Separation and divorce are emotionally difficult decisions, and can often become legally difficult, too. For this reason, we at Horne and Griffis want to do everything in our power to guide you through the murky legal process and help you find the best outcome for your future. However, we rely on you to bring the relevant documents we need to move forward in your divorce consultation. In an effort to better prepare our clients for the rough times ahead, Horne & Griffis requests that you read this brief article outlining the most important documents to bring to a divorce consultation.
Divorce consultations often involve sorting through legally and emotionally complicated problems. We find that in most disputes, financial status is the most common and important issue at stake. Reviewing your financial documents is therefore a wise first step in preparing for a divorce consultation. However, we know that it is easy to overlook a number of important variables. So, we ask that you consult this general list to help you prepare for the possible challenges ahead:
- What are your current account balances?
- What are your current financial obligations?
- Does your household consistently expend more than it makes?
- Could you meet your current financial obligations without the support of your spouse?
- What percentage of household income and expenses do you carry versus your spouse?
More specifically, information like the past three (3) years of tax returns will provide a great starting point from which to calculate both household earnings and future capacities to earn for both parties. Additionally, current wage statements, pay-stubs and account information will provide the baseline information needed to begin a divorce proceeding in the State of Georgia. Always remember that more is better when it comes to financial documents at the start of a divorce consultation.
Why financial documents are so important in a divorce consultation
In Georgia, all divorce proceedings begin with a declaration of your financial status, formally known as a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit. This Affidavit will show the Court the specifics of your individual income and obligations along with your gross monthly income. It is a requirement in the State of Georgia that this Affidavit be filed at the onset of the divorce proceeding. Providing your divorce attorney with as much financial information as possible at your first consult will ensure that your attorney can assist you in creating a strong and accurate Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit.
Child custody is another extremely important issue in divorce proceedings. Though child custody concerns are obviously not present in every divorce action, the majority of contested divorces center around custody. When attending your divorce consultation, please bring all information you feel is relevant to the welfare of your children. Let this general list serve as a useful starting point for determining which documents to bring to a divorce consultation:
- Who is their primary caregiver?
- Who most often meets their daily needs?
- What are their daily needs?
- Who do they have the strongest bonds with, and who will make sure that those bonds stay strong?
We consider information about your children’s academics and education, health and extracurricular activities, as well as a description of their daily lives as most helpful. You should also have some idea of what co-parenting time with your spouse might look like. Again, the more detail that you can provide, the stronger your case will likely be.
Why child care documents are so important in a divorce consultation
When determining custody, every judge in the State of Georgia has a statutory obligation to consider the best interests of the child according to O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3. Essentially, the Court must know all relevant factors regarding the current and future care of your children when coming to a reasonable solution. Therefore, our role as your legal counsel is to provide the Court with all the information which demonstrates why you are so indispensable to the best interests of your child. In the State of Georgia, we are required to file a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit, a proposed Parenting Plan, and visitation schedule at the outset of divorce proceedings. Helping us to understand your role within your children’s lives will prepare us to advocate for the continuity of that role.
Other documents to bring to a divorce consultation
Some divorces begin out of a mutual agreement that a relationship is irretrievably broken. Others begin as a result of the conduct of one or both parties. Because of this variability, we need as much information as possible in order to more effectively advise you in creating a complaint for divorce or responding to a previously filed divorce. This means social media posts, photographs, bank statements, and a host of other documents may be useful in showing the unique circumstances of your case. These would be especially great documents to bring to a divorce consultation if you contend your spouse’s conduct is the reason for the divorce. Has your spouse already consulted an attorney? Or possibly even hired? Bringing as much information as you are able to at your initial divorce consultation will allow us to assess your unique situation and advise you accordingly.