Many potential clients come to us when they are in the planning stage of a divorce. No one has served any papers, sometimes they are not even sure they want to file for divorce, they are just thinking about it. When we have a consultation for a divorce, we ask that the potential client come prepared with a lot of documents. Some of these are:
- Last three years of taxes;
- Asset documents, such as deeds, titles, bank or brokerage statements;
- Debt documents, such as credit card or mortgage/car lease statements;
- Marriage certificate; and
Should the client have their own business, we also ask for:
- Business tax documents;
- Profit and Loss statements; and
- Insurance policies.
Why do we ask to see so many documents? When a potential client comes to our office, of course we want to hear their narrative of why and how they got where they are. We want to know what has happened in their past to bring them to our door. We also want to know what their goals are at this point in time. We want to look through their paperwork and have some idea of their financial situation. Then we can discuss their various options. Sometimes, after a thorough conversation and review of the documents, we realize other issues which may need to be taken care of prior to the divorce or during the process. Often the potential client realizes that now may not be the best time to take action. Perhaps the potential client is anticipating that the other side will be serving them and they just want to feel prepared for what is to come.
When the potential client arrives we have them fill out an intake form, which asks basic information. This is to let us know which of the items on our list we are going to discuss. For instance, should the client not have any children, custody and child support will not be an issue.
We provide the potential client with informational brochures tailored to the issues they are facing. The brochures have valuable information about divorce law, equitable distribution, custody, child support and sometimes estate planning. Sometimes even when the client is paying attention and takes notes, they forget what we said, so the brochures are helpful. We also give them a client’s rights and responsibilities document that outlines rules for the attorney-client relationship.
We also give the prospective client the opportunity to ask questions. No question is too mundane or too complicated. We have even had lawyers as clients, and we treat them as we do other potential clients – we assume they know nothing about divorce law! By the time we are done with the consultation, which can take a couple of hours, the potential client has a lot of information. The client has already begun the process of organizing their paperwork so that they are prepared to move forward or stay in place, whichever they want.
Deborah E. Kaminetzky, Esq.
Kaminetzky Law & Mediation, P.C.
132 Spruce Street
Cedarhurst, New York 11516