Have you ever wondered what goes on in the office of your attorney? You’ve retained your attorney, and have entrusted them with the responsibility of ending one chapter in your life … a very important chapter, your marriage.

Generally speaking there is more to handling a divorce than meets the eye. Even an “easy” divorce involves a lot of paper work and man hours in preparing that paper work. Your attorney is charged with the task of making certain all assets have been disclosed, that all documentation needed to prove your side is gathered, etc. In every divorce you are required to prepare a document which discloses all of your assets and your debts, along with the supporting documents. There is also a requirement to produce information regarding your income and your expenses. Your attorney will be required to prepare this paper work and will need to have the supporting documentation.

There are several things to do to make your attorney’s job easier, which will in turn save you money. For example, organize your documents before you bring them into your attorney’s office. If you bring in an unorganized bag of receipts, or a box of unorganized documents, someone in your attorney’s office will have to spend time organizing them. Time spent on your file will cost you money. When you bring in your documents to your attorney, have them in organized labeled folders.

Your attorney will need at least three years of tax returns. If you own a business, you should bring in at least the last five years worth of business and personal returns. He/she will need pay check stubs, bank statements, credit card statements, and receipts which document assets, living expenses, reimbursements, etc. You will be required to state, and possibly document, information concerning how much you spend on utilities, home maintenance, insurance payments, food expenses, incidental expenses, and the like. If you are not certain whether or not your attorney will need a document, keep it and bring it in. It is better to have too much information, rather than not enough.

Additionally, if you shred documents regularly, quit doing so, at least for the time being. You never know what will be needed to prove or disprove something. If you have any questions regarding the documentation needed, ask your attorney when you first meet. Since this is the beginning of the year, start now. Organize your monthly statements and receipts. If you do not get copies of your cancelled checks with your bank statements, start doing so, and organize those also.

The message here is to be a partner with your attorney. The more work you can do in preparing and providing documentation to your attorney, the easier their job will be. Ultimately, that means less attorneys fees for you.

By Pamela Edwards-Swift, CFLS