Meeting with an attorney for the first time can seem overwhelming. However, being prepared will make the meeting run smoothly. Bringing key documents will help you make the most of your first meeting with your attorney to ensure you receive effective representation. If your case already involves pending litigation, documents you have received from the court will assist your attorney in knowing the timeline of your case. Having this information will help your attorney to comply with procedural deadlines related to pleadings or discovery and determine his or her availability for any upcoming hearings that have already been scheduled. These documents will also enable your attorney to spot issues that you might not think to bring to your attorney’s attention. Having documentation will also help you attorney offer pointed advice suited to the specific circumstances of your case. The following is a list of documents you should bring with you or provide ahead of time if they are applicable to your case:
- Current and Past Orders – Any orders that are currently in effect or have previously been in effect will show the current status of your case and may provide insight into your case’s history. Relevant orders may include spousal support orders, child support orders, protective orders, final decree of divorce, and miscellaneous interim orders.
- Pleadings – Pleadings include documents that may be filed with the Court, such as a Complaint for divorce, Answer, Cross-Complaint, or Petition for Support.
- Summons or Notices – These should be given to your attorney to make him or her aware of upcoming hearings or procedural considerations.
- Discovery Requests – Your attorney will assist you in properly complying with any Requests for Production of Documents or Interrogatories that you have already received.
- Property Settlement Agreements or Memoranda of Understanding – Any agreement that has been signed and properly executed between you and the opposing party will help your attorney explain how current issues can be resolved. Any proposed agreements that have been sent to you by opposing counsel will give your attorney some understanding of the relevant issues and how that party proposes to resolve those issues.
- Correspondence – Any correspondence you have received from opposing counsel or a guardian ad litem (attorney representing your child) should be given to your attorney. In some situations, correspondence with the opposing party is also helpful.
- Mortgage Statements – Mortgage statements will enable your attorney to advise you on distribution of the marital residence, whether it be through sale or refinance.
- Tax Returns, Bank / Investment Account Statements, and Retirement Plan Statements – These types of financial documents, dated close to the date of marriage and the date of separation, will enable your attorney to advise you regarding support and division of assets.
- Timeline – In many cases it also helpful to provide your attorney with a timeline of significant events related to your marriage or your custody or support matter.
The above documents should be viewed as a checklist for your initial meeting with your family law attorney and should not be viewed as an exhaustive list of information required throughout the pendency of your case. Most likely as your case develops, your attorney will request that you provide additional documents.