By: Frank J. Morano, Esq.

After you have contacted an attorney for your divorce and have set up an initial case assessment, you should start preparing some documents to bring with you or send in advance of that first meeting. It may take you some time to gather what you will need for all the paperwork that goes into a divorce, and you will have plenty of time to do that.  But having some select initial items at the first meeting will help your attorney get started right away on your matter. 

To start off, you should always bring your driver’s license or some sort of identification, so that your attorney will be able  to verify your identity.  They may even request identification prior to setting the meeting to ensure they are steering clear of potential conflicts.  In addition to confirming that you are who you say, your attorney will need the information from your identification  documents, such as address, full name, date of birth, and driver’s license number if applicable, in order to fill out some standard paperwork for the Court. Some examples of documents that you will encounter throughout the divorce process for which this personal information will be required are the Confidential Litigant Information Sheet (CLIS) and the Case Information Statement (CIS.)  

If you have them easily accessible, you can also bring along your most recent W2s and your most recent tax return.  These will give your attorney a quick insight into what your salary is, what your spouse’s salary is, and what sort of assets you own together. Your tax return will also provide a lot of very useful additional information that will be necessary later on, such as the full names of your children, your area of work, and your spouse’s area of work.  The tax return will also list both your incomes if you are a two-income family, and any dividends from investments, rental income, and capital gains.  

If you and your spouse have already discussed any issues , and your conversations are documented in emails, texts, or other written form, you should provide this information to your attorney as well.  While you should not agree to any terms without first speaking to counsel, notes or written exchanges that you have detailing your conversations with your spouse could give your attorney some preliminary insight as to what the main issues will be in the divorce proceedings.  

Finally, you may consider preparing a document with some general information about yourself, your spouse, and your children if you have them, including issues that you foresee, and any initial questions you have. Writing these items down will help assure that you will not forget something amidst a packed first meeting,  and may also help you to organize thoughts, allowing you to think of important pieces of information or questions that you may have missed.  While your basic personal information can be gleaned from your license, your children’s full names and dates of birth, your date of marriage, place of marriage, and any other pertinent information you think of can all go in this kind of supplemental document, should you choose to prepare one for your initial case assessment.  

Being prepared with your documentation and basic information at the time of your Case Assessment will give your attorney more opportunity to discuss the details of your life during your meeting. This is valuable because the information between the lines is often as important as the information written on them.