Family Law Checklist: What Should I Bring to the First Meeting with My Lawyer?
Let’s face it: booking your first appointment with a family law lawyer can be a bit daunting. If you are going through a Separation or Divorce you are likely experiencing a period of significant change in your personal life and you may be feeling stressed or anxious. In order to reduce some of the stress my clients experience, I have created a checklist of information and document my clients will need to assemble in advance. Preparing these materials in advance is likely to reduce my clients’ legal fees and enables me to effectively advocate on their behalf.
Step 1: Background Information
I suggest clients start by preparing the background information first as experience shows this is usually the easy part. I recommend my clients outline brief notes regarding the following:
- the full name, address, occupation, annual income and date of birth for you and your spouse
- the date each of you began living in the Province of British Columbia
- the date the two of you started to live together in a “marriage like relationship”
- if you are married, the date of marriage and the name of the city or town where you got married
- if you already separated, the date of your separation
- if you are married, surname at birth and surname prior to marriage for both you and your spouse
- if you are married, whether you and your spouse were unmarried, divorced or widowed previously
- the full names and birthdates of any children, and the current care arrangements in place for them.
Step 2: Financial and Legal Documents
In the majority of family law files, clients will also need to gather the applicable financial and legal documents. It is not as critical that clients bring all of these documents to the initial meeting. However this next step is more time consuming, and may require requesting documents from third parties. Therefore I usually encourage my clients to start assembling these documents as soon as is practicable:
- the balance of all financial accounts, including mortgages, credit cards, savings, RRSP and investment accounts, as of the date of separation, and the names of the financial institutions
- the full details about any personal and family debts
- if either of you has a pension, the name of the pension plan
- the addresses, and current market value of any real property either of you own
- the approximate market value of real estate either party owns and the amount of any mortgages
- the full details about any assets either of you own which are located outside British Columbia
- the full details and values of any significant assets or debts either of you had prior to cohabitation
- if you are married, an original marriage certificate
- copies of any pre-existing agreements regarding custody, parenting, child support or spousal support
- If litigation has commenced, copies of all the pleadings (documents filed in court) including financial statements, court orders, affidavits and applications.
Although going through a Separation and Divorce can feel overwhelming, finding an experienced, skilled Family lawyer you trust will help you navigate through this challenging process.
Monica can be reached at email@example.com or (250)869-1120.