What to bring to a divorce consultation should include financial documents, such as both spouses’ proof of income, recent tax returns, bank statements, and credit card statements. It is also helpful to bring a list of questions, particularly about any nuances your case might involve, such as a family-owned business. Being prepared can ensure your attorneys have the details to give you the most accurate information possible.
What Is the Process of a Divorce Consultation in Illinois?
Most divorce lawyers offer a free initial consultation for potential clients. A consultation is like an interview. You are trying to determine if the lawyer is a good fit for you, and the lawyer is doing the same. You can make an appointment online or over the phone.
You can expect the consultation with a divorce lawyer to take about 30 minutes to an hour. Phone or video consultations may be possible, but you still need supporting documents.
Don’t be afraid to get personal at your initial consultation. Opening up about marriage problems and divorce can be difficult, but divorce lawyers are well-versed in these matters. It helps them with your case if you can tell them about affairs, substance abuse issues, emotional issues, addictions, financial problems, or whatever else may be relevant.
Be Prepared for Your Consultation in Chicago or Des Plaines
It is good to be prepared for several reasons. For example, the proper documents let an attorney get an accurate grasp of the situation and offer appropriate feedback. Preparation also maximizes the time you have and ensures you and the lawyer cover all the necessary issues.
Gathering documents encourages you to think about your goals and how to articulate them. It also gives you a better idea of your financial situation. Knowing about income, debts, assets, separate property, marital property, and the like helps with asset division talks, among others.
Questions to Ask a Divorce Lawyer at Your Consultation
Common questions to ask your prospective attorney include:
- How long have you been handling divorce cases? Have you handled many cases similar to mine?
- Do you have a preferred approach for divorce cases? (Such as mediation, collaboration, trial, etc.)
- What are the realistic outcomes of my case, especially in terms of child custody and asset division? (Or whatever issues matter most to you)
- What is the timeline I should expect?
- How can I reach you quickly, and how will we typically communicate?
- How do you bill, and what are your fees?
How much a divorce costs varies considerably and depends on factors such as whether the divorce is contested or uncontested and the complexity of the case.
Personal Documentation You Should Bring to Your Consultation
As you are learning how to file for divorce in Illinois, it is good practice to bring a variety of documents to your initial consultation.
Law firms may require ID documents for many reasons. Commonly, lawyers need to verify who their potential clients are to prevent fraud and ensure they are talking with the right person. These documents also help establish residency, a key requirement in divorces.
This helps verify the validity and length of the marriage.
Birth Certificates for Any Children
Birth certificates validate your children’s identities and often confirm legal parentage. Legal parentage can play a big role in custody and support matters.
Important Financial Documents
Gather relevant financial documents, such as credit card statements, as they are helpful during a consultation with a divorce lawyer. Here is what you should bring:
Recent Tax Returns
These verify income, including salaries, self-employment or business income, and dividends. Income plays a role in issues such as child support, spousal support, and property division. Tax returns can also identify certain assets and liabilities.
Proof of Income for Both Spouses
This can give your lawyer an idea of what you might be able to expect on issues such as child support, spousal support, and property division. These documents can include pay stubs, profit and loss statements, public benefit statements, and signed letters from employers.
Bank Statements for Joint Accounts
These offer financial transparency and can help with asset and income verification, debt verification, and expense tracking. It can also indicate attempts to hide assets.
Mortgage or Lease Agreements
These agreements offer details such as ownership of your home or other properties. They clarify your financial responsibilities for the property and how much equity you have in the home. If you want to keep the home, mortgage documents can offer insight into how feasible it would be to refinance.
If you rent your home, the lease agreement offers occupancy information. This can be useful if you don’t want to keep living with your ex while the divorce is pending.
If you and your spouse rent out properties, these lease agreements should offer information on rental income, expenses, and lease terms, all of which can affect property division.
Credit Card Statements
These statements give insight into the expenses, payments, and transactions both spouses make in Chicago, Des Plaines, or other locations. Statements can help identify the value of assets and debts, and even hidden assets, and whether property might be marital or separate.
Retirement Account Statements
Retirement accounts can be major marital assets, so knowing their value is helpful for equitable distribution, any spousal support considerations, distribution options, and financial planning, among other issues. You may also need to update your beneficiary details.
Outstanding Loan Agreements
These help your attorney evaluate your debt and valuate assets you are financing. Loan agreements can determine whether a debt is joint or individual and whether you might need to refinance.