to your attorney.
Depending on your legal issues for meeting with an attorney, some of the documents listed in the checklist may or may not apply to you.
For example: If you want a prenuptial agreement (prenup), you need documents showing your finances and property ownership or interests.
Documents like income tax returns or bank statements are a great way to show your financial worth. Also, any copies of documents related to marital debt, assets, and property values will be helpful for your attorney to review.
If you have a document on the checklist, take it with you. If you do not think the document applies to you, bring it anyway. It is better to be safe than sorry.
If you cannot make copies of the documents, you can take the original documents or certified copies, and your attorney can make copies in their office. If you have an electronic version (on your computer), you can give your attorney an electronic copy.
(Check off each item as you gather documents. If a document does not apply to you, or if you do not have a copy, write "N/A")
Identification____ Birth certificate (original or certified copy)____ Driver's license (original or certified copy)____ Social Security number
Marriage____ Marriage license(s) (from current and previous marriages, original or certified copy)____ Marriage certificate(s) (from current and previous marriages, original or certified copy)____ Marital property records
Prenuptial Agreements____ Prenuptial agreement(s) (from current and previous marriages)
Divorce and Annulment____ Annulment(s)____ Divorce decree(s) (from all previous marriages, original or certified copy)
Spousal Support and Alimony____ Alimony documents____ Spousal support documents
Child Support and Custody____ Court order about child custody____ Court order about child support
Domestic Violence____ Court order (protective order or domestic assault conviction order) about domestic violence (from current and previous marriages)
Income____ Individual income tax returns for the past three to five years (federal, state, and local)____ Business income tax returns for the three to five (federal, state, and local)____ Proof of your current income____ Proof of spouse's current income____ Employment contracts
Finances____ List of bank accounts____ Bank statements____ Certificates of deposit____ Pension statements____ Retirement (401k, IRA, etc.) account statements____ Trusts____ Stock portfolios____ Stock options____ Mortgages____ Property tax statements____ Credit card statements____ Loan documents____ Utility bills____ Other big expenses (school tuition, new car payments, etc.)____ Monthly budget worksheet____ Completed financial statements
Insurance____ Benefits statements____ Life insurance policies____ Health insurance policies____ Homeowner's insurance policies____ Automobile insurance policies
Property____ Personal property appraisals____ List of real estate ownership or interests____ Real property appraisals____ List of personal property (including home furnishings, jewelry, artwork, computers, home office equipment, clothing, furs, etc.)____ List of property owned by each spouse pbeforemarriage____ List of contents of safety deposit boxes
Wills and Powers of Attorney____ Wills____ Living Wills____ Powers of Attorney____ Durable Powers of Attorney____ Advance Health Care Directives
Hiring a Family Law Attorney
If you are thinking about getting a divorce, do not hesitate to consult a family law attorney. A skilled attorney specializing in domestic matters like divorce or child custody will help protect your rights.
It is important to speak to a lawyer familiar with the laws in your jurisdiction. Most attorneys offer free consultations, so your first step is to contact an experienced family law attorney.
Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?
- Many people can get married without hiring legal help
- Marriages involving prenups, significant debt, child custody issues, and property questions may need an attorney
Get tailored advice and ask questions about getting married.
Don't Forget About Estate Planning
Marriage is an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries (including your spouse!) to your will. Consider creating a power of attorney to ensure your spouse can access your financial accounts. Also, a health care directive lets your spouse make your medical decisions if you ever become incapacitated.