Terina Kiss: What you need to tell your divorce lawyer at the first appointment

Embarking on divorce, civil partnership dissolution or judicial separation or even the mere prospect of discussing such can be a distressing and sobering thought. It is usual to feel somewhat overwhelmed and anxious which naturally may have an effect on your emotional wellbeing, thought process and may hinder logical reasoning of what you think your lawyer may need to know or require from you.

There is a lot to think about when you go through the divorce process: children, finances, what will happen to the family home, the savings, pensions, where you will live, where will the children live and what happens to the animals/pets? Divorce is undeniably going to change your life going forward and these are all considerations which you should address with your lawyer. Try to have a clear view what it is you want to achieve from the process, remembering the courts will try to be fair to both, whilst considering present and future needs. It is important to remember that the courts are not interested in why the relationship broke down.

In order to get the most from your first meeting, below are a few tips which, not only help you, but also help your lawyer manage your case more constructively and efficiently.  You may feel a little uncomfortable at the thought of having to discuss intimate issues with a stranger. A good divorce lawyer will make you feel at ease and develop a good working relationship with you as someone who you could be working closely with going forward.

Here are the key details that will be discussed in your first meeting with your divorce solicitor:

The Relationship / Marriage / Civil Partnership

  • Keep things factual and to the point – your divorce lawyer will naturally sift through the required information you are communicating but the more precise you are the more you will get from the meeting.  It may seem harsh but impassive facts are key.
  • You will need to provide the following documents, key dates and details:
    • Date of marriage / civil partnership and, if applicable, separation;
    • The original Marriage / Civil Partnership Certificate.  Do not worry if you do not have this, a replacement can be obtained from the Local Authority where the marriage took place;
    • Dates of birth of both you and your spouse;
    • Where you were both born;
    • When the relationship commenced; 
    • Where you both lived during the marriage / civil partnership;
    • When cohabitation began prior to the marriage / civil partnership;

Children

  • Dates of birth and full names of any children of the relationship and children from previous relationships;
  • Place of birth of the children and nationalities;
  • Educational arrangements for the children;
  • Current and existing contact arrangements in place (if any);
  • Contact diary (if used);
  • Any previous Court Orders relating to the children;
  • Any involvement of authorities, i.e. Social Services; CAFCASS.
  • Evidence of any relevant allegations.
  • Child Maintenance payments – if already agreed or details of the CMS.

International

The following is required if you and your spouse have connections with more than one country:

  • Nationalities of both with details of the countries both have lived since birth with dates;
  • If married internationally, full details of where the marriage took place with relevant original marriage certificate; 
  • Details of any Pre or Post Nuptial Agreements;
  • Details of any internationally held assets;
  • Any intention of either party to relocate internationally with the child/ren.

Finances

  • Brief summary of joint and single assets and debts of the parties, i.e. property, bank accounts, savings, cars, pensions, salary, bonuses, state benefits; businesses; credit cards; loans and mortgages;
  • Details of any pre or post nuptial agreements;
  • Details of any significant financial events during the marriage, i.e. inheritance; sale of properties; sale of assets; sale of businesses; gifts; loans;
  • Spousal maintenance;
  • Consideration of having a new will drafted in light of potential divorce proceedings.

Emergency Orders and Domestic Abuse (if applicable)

  • Details of any previous Non-Molestation, Occupation or Prohibited Steps Orders;
  • Details of any relevant police / medical involvement, logs and records.

Health / Disorders

  • Any health/disability concerns you may be suffering with which may affect the outcome of your divorce;
  • Details of any narcissistic or borderline personality disorder of your spouse.

The latter point is essential for your divorce lawyer to know and understand from the outset, particularly where the situation, as a result, may present as highly acrimonious.  

— Terina Kiss is a Family Lawyer and Member of Resolution at Ringrose Law specialising in divorce law and matrimonial financial remedy since 2015. Terina also runs a free advice clinic the last Thursday of every month – to make an appointment contact the office directly on 01522 561020.