Getting Started

Whether you are considering ending your marital relationship, establishing a parental relationship, modifying existing court orders or if you have just been served with court papers, you may be asking, “What do I do first?” It is important to gather for your own benefit as much of the needed information as possible before you meet with your lawyer.

For a Divorce

The State of California requires each party to provide a full and complete disclosure of all financial information prior to entering into any settlement agreement or proceeding to trial before a judge. From a common sense perspective, this information allows everyone to know what they have before they begin to consider negotiating a final division of property or an arrangement for financial support. From a legal perspective, the Court wants to make sure everyone has all the information they require to make fully informed and legally binding decisions.

Whenever possible, you should collect copies of the following documents and bring them to your lawyer:

  1. Tax Returns – both personal and business – for at least three (3) years.
  2. Account Statements – for any bank, savings, money market, brokerage, credit union accounts (joint, individual or business) for the calendar year.
  3. If you keep your monthly expenses (whether business or personal) on any computerized program, run a General Ledger, Transaction Ledger, Profit & Loss and Income & Expense Report for at least the last calendar year to present.
  4. If you or your spouse have any retirement, pension, Keogh, 401(k), stock option, IRA, or other deferred compensation accounts, collect statements for these as well.
  5. If you own real estate (either as a primary residence, a second home, rental or investment property), locate recorded copies of deeds, deeds of trust, tax statements and escrow settlement statements.
  6. If either you or your spouse are employed, bring copies of your payroll check stubs for at least the prior three (3) months.

There are many other documents that might be required, depending upon your particular matter. It is important to make copies of these materials and to give your spouse a copy as well, in order to quickly comply with California’s disclosure requirements and to minimize attorney fees and other costs.

For Support Modification

Whenever possible, you should collect copies of the following documents and bring them to your lawyer:

  1. A copy of the Judgment or the latest Order in your case.
  2. Documents demonstrating a change in circumstances (such as a letter documenting a reduction in your work hours, a change in your salary, or of either party’s failure to comply with court orders.)
  3. Copies of your most recent earning statements for at least three (3) months.

Important: If you have a financial issue before the Court, you must bring to the hearing copies of your payroll check stubs for the last three (3) pay periods and your tax returns from the past two (2) years. Failure to bring these documents to the hearing may mean that your matter will not be heard.

For a Custody Matter

If you are requesting a modification in custody or visitation, please provide your attorney with a copy of the Judgment or the most recent Order in your case.

Whenever custody or visitation is at issue, the Court will require both parties to attend a free mediation prior to the scheduled hearing date. Mediation is between the two parents only; your attorney will not be present.

In the County of Los Angeles, parents involved in a custody matter are also required to attend the Our Children First (OCF) program, an online education course designed to help you and your co-parent continue to raise your children during the divorce process without subjecting the children to conflict. You can learn more about OCF classes at the L.A. Superior Court website – click here.

Parenting classes are also available from puttingkidsfirst.org