If you have made the decision to file for divorce, your first major step will be to meet with an attorney to discuss your options and go over what you can expect during the divorce process. However, before your meeting date arrives, there are some steps you can take to help ensure that you get the most out of your initial consultation with your divorce attorney.
It is important to stress that everyone’s circumstances are unique. No two divorces are exactly alike, and what is necessary or best for you may not necessarily be necessary or best for someone else. With this in mind, here is a general checklist you can follow to begin preparing for your divorce:
Identifying Your Assets
- Make sure you understand which assets are subject to division in your divorce.
Washington is a “community property” state, and this means that most assets acquired during the marriage will be subject to division during the divorce process (unless you have an enforceable prenuptial agreement that says otherwise). However, there are some exceptions, and assets acquired prior to the marriage (generally referred to as “separate property”) can become subject to division under certain circumstances as well. To learn more, read our Family Law FAQs.
- Make a list of your community property.
Make a list of all assets that you believe may qualify as community property. Walking around your house is a good way to start, but don’t forget about items in storage, bank accounts, retirement accounts, pensions, and other tangible and intangible assets you own as well.
- Make a list of your (and your spouse’s) separate property.
Make a list of any assets that you believe may qualify as your separate property – either because you owned them before you got married or because they qualify for an exception to Washington’s community property rule. Make a list of your spouse’s separate assets as well.
- Make copies of real estate deeds and other property records.
It will be helpful for your attorney to have copies of the deed for your home, your vehicle titles, and any other property records you have available. For items that you believe qualify as separate property, receipts or other purchase records can be helpful for establishing that they are not subject to division in your divorce.
- Begin thinking about how you want to prioritize your community property.
Which of your community property assets do you most want to keep? Which assets would you be willing to give up in order to protect others? You will need to answer these questions during your divorce, and it is a good idea to begin prioritizing now so that you can develop a strategy for protecting the assets that matter most to you.
Gathering Information about Your Finances
- Collect bank, investment, and retirement account statements.
Your bank, investment, and retirement accounts are assets that will either qualify as community or separate property. The source(s) of your family’s income and your family’s spending routines will be relevant to your divorce as well.
- Make copies of recent W2s, 1099s, and tax returns.
Spousal maintenance and child support calculations factor in income from all sources. Make copies of your recent W2s, 1099s, and tax returns. And if you have access to your spouse’s income records in your home, make copies of these as well.
- Make copies of mortgage statements and other evidence of debts.
Shared debts are subject to division in a divorce similar to community property. Identifying all of your family’s debts (including mortgages, car loans, student loans, and credit card debt) will be important to ensure that no issues are left unresolved after your divorce.
- Prepare a post-divorce budget.
In order to make informed decisions about spousal maintenance and other issues involved in your divorce, it may be helpful for you to prepare a post-divorce budget. How much will you need on a monthly basis once you are living on your own?
- Learn more about spousal maintenance and child support in Washington.
Thinking about Your Parenting Plan
- Carefully consider your parenting options post-divorce.
While co-parenting is becoming more popular, it is not right for everyone. Although your parenting plan must ultimately reflect your children’s best interests, the practicalities of your work schedule and your relationship with your spouse are relevant as well.
- Review Washington’s “best interests” factors
In determining what is in a child’s best interests, the Washington courts analyze a laundry list of factors. Learn more about these factors and think critically about how they apply to your personal and family circumstances: Child Custody.
- Consider whether any changes are necessary.
If your current work schedule or other personal circumstances may make it difficult to secure your desired parenting rights, consider whether it may be feasible to make changes in advance of your divorce. However, before actually making any changes, you should discuss your options with your attorney.
- Consider your options for arriving at a mutually-agreeable parenting plan.
Oftentimes, it will be easiest for divorced parents to adhere to a parenting plan that they developed by mutual agreement. Consider whether you will be willing to work constructively with your spouse (and if he or she will be willing to work constructively with you), and learn more about the options that are available for facilitating an amicable divorce: Collaborative Law.
Preparing to Meet with Your Divorce Attorney
Prepare a list of questions.
When you meet with your divorce attorney, you may find it helpful to come prepared with a list of questions. Examples of questions our clients often ask us include:
- How many divorces have you handled?
- Will I work with you personally throughout my divorce, and will I be able to get in touch with you when necessary?
- What outcomes can I reasonably expect from the divorce process?
- How can I help prevent my divorce from ending up in litigation?
- Can you tell me more about mediation and collaborative law?
Schedule an Initial Divorce Consultation in Tacoma, WA
If you are ready to speak with a divorce attorney, we encourage you to contact us to arrange a confidential initial consultation. To schedule an appointment at our law offices in Tacoma, WA, please call us or inquire online today.