Getting Your Fair Share: Documents You Need to Give Your Divorce Lawyer

Documents are very important in divorce litigation. They can be important in establishing fault grounds. They are certainly important in establishing the factors necessary to insure that you get or retain your fair share of income, marital assets and marital debts. If you are unable to prove your case, you may find that you do not get a fair share of the income, assets, and liabilities. The degree to which you cooperate with your lawyer and provide him or her with supporting documents is proportionate to the degree of success you may experience in getting or retaining your fair share of income, of marital assets and marital debts.

The documents mentioned in this article are the standard documents which we ask clients for in contested divorce cases and are included in our client divorce manual. You should ask your attorney if there are other further documents which may support your case. You should at a minimum gather the documents listed in this article and provide them to your divorce lawyer at a point early in the representation. The more organized you are to start with, the better for your case. Many of the documents may be necessary early in the litigation and it may take some time to obtain them.

Under Virginia law, a complete picture of the assets, income and liabilities of both spouses is absolutely necessary for the court to make a fair and equitable distribution. By providing your lawyer with the information and documents mentioned in this article, you will save be time and money. You will also help your lawyer in the preparation of pleadings and documents required in your case. In addition, possession of these documents could help in preventing your spouse from dissipating or secreting any assets. You should make a list of the documents that you cannot get and provide the list to your lawyer, so that he or she can attempt to obtain them for you.

Income:

Because it is important to establish an accurate picture of your financial situation and that of your spouse, you should gather income tax returns, including personal, corporate, partnership, joint venture or other income tax returns, state and federal, including all attachments thereto (w-2, 1099 and k-1 forms) in your possession or control covering the period of your marriage and separation.

In addition to the tax records, you should also obtain supporting documents reflecting current income information, such as payroll stubs and other evidence of income for yourself and your spouse since the filing of your last return. Don’t forget other employment records during the term of the marriage, showing evidence of wages, salaries, bonuses, commissions, raises, promotions, expense accounts, and other benefits or deductions of any kind. Be sure to include all records showing any fringe benefits available to you or your spouse from any business entity including, without limitation, auto, travel, entertainment, educational, and personal living expenses.

Assets:

Because it is important to identify marital assets, you should also gather any deeds and leases of property in which you or your spouse has an interest together with evidence of all contributions, in cash or otherwise, made by you or on your behalf, toward the acquisition of and maintenance of such real estate during the marriage or thereafter. You should also provide your lawyer with copies of any sales agreements or options pertaining to real estate and with personal property tax returns filed in Virginia or elsewhere from the start of your marriage to the present time.

If there are stocks, bonds or mutual funds, you should gather certificates, if available, of accounts owned by either spouse during the marriage or owned by you prior to the marriage or acquired subsequent to the separation. You should also gather all documents pertaining to stock options, including options given by employers. If there are pensions, profit sharing plans, 401(K) plans, retirement plans and or deferred compensation plans, you should gather all available documents for your lawyer. If the plan administrator has a package for divorcing parties, you should request that packet.

Business Assets:

If you or your spouse has operated a business during your marriage, you should provide your lawyer with your business records or ledgers in your possession and control that are either personal or business-related, together with all accounts and journals. Don’t forget to include Partnership and Joint Venture Agreements to which you have been a party during the marriage.

Personal Property:

Regarding interests in personal property, in addition to personal property returns, you should gather all documents, invoices, contracts, insurance policies, and appraisals on all personal property, including furniture, fixtures, furnishings, equipment, antiques, and any type of collections, owned by you individually, jointly, as trustee or guardian, or through any other person or entity during the term of the marriage. Don’t forget to include firearm registrations issued or pending receipt of governmental registration documents, owned, possessed, or controlled by you during the last five (5) years.
Be sure to include titles to motor vehicles, as well as, all financing agreements to all motor vehicles owned by you, individually or jointly, at any time during the last five (5) years, including airplanes, boats, motorcycles, automobiles, or any other types of motor vehicles.

If you and your spouse have executed wills and trust agreements, or if you or either of you or your spouse have a present or contingent interest under a will or trust agreement or you or your spouse are a beneficiary, trustee, executor, or guardian under a will or trust agreement and receive or have received benefits or will receive benefits and which are or were in existence during the past five (5) years, including inter vivos trusts, you should provide those documents to your lawyer, along with all records of declaration of trust and minute books for all trusts to which you are a party, including the certificates, if any, showing such interest and copies of all statements, receipts, disbursements, investments, and other transactions.

Related to both income and assets, your lawyer will need information on your bank accounts and investments. You should gather monthly bank statements, passbooks, check registers, deposit slips, canceled checks and bank charge notices on personal and business accounts, certificates of deposit and money market and retirement accounts from banks, savings and loans, credit unions, or other institutions in which you or your spouse has an interest. If you have brokerage statements from securities and/or commodities dealers or mutual funds maintained by you or your spouse during the marriage, whether jointly or individually, you should provide those statements to your lawyer.

If you or your spouse has submitted any loan applications or financial statements to banks, lending institutions or other persons or entities during the past five years, you should provide those documents to your lawyer. We have actually been able to discredit a spouse’s testimony using information he gave on loan applications.

Insurance:

Another area of interest is insurance. If you or your spouse has life insurance policies insuring your life or that of your spouse, you should provide your lawyer with a copy of the policy and any statement of cash value. You should also gather for your lawyer copies of insurance policies for health, accident, casualty, automobile, property liability and annuities owned over the past five years.

Marital Debts:

Besides income and assets, another area to be considered is outstanding debts. You should gather all documents reflecting debts owed to you or by you, secured or unsecured, including personal loans, credit card statements, and lawsuits pending or previously filed in any court. Be sure to include judgments and pleadings in which you have been a party to, either as Plaintiff or Defendant, during the marriage.

