While you do not need to bring your documentation to your initial consultation (except any legal documents you have been served with from your spouse), you certainly may want to start gathering the various documents your Seattle Family Lawyer is likely to need down the line.
If you are participating in a mediation or collaborative process, then the documents that will be needed will be worked out in the process. For instance, in a collaborative divorce, the Financial Specialist will typically have a list of financial documents they need in order to prepare their spreadsheets for the group.
Whether in litigation or another dispute resolution process, it is generally important to establish an income figure for each party. Not only is this used for looking both at child support and spousal support (alimony) issues, but may affect property distribution as well. It may be important to analyzing ability to pay debt, housing issues, and planning for the future.
The most important documents for establishing income are federal tax returns (last several years at least) as well as paystubs (last 6 months is typical). Even if your paystub income is stable and regular, tax returns let us look at other possible sources of income (dividends, rental income, etc.) and lets us see the historical pattern over a period of years. If your income is less regular (such as commission based or part time), the tax return data may also help us average income over time.
Assets and Debts
In just about any divorce there is going to be a division of assets and debts. In order to determine how property and debt might be divided, we need to know both what the various assets and debts are as well as the values. In addition we need to be able to adequately describe the major items in the final settlement papers.
Helpful documents include:
- bank records
- investment records
- deeds and titles
- credit card statements
- statements on other forms of debt (such as a mortgage)
- documents such as contracts related to any other forms of property or debt
We may find that there is other documentation we need, but this list will get you a long way.
If there are any other documents that you have that impact your relationship, property, or income, we may need to see those as well. Certainly if you have a community property agreement or a pre-nuptial agreement, it is important for us to know about those. In some cases an employment contract could prove important.
There will be plenty of time during your divorce process to determine what all is needed. We can also use discovery requests to obtain documents that are in the possession of your spouse or a third party (such as a bank or employer).
We may need to have some things prepared specifically for the case, such as a property appraisal. But if you believe you are headed into a divorce, this article should enable you to get a head start on gathering what will likely be needed.