What Will a Divorce Attorney Ask Me? 21 Topics to Be Prepared to Discuss

When you schedule your first consultation with a divorce attorney, you do so with many questions you need answers to. The attorney will need a lot of information from you as well. To be as prepared as possible and to make the most of that first appointment, you should be able to answer the following questions. Check out our other blog post for critical documents to assemble before consulting a divorce attorney as well.

  1. Basic data. Your attorney will ask for information such as your and your spouse’s names, dates of birth, citizenship, Social Security numbers, date of marriage, addresses, and employer names.
  2. Your living situation. If you live in the same home with your spouse, your attorney needs to know this and your plans for when and how you would like to physically separate. If you currently live apart, your attorney needs the date you physically separated.
  3. Income. Be prepared to share the data from your tax returns about income. If there is unreported income, that is another crucial fact your attorney will need to know.
  4. Net worth. Be prepared to give your lawyer details about you and your spouse’s net worth and holdings. The more information you can gather and the more specific it is, the better armed your attorney will be to assess your case at this first meeting. Estimate the value of real estate, art, jewelry, investments, vehicles, collectibles, stock options, and all holdings.
  5. Business ownership. Information about businesses you or your spouse own or have an interest in will be key to your divorce distribution. The value and cash flow of those businesses is essential information as well.
  6. Property sales or transfers. If you or your spouse have sold, gifted, or otherwise transferred any assets or property recently, your attorney needs to know about them.
  7. Separate property. Assets you or your spouse owned before you were married and any assets either of you have acquired via gift or inheritance during the marriage should be disclosed to your attorney at this meeting as well. Assets that qualify as separate property are not divided in the divorce and are an important part of your case’s overall financial picture.
  8. Debts. Marital and individual debts are essential to creating a clear assessment of your financial situation. Your attorney needs accurate balances for these.
  9. Trusts. Your attorney needs to know whether you or your spouse are the beneficiaries or trustors (creators) of any trusts. The trust documents are important information to gather as well.
  10. Pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements. If you and your spouse have signed either (or both) of these types of agreements, your attorney needs to know this and be given a copy of them.
  11. Your monthly budget. Come armed with a clear picture of the funds you need to run your household comfortably. If you have recently separated, you’ll want to be sure to create a budget that fits your new circumstances.
  12. Your career and financial prospects. Your attorney will need to know if you are self-supporting, if you now or in the past have primarily relied on your spouse’s income, and what your career plans are moving forward after the divorce. Be prepared to discuss whether you are seeking alimony.
  13. Your ability to pay attorney’s fees. If you are in a difficult financial situation and cannot afford to pay for an attorney yourself, but your spouse has vast financial resources, let your attorney know that you hope your spouse will be required to handle your attorney’s fees.
  14. Your children. You will need to provide the names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers for your children. The names of their schools and caregivers are also needed. If your children have special needs, information about that is important.
  15. Children’s expenses. Details about tuition, extra-curriculars, sports, private lessons and tutoring, medical care, and other costs are important to share.
  16. The kind of parenting plan you are seeking. Be prepared to talk about your wishes regarding legal custody (decision-making authority) and physical custody (how your children will divide their time between you and your spouse). Also important is what your children want, particularly if they are teenagers. If you or your spouse are considering relocating to another city or country, this is key information your attorney needs to know. If you have serious concerns about the other parent’s ability to parent, make this clear from the start.
  17. Why you are seeking a divorce. If there are circumstances in your divorce that involve adultery, abandonment, addiction, gambling, or incarceration, be prepared to discuss them.
  18. Domestic violence. If there has been any incident or incidents of domestic violence or child abuse in your marriage or in your household, be prepared to share that information. If you are currently in danger or in an unsafe situation, definitely share that so that your attorney can help you make a plan to get to safety.
  19. Annulment. If you hope to obtain a legal or religious annulment, you should discuss this at your first meeting with your attorney.
  20. Your approach to the divorce process. There are a variety of ways to approach divorce. If you are hoping to reach a settlement or are interested in mediation or collaborative divorce, this is important to discuss upfront.
  21. Your must-haves. If there are assets you must have (such as the home), discuss those with your attorney when you first meet. If custody of your children is a priority above all else, your attorney needs to know this as well. If you simply want to get out of the marriage as quickly as possible, that is also a key piece of information.

Being prepared with answers to your attorney’s questions will have allows you to get through the basic information gathering as quickly as possible and move on to the strategy and protecting your position. You may not be able to gather all of the details needed, but if you can at least present broad outlines for all of these areas, you will be able to move the process along more quickly.


Naomi Schanfield

Naomi Schanfield concentrates on all aspects of matrimonial and family law, including, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, divorce, equitable distribution, child custody and visitation, support matters, family offense disputes, and domestic violence.

To connect with Naomi: 212.682.6222 | Online

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