Because standard of living may all be a factor in divorces, you should include membership cards or documents identifying participation rights in any country clubs, key clubs, private clubs, associations, or fraternal group organizations during the past three (3) years of the marriage, together with all monthly statements.

Conclusion:

If you take the time to prepare and to gather documentation of your income, assets and liabilities, you will find that you will be more successful in your efforts to get or to retain your fair share of income, assets and liabilities. If you don’t take the time to prepare and to gather documentation of your situation, your divorce will be more costly and you may find that you are not able to prove what you need to prove to get or to retain your fair share.

Lawyers and Their High Regards in the Eyes of the Society

A lawyer is an asset to the society. Lawyers or a lawyer has a huge role to play. He provides legal aid and legal guidance to the society in general. Also, it is his social responsibility. We need them at every wake of life. They are the vertebrae of our society. They not only provide us with legal advice but also act as advisors as and when required. There are two broad divisions of lawyers, criminal lawyers and civil lawyers. Whichever law they are practicing, they have to follow some ethics. It is said that we should not hide anything from the lawyers. So these people hear a lot of confessions from us. But they are bound by the oath of secrecy and should not misuse this information. On the other hand, they listen to the problems of their clients and then discuss every aspect of those problems. They also make the clients aware of their fundamental rights.

There are many subdivisions to these two forms of law. There are employment lawyers, malpractice lawyers, traffic lawyers, divorce lawyers, fraud lawyers, bankruptcy lawyers, insurance lawyers, wrongful death lawyers, and lawyers who deal with drugs and environmental law and employment and child custody. So anybody who wants to take up this profession has a wide range of subjects to specialize in.

Lawyers have the freedom of self-employment. They can enter government jobs or they can start practicing on their own. A survey in United States of America shows that around 27% of lawyers practice on their own. But this subject has a wide scope. With the ever-increasing population, the problems are also increasing at an alarming rate. Especially the rates of divorce have shoot up. Along with divorce, the problem of child custody has also taken a hike. Then there are disputes over property. Different companies also hire a lawyer or a train of lawyers to safeguard themselves. So there is no fear of going jobless even when there is financial recession throughout the world. The lawyers can work in partnership or they can start practicing on their own. Either way a self-employed lawyer can earn a lot if he has the necessary skill. The salaried lawyers usually work in local areas whereas the self-employed lawyers have the advantage to migrate to their chosen city and start practicing there. The keenness to relocate is always advantageous for this job; then the lawyer has to sit for an additional bar examination of that state.

It is not difficult to begin a career as a lawyer. A person has to study law for three years from a law school and then needs to take a bar examination on the fourth year. The actual skill of a lawyer is tested when he is at the courtroom. He has to speak quickly yet clearly and with authority. He cannot have stage fright or fumble in the courtroom. If he can conduct himself smartly in the courtroom half of his battle is won. So if you think that you are smart, a pretty good talker and have confidence, foresight and a logical mind, then law might be your best career option.

Top 10 Tips From Illinois Overtime Lawyers

The following is related to Illinois law only and is compiled from our conversations with various Illinois labor attorneys.

1. Verify whether your company pays overtime. Not all employers are required to pay overtime. Illinois employers that earn about $500,000 or more in annual revenue typically have to pay. If your employer earns significantly less than $500,000 in revenues each year, you are likely not entitled to overtime pay.

2. The same rules apply to all sizes of employers. Employers in IL must follow overtime laws regardless of size. For instance, if you own a company and are the only employee, you must receive overtime pay (as long as you are not exempt). The law is not affected by the employer’s size.

3. Understand “exempt.” Some employees are exempt and are not covered by OT laws. If you are exempt, you will not receive extra pay when you work over 40 hours per week.

4. Determine whether you are exempt. Generally under Illinois law, highly skilled employees such as executives, managers and professionals like doctors, lawyers and engineers are exempted from OT laws. If you are unsure, an Illinois employment attorney can help you determine whether you are exempt.

5. Receiving a salary does NOT mean you are exempt. Being paid a salary does not automatically make you exempt from overtime pay; the nature of your position determines whether you are entitled to overtime. Consult with an Illinois employment attorney to determine if you should receive more money whether you receive a salary or an hourly wage.

6. Check your overtime pay date. Payments should be paid on your regularly scheduled pay date. An employer generally cannot hold your pay until a later date.

7. Training time counts. Time you spend attending training meetings, seminars and conferences for your company is usually included in calculating OT unless all of the following is true:
1) the training is voluntary, and
2) takes place outside regular work hours, and
3) is not directly related to the your job, and
4) you do not complete any work for your employer during the training. Again, these tips are based on Illinois law.

8. It is illegal for your employer to ask you to waive your right to overtime. Your employer cannot ask you to waive this right. Even if you did agree to sign a waiver, the agreement is not enforceable unless 1) the waiver was specifically approved by the Illinois Department of Labor, or 2) you were represented by a lawyer when you made the agreement. If you agreed to a waiver and neither of these situations applies, an Illinois employment attorney can help you determine whether you are entitled to back pay.

9. Collect your overtime back pay. You can collect back pay that you earned during last two years. If your employer was intentionally violating the law (for instance, by having you sign an illegal waiver of overtime rights), you can collect back pay from the last three years. An Illinois employment attorney can help you collect pay that is owed to you.

10. Get more information on the law. If you think you may have a legal issue related to OT pay, an Illinois employment attorney can help you determine whether to bring a case against your employer. You should also read the Fair Labor Standards Act which is a Federal law. Most of the law applies in Illinois, although there are a few differences regarding which employees are exempt.