Don’t Let the Dog Eat Your Homework!

That’s right….homework! When you are going through a divorce, paternity or post decree case you will have some work to do to help your attorney prepare to properly represent you. While you will not be graded on your response, the “final exam” is your settlement negotiations, mediation or trial where all the important information your attorney needs will be used to resolve your case. So your homework grade does count!

Common documents that your attorney will request include tax returns, pay stubs, insurance costs, daycare receipts, medical bills, bank statements, retirement statements and the like. Generally your attorney will need documents from a specific date range, so be careful what you gather. Sometimes, the opposing party presents you with requests for documents and questions that you need to answer under oath. You must provide to your attorney for purposes of answering these requests all documents in your possession that meet the requests and all documents to which you have access which meet the requests. That means that even if you do not receive a paper bank statement, if you are capable of getting online and printing one off, you are considered to have sufficient access that you need to obtain the document. Sometimes you may need to make a phone call to obtain documents. Rest assured, if your attorney is asking for a specific document, it is needed.

Many counties require a sworn statement of financial condition called a Verified Financial Declaration. This is a form document created by the court, which includes information about income, expenses, assets and debts. This document is required to be completed under oath and to be filed with the court. While it is a pain to pull the information together and to complete this document, it is a task that all litigants must go through. If you have trouble with it, talk to your attorney for help and guidance. Ignoring the form or filling it out in a haphazard or incomplete way will not save time and energy since your attorney will simply have to return it to you to fill in the blanks. When your attorney has to back up and ask for a redo, it costs you additional time and attorney fees. Put in the work getting a complete form the first time, and you can check it off your list!

Remember that your attorney is your partner and advisor through your case. If your attorney needs something, trust that it is necessary to provide. Organized clients who quickly and thoroughly complete their homework see it pay off when their attorneys have to spend less time chasing information. That results in a lower attorney fee bill. That is better than an A+ grade!

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