You find yourself going through a divorce and in a precarious place, one you never thought you would be in. Your spouse told you out of the blue that he or she was leaving. Or you feel you can’t stay married but have no clue what would happen if you separate. What do you do? Where do you even begin?
Contact an experienced attorney to at least understand the law. The attorneys at Shemtob Draganosky Taylor meet with people all the time for initial consultations to explain the law and how the particular facts of your case will be evaluated. After the first meeting you will walk out knowing what to expect and will have an initial strategy in place.
One of the most important things is to take charge of your own case because this is your life and you know it best. We can help but we need your input and help. We approach cases as a collaborative effort between the attorney and client.
Here are some ways you can help your attorney to get started:
- Be your own best investigator. Look through your house and collect the statements from your assets and debts. You may not know all the assets and debts, but if you find any financial documentation, make a copy of it and bring it in for your first meeting. Important documents include tax returns, paystubs, brokerage account statements, statements showing cash value of life insurance policies, bank account statements, mortgage statements, appraisals, and anything else that has financial information.
- Prepare a list of questions. This is all new to you so you will have a ton of questions. I have found that after the first meeting clients will pull out their questions and realize we have answered most, if not all of them. Our goal is to make you feel like you are part of the process instead of just an observer. If it helps you, take notes during the meeting so you can reference them later.
- Prepare a wish list. What do you want from your divorce? What is important to you? Prepare a list of these items. Keep in mind that the items on your wish list might be unrealistic under the law, but you should discuss your wishes with an attorney to find out whether or not it’s reasonable. You may think of things that your spouse would agree to and your attorney did not consider. Without knowing all of your wishes it’s more difficult to help you.
- Ask your divorce lawyer for a realistic roadmap of the process. Lawyers speak the language of “legalese” and there will be a lot of words and phrases you may not understand. You may not have heard phrases like equitable distribution, 3301C, or praecipe to transmit the record. Don’t hesitate to interrupt your lawyer and ask for clarification on something that doesn’t make sense. Your divorce lawyer should take the time to explain all of these phrases to you. It’s important to take notes at meetings with your attorney so that you can refresh your recollection after you leave. Much of this will be overwhelming and new so having some notes will be helpful. If you forget what something means, don’t hesitate to ask again.
- Keep yourself organized. The divorce attorneys at Shemtob Draganosky Taylor pride ourselves in sending you every single thing we receive on your case as well as everything we send out on your case. Stay organized. Print everything and make it easily accessible in a binder or file folder or keep everything organized in an email folder. That way you can easily refer to conversations, what you have received and what has been sent out as proposal letters, court hearing notices or orders.
- Keep open communication. It’s important to keep open communication so that your attorney can better serve you. If we get a petition for special relief, a divorce complaint or a settlement proposal, we will email it to you requesting you to call to discuss. Some clients prefer being called first so they know that something is coming. Others prefer an email and a request for a call. Let us know your preference so we can best serve how you would like to communicate with your attorney.
- Be a part of the process. After a hearing or an important meeting, we like to follow up with a recap. If you have further questions, contact your attorney and ask for clarification. This way you feel that you are part of the process.
- Stay focused even after settlement. When your case is settled, we send a complete list of items included in the settlement and action items for next steps. Some of these action items include getting the deed to the house transferred, having the title to a car transferred, or having a qualified domestic relations order prepared so that you receive a portion of a pension for which you bargained. Just because the case is over and an agreement is signed there is still work to be done. Your attorney needs your help in getting that work complete and it’s important to stay focused.
- Be Aware of time management and cost. You are charged each time you contact your attorney, so it’s better to contact your attorney one time with four questions as opposed to four times with one question. Having multiple questions ready for one phone call is much more time and cost-effective. The most effective way to get your questions answered is to send an email with a list of questions and request to schedule a phone conference. Then both you and your attorney will be be prepared for those questions and the conversation will be much more productive.
This is a difficult process and the attorneys at Shemtob Draganosky Taylor want this to be as painless as possible. We understand there is a lot of emotion, pain, hurt, and sometimes a lot of anger during a divorce process. Our job is to help get you through this and to get you the best settlement possible. Call our family lawyers in Montgomery County at (215) 544-3974 for a confidential discussion.