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What A Divorce Lawyer Needs To Start A Divorce Case

When someone decides they are going to file for divorce it is a momentous decision. The divorcing person will have a million thoughts spinning through their head and will need clear direction regarding the initial steps they must take to commence the legal process. 

A divorce lawyer needs to be coherent while also being compassionate when requesting the following items from their client

Previous Filings

If the divorce case has already been filed, the divorce lawyer will need all of the previous filings associated with the case. The client may or may not have these documents but the client should be asked to tender what they do have.

The divorce lawyer can then go to the circuit clerk’s office to review the file’s public record for additional records. 

If previously represented, the divorce lawyer can request the file the previous divorce lawyer had for the client.

Financial Affidavit

Every state requires that parties to a divorce fill out a financial affidavit.  A financial affidavit is a long-form document that asks standard questions about a divorcing person’s income, expenses, assets, and debts.  The client must fill the financial affidavit out to the best of his or her ability and then sign that affidavit is true to the best of their knowledge.

For whatever reasons, filling out the financial affidavit is a daunting task for many divorce clients.  The divorce lawyer and his or her staff must usually carefully review the client’s work and, in some, cases fill out the affidavit based on supporting documents such as taxes and paystubs.

Every financial document requires supporting documents to be attached to it.  This usually means previous years’ tax returns, recent paystubs, bank statements and 401k statements. 

Parenting Plan

If the divorcing parties have children, they will be required to exchange a proposed parenting plan which details exactly how the children’s schedule will be shared between the divorcing parents.

There is usually a sample parenting plan available that the clients can use to structure their own proposed parenting plan.  More often than not, the parties merely explain what their current schedules are with the children and that becomes the proposed parenting plan.

If the parties are not agreed as to the children’s parenting schedule then the proposed parenting plans can serve as a guide to everyone as to what exact issues are being contested.  Those issues usually end up being smaller than the parenting plan as a whole and then are divided as equitably as possible, ex: “mom gets Tuesday but dad gets Wednesday.”


Often a divorce is preceded by some kind of incident.  Whether the incident is domestic violence, adultery or drug abuse there is usually some kind of paper trail associated with the incidence such as a police report or text messages. 

While these salient details often become irrelevant at the end of a divorce, they are certainly top-of-mind to the client when they begin the divorce.  A divorce lawyer merely accepting the documents and filing them can provide a level of closure to the client. 

These types of evidence may indeed become valuable should the case become contested.

With all of these items, a divorce lawyer should be able to prepare the initial pleadings and temporary motions necessary to start a divorce case and, hopefully, close it shortly thereafter.

Russell Knight has been licensed to practice law since 2006. Russell Knight is a divorce lawyer in Chicago, Illinois and a divorce lawyer in Naples, Florida.

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