Divorce is never easy, but if you have reached the difficult determination that a divorce is in your future, it’s time to consult with an experienced Orange County divorce attorney. Divorce has a way of becoming very complicated very quickly, and professional guidance from the beginning can go a long way toward protecting your financial future. In fact, even if you and your divorcing spouse are in seeming agreement on every issue, it’s still in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable divorce lawyer who will help ensure that you carefully consider the decisions that lie ahead of you. A divorce has far-reaching financial implications, and moving forward with professional legal counsel is always in your best interest.
What to Expect at Your Initial Consultation
Every divorce is as unique as the two people who make up the marriage. Nonetheless, there are several standard issues that apply to nearly every divorce. If you have children together, the issue of child custody will likely be your primary concern. After child custody, the division of assets tops the priority list in most divorces. As such, the more you know about your marital finances, the better off you’ll be. Presenting this information in as organized a manner as you can manage when you consult with your family law attorney will help him or her help you. If you don’t have your financial ducks all in a row, however, never fear – you have to start somewhere. Bring what you have to your initial consultation. Finally, be sure to share your most pressing priorities – whatever they may be – with your attorney at that time.
Schedule of Assets and Debts
Just as your assets are important – so are your debts. In fact, the two go hand in hand. Every party to every California divorce must complete a Schedule of Assets and Debts, which documents the full array of your financial plusses and minuses, before a divorce can be granted. Getting started on your Schedule before meeting with your family law attorney will give you a better idea of what your divorce will likely encompass and will provide your divorce attorney with a snapshot of your financials. Bringing along several years of recent tax records and your most recent paystubs is also a good idea – as these can help flesh out your overall financials.
Bring Your Questions with You
If you’re considering divorce, you’re going to have questions. Write them down, and bring them with you when you meet with your divorce lawyer. Whatever your concerns, capture them on paper so you and your attorney can carefully go over them together. For example, if you and your soon-to-be ex are fairly close on your expectations regarding the outcome of your divorce or if staying out of court is a priority, talk to the attorney about his or her experience with divorce mediation. Additionally, if you are concerned about custody issues, share that concern with the attorney. Ultimately, the more you share, the better prepared your attorney will be to represent your priorities.
If either you or your spouse (or both of you) are self-employed or own your own business, things become more complicated, and you’ll need to provide your divorce attorney with additional financial documents. This documentation should include current profit and loss statements, balance sheets, payment invoices, and/or anything else that’s pertinent. Again, it’s useful to include your recent corporate tax returns (if your business is a corporation that files separate taxes).
The Details of Your Situation
Writing down the basics that describe your marriage and family will help your attorney keep this information straight and can help expedite the process. Such details should include the day you were married; your children’s names, ages, and birthdays; your educational background; your job; and any other specific information about your family that you deem pertinent. For example, having a child with special needs is worthy of special consideration and should be included in your family’s stat sheet. Don’t be afraid to overshare, the more information you provide – the easier it is for your attorney to understand your unique situation.
California Is a Community Property State
California is a community property state, which means that the assets and debts that you and your spouse acquire during the course of your marriage are owned equally by both of you – and must be divided accordingly in a divorce. If either of you have property that you owned on your own prior to marriage or that you were given as a personal gift or inheritance during the marriage, that remains your separate property. Further, any property that either of you acquires before you officially divorce but after you’ve officially separated remains separate property. Simply moving out of the marital home, however, is not enough to establish separation – one or both of you must have also taken an action that clearly demonstrates your intention to obtain a divorce. It’s important to understand that if you and your divorcing spouse don’t agree on this separation date, the court will likely go with the later date.
Divorce: It’s nothing if Not Complicated
With all of this in mind, it’s clear that a California divorce is complicated – and there’s plenty of room to make mistakes along the way. An experienced Orange County divorce lawyer will help ensure that you have realistic expectations throughout the process and that you make those decisions that help protect your best interests. When it comes to divorce, your emotions are bound to run high, but your dedicated divorce attorney will help you stay focused on the big picture and on securing your best possible divorce settlement.
Authored by IRWIN & IRWIN.
IRWIN & IRWIN Family Law is located in Fullerton, California. We provide a full suite of family law services from divorce litigation, divorce mediation, child custody issues, domestic violence restraining orders and representing minors in court. “Every situation is different, and some come with very complex financial issues. Our legal team is here to support you during a very troubling time and prepare you for court, or to at least help negotiate or mediate the issues out to establish an equitable legal resolution,” says Kelly Irwin, Senior Litigator at the firm.