How much do you believe your house is worth and how much do you owe? The answer will help the attorney to determine options for the home in conjunction with other information. A Zillow/ Realtor.com/ Trulia, etc. type number and most recent mortgage statement will provide a general idea of the equity in the home. If you have a recent appraisal or comparative market analysis, you will want to have those handy. If you don’t know the mortgage amount, try to find it or wrack your brain for memories of what you paid and how long ago and what you might have overheard about the monthly mortgage.
Know your income (yearly or monthly) and all sources of income. You must also have an idea of the other Parties’ income and sources of income if the attorney is going to determine the likelihood of spousal maintenance. This is the most heavily litigated issue, so you will want an early analysis. In the end, it is likely that your immediate financial future will be most affected by this one issue.
Know the amount of debt (not exact—just ballpark figures) and what kind of debtyou have in the marriage. Do you have student loans, credit cards, any pre-marital debt? Make a list so you can tell the attorney. This will help the attorney recognize what the likely outcome will be and who may end up paying what debt. So, know the amounts and the kind of debt you have. You will end up paying some amount of debt in the end and whatever that amount is, may significantly affect your financial well-being.
Retirement plans (401(k), IRA, Thrift Savings Plan, military retirement, pensions—know the ballpark value and the name of the plan. These can be important sources of funds if one of you needs to buy the other out of the house. Very often Clients don’t really understand their pensions, and that is alright since most attorneys do know how the pensions will be divided.
Investment accounts (mutual funds, etc.), RVs, vacation homes, boats, vacant land—know the ballpark values of all of these. They are additional sources of funds that could significantly affect your options.
Are there special issues like inheritances? If there are, be ready to explain when you got the inheritance and what has happened with it since. Protecting an inheritance may be possible and the attorney will need the information to determine the likelihood of protection.
Most important for couples with minor Children is what are your thoughts on what you want for a parenting plan and custody? What are the other Parties’ thoughts? What type of allegations could be involved in your custody battle? Has there been domestic violence? Custody cases are often not at all what a Parent believes they are going to be.
With a discussion of the issues in your specific case, you can get a better idea of whether the goals you have for yourself can be achieved. Ask yourself, Where do you want to end up when the litigation is over. To understand the answer that is right for you, you need to know what is even possible to achieve. Remember, if you don’t know where you are going, how will you ever get there?