What Type of Documents Does My Lawyer Need from Me When Filing for Divorce?
Updated: Aug 30
Many of my divorce clients, when they schedule an appointment, ask me: What documents do I need to bring?
There’s no simple answer to this question. Because each divorce varies, the documents you need will also vary, depending on the issues at stake in your divorce.
My philosophy of practicing law is this: it’s my job to handle documents and make everything as simple as possible for my clients. So, if I need a document that is a public record (such as a document that’s been filed in court) I’ll get the document myself. I won’t ask you for it. For example, if it’s a child custody case, and one parent has been convicted of crimes against children, I’ll get the case file on the parent’s conviction. You don’t need to get it yourself.
But, often, there are documents to which the public doesn’t have access (such as financial records). If I need those, I’ll ask you for them.
What to bring to your first office appointment
Usually, I don’t need you to bring anything to your first appointment. I can usually file a divorce petition, without any documentation from my client. There’s one bit of information, though, that I’ll need from any client with children: the information required in a UCCJEA affidavit.
The UCCJEA (Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act) is a law that says whenever someone files a case involving custody, they have to show that the court has jurisdiction and that the filer isn’t trying to invoke the court’s jurisdiction in bad faith. So, when I file a divorce case, I also have to file an affidavit that says:
The child’s present address or whereabouts
Every place the child has lived within the past five years
The names and present addresses of all persons with whom the child has lived within the past five years
Whether my client has participated in any other case about custody or visitation with the child. (If they have, I need to identify the court, the case number, and the date the court ruled on custody)
Whether my client knows of any court case that could affect the divorce case. This includes domestic violence cases and protective orders. If my client knows of any such case, I have to identify the court, the case number, and what type of proceeding it is.
Whether my client knows of any person not a party to the divorce case who has physical custody of the child, or who claims rights of legal custody, physical custody, or visitation with the child. If there is any such person, I must submit that person’s name and address.
So, before I file a divorce case, I’ll need you to provide me with that information. Because most clients can’t answer all of those questions off the top of their heads, I usually send the client home with a written questionnaire and have them fill out the questionnaire before I file their divorce petition.
The UCCJEA affidavit must be filed with the court and is a public record. However, if you claim that your health, safety, liberty, or your child’s health, safety, or liberty would be in danger if the information was revealed, the court may order the UCCJEA affidavit sealed.
Very rarely do I need any documentation, other than the UCCJEA affidavit, in order to file the initial petition. However, often, I’ll need other documentation as the case progresses.
Documents I’ll need as the case progresses
To see what other documentation I may need as the case progresses, let’s first look at the eight types of relief available in divorce cases in Oklahoma:
1. Termination of the marriage
2. Child custody
3. Visitation with children
4. Child support
5. Property and debt division
7. Protective Order
8. Restoration of maiden name
If child custody and visitation are at issue, I may need documentation regarding the children. Such documentation may include psychological evaluations or educational records.
If child support, property, and debt division, or alimony are at issue, I will likely need documentation regarding your income and property.
But, I won’t need this documentation at your first meeting with me. The times when I’ll need this documentation are:
Discovery is a process, in Oklahoma law, where one party sends the other party written questions for the other party to answer. Discovery is standard in divorce cases, and, if you are asked to produce documents in discovery, you will need to provide those documents to my office.
In mediation, the parties, and their attorneys, if they have attorneys, meet together with a neutral third party called a mediator. The mediator is unlike a judge, in that he cannot order you to do anything. But, he can try to guide you toward a settlement. If you go to mediation, you may need to bring documentation regarding any fact at issue in the case, such as property and children.
If your case goes to trial, I will likely need documentation from you, to introduce as evidence at trial.
For more information about discovery, mediation, and trial, read my post, “What Does a Civil Attorney Do?”
Don’t stress over documents!
You probably won’t need to bring any documents to your first meeting with me. But, you’ll likely need documents down the road as the case goes on.
But, as I said, it’s my job as a lawyer to make your case as simple as possible. That includes handling documents for you. Often, if you don’t have a certain document, I can find a way around that problem. So don’t stress over documents!