Importance of Client Narrative for Your Long Island Divorce Attorney
Why the Client Narrative is So Important
One of the key pieces of information your Long Island divorce attorney will need to best represent you in your divorce is known as a “Client Narrative”. Your help in providing a descriptive story of your family will prove to be invaluable to your case. Your attorney’s ability to effectively represent you depends on the information available to him or her. Therefore, in order to successfully handle the many important issues surrounding your divorce, it’s critical that you provide your attorney with a detailed history of your marriage. In doing so, you should provide the following information:
1. Background Information
In a divorce proceeding, your narrative should start at the beginning of the marriage. However, if you and your spouse purchased large assets prior to your marriage, such as a house or business, you should be sure to provide those details to us as well.
Some important facts that should be included in your narrative are:
- The date of marriage;
- The ages and health of you and your spouse;
- Children of the marriage, if any, and their dates of birth;
- Children from prior relationships, if any;
- Where you and your spouse are currently living;
- The highest level of education of each party;
- Residence(s) during the marriage and how it was acquired;
- Education and/or vocational training obtained by you, your spouse, or your children; and
- Employment histories during the marriage, including where you were employed and what you were earning throughout the marriage.
2. Financial Information
During your Divorce, it is important for your attorney to know what happened to various marital assets. For example, if you or your spouse owned a home from before the marriage, was that home sold? If so, what happened to the proceeds? Were they invested in a different home during the marriage? Did a 401K at the time of the marriage get rolled into an IRA and then invested into another account or into an improvement on the home? Please describe the manner in which major assets/debts that were owned/owed at the date of marriage survived or did not survive into the present day.
Accordingly, please provide us with information on the following:
- Any agreement between you and your spouse regarding working arrangements (stay-at-home parents, one parent only working part-time, etc.);
- Retirement plans of you and your spouse, including retirement elections already made or pending;
- Assistance by one spouse in the career development of the other spouse;
- Employment of you and your spouse;
- Property owned by you and your spouse on the date of marriage;
- Acquisition of major assets, including pension and/or other retirement benefits of both spouses;
- Property and accounts of children acquired during the marriage; and
- History of debt incurred.
It is also important for your attorney to understand which spouse owns what property, and, for how long that ownership interest been in existence. Generally speaking, separate property is any property owned prior to the date of marriage, as well as any property received by gift or inheritance from a third party. Personal injury settlements, even if received during your marriage, also typically fall into the “separate property” category. Finally, separate property may also include any property acquired with monies earned after the commencement of an Action for a Divorce or signing of a Separation Agreement.
Please do not forget to mention any pre- or post-nuptial agreements, or any informal arrangements entered into by you and your spouse in an effort to settle marital issues.
Critical to your attorney understanding of your case is the history of the primary caretaker of your children. This is particularly important if custody is an issue or if there are likely to be any disputes concerning parenting time. Please be sure to discuss the following with regards to your children:
- Birth dates;
- Overall health, as well as any major medical concerns or diagnoses;
- Your role as a parent from birth to the present;
- Time off from work by either spouse, either paid or unpaid, or decisions to have one parent remain at home with the children;
- The role and duties of the primary caretaker;
- Special needs of the children, if any; and
- Domestic violence specifically involving children.
4. Marital Fault
New York is a No-Fault State since 2010. What this means is that, where you formerly (prior to August 15, 2010) needed to allege grounds for divorce, such as domestic violence or abandonment, you do not need to allege such grounds today. New York has adopted the no-fault statute, allowing parties to allege an “irretrievable breakdown” in the marital relationship. Courts in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and throughout New York, no longer require either party to prove a ground in order to obtain a divorce.
That being said, it is important that your attorney have a complete picture of your marriage. If there were issues underlying your entire marriage, your attorney should know about them. If there were instances of domestic violence, please include details and indicate whether there was a police report.
If you are not sure whether something should be included in your narrative, it’s best to air on the side of caution and include it. Your attorney can only be as prepared as you allow him/her to be.
Finally, your client narrative should not stop once your divorce begins. It’s important that you keep a log of daily occurrences and interactions with your spouse. If there is a visitation scheduled and your spouse does not exercise his or her right to see the children, you should make a notation of that. If your spouse called you 10 times in one day for no other reason than to harass you, you should make a notation.
Do You Have Questions About Preparing Your Client Narrative for Your Long Island Divorce Attorney? We Can Help
Your Client Narrative is a critical piece of information for your divorce attorney to properly represent you in your divorce on Long Island. In order to protect your rights and financial interests, it is important to have an experienced Long Island Divorce Attorney by your side. Contact our Long Island Divorce & Family Law firm at 631-629-2545 to set up your free consultation with one of our experienced Family Law attorneys.
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