My marriage is over. I’m meeting with my divorce lawyer for the first time in a couple days. How should I prepare?

First of all, relax. Meeting with a North Carolina divorce attorney isn’t going to be a stressful occasion. We admit it’s not going to be a happy occasion by any means—you are, after all, going to be talking about the end of your marriage, and that’s a serious topic. But divorce attorneys are known for their sympathetic nature. They won’t hurt you.

Trust us, this isn’t comparable to a trip to a dentist for root canal surgery, or a trip to the doctor for a report about a suspicious lump under your skin. This consultation will be solemn, but not grim.

We can’t be 100 percent sure what your divorce lawyer will expect from you. What we can do is tell you a little bit about how Speaks Law Firm attorneys handle their first appointments with divorce clients.

Four critical areas to be considered

We generally start by outlining the process of divorce in North Carolina courts. We’ll get information from you about where you and your spouse live, because that may influence the filing process. We then explain the typical time frame for divorce proceedings.

There are four important issues that will need to be examined in every North Carolina divorce action:

  • Division of marital property and debts
  • Alimony, or cash payments from one spouse to support the other
  • Child custody, if you and your spouse have children together
  • Child support, if you and your spouse have children together

If you and your spouse have been able to come to a mutual understanding on one or more of these issues, that's great. Your agreement will become the basis of the court’s final divorce orders. Even if you have an incomplete agreement, we will tell you how we can negotiate with your spouse’s attorney to get a deal.

Any area in which you cannot get an agreement with your spouse will have to be decided by the judge, with appropriate arguments from each side. If that’s the case, we can begin working almost immediately on a persuasive presentation that will serve your best interests. To do that effectively, we will need access to copies of your financial records for the past several years. We don’t expect you to bring in all these documents at your first visit, but you can save a lot of time making sure that these records are available to you:

  • Tax returns. State and federal income tax returns, plus any other taxes that you, your spouse, or your family have paid
  • Statements from the financial advisers serving you and your spouse
  • Accounting reports from any business you or your spouse may own, or that you own together
  • Bank records. We would want statements for any bank or credit union account that is personally owned by you, your spouse, both of you jointly, and any accounts in your children’s names
  • Investment property records
  • Stockbroker records for any investment accounts
  • Records for pensions and retirement savings plans owned by you or your spouse.

These are just the most common records that we will require. After talking with you about your specific financial situation, we may need additional documents, or we may be able to pare down this list considerably.

Moving forward together

Above all, the initial meeting is a chance for you and your new attorney to get a feel for working with each other. It should be a sympathetic and respectful relationship. You should be able to leave that first meeting with a sense that you have chosen to hire the North Carolina divorce lawyer who is the best suited for your personality and your specific needs.

If you don’t feel that way—if you find you are uncomfortable discussing your personal information or financial data, for example—then you may wish to continue searching for a lawyer you can trust.

We’re sorry to hear that your marriage is ending, and we hope that the lawyer you have chosen is a great match for you. If we can be of any help in the future, you can reach the Wilmington family law attorneys at Speaks Law Firm by calling 910-341-7570 locally or 877-593-4233 toll-free from anywhere in North Carolina.

R. Clarke Speaks
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Trial Lawyer and Founder of Speaks Law Firm, P.C.