Do you have a custody or divorce case?
Have you ever thought “nah…my lawyer doesn’t need to know that!”
We are here to tell you that most often, it’s the details that can be the difference in winning or losing your family court case.
Whether it’s a big deal, like a prior domestic violence arrest, or a little detail, like a change in work schedule, the details matter.
The sooner you tell your lawyer, the more likely you are to save time, money and heartache in your divorce or custody case.
Not to mention, the more likely you are to win.
Bottom line? Don’t keep secrets from your lawyer!
Consider these 21 things your family law attorney needs to know in our to get a leg up in your divorce or custody case.
#1: Tell Your Lawyer About ALL Sources Of Income
What your lawyer needs to know: Income from all sources not just your regular job…
This means all sources whether it’s tips, overtime or a side gig, make sure your lawyer knows every penny you are earning and where it comes from.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: Income is a huge factor in almost every family court case involving custody and/or divorce. Income is used to determine child support, alimony, community maintenance, contributions to child expenses and about everything else in between.
If you don’t disclose all income, you could find yourself back in court for modifications of support or even facing allegations that you hid income during your divorce. This can be extremely costly and you might even be penalized by your family court judge for failing to disclose all of your income up front.
Key takeaway: While you may feel like it’s none of your ex’s business how much you make, the Court feels otherwise. Your income is critical and not being forthcoming about all of your income could end up costing you in the end.
#2: Don’t Hide A Prior DUI
What your lawyer needs to know: If you have ever been charged with a DUI, even if it was 25 years ago, your divorce/custody lawyer needs to know.
And yes… we need to know even if the charges were dropped or dismissed.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: Before you know it, a prior DUI arrest (not even a conviction) can turn into you having a drinking problem. That means your ex will argue you shouldn’t be around your kids or you are violent or you cant control your impulses.
No matter how you cut it, a prior DUI needs to be disclosed because the sooner we know about the sooner we can research it and shut down any arguments that might distract from your case.
Key takeaway: While a DUI that might have happened long ago may not seem like a big deal now, trust us when we tell you your ex will use it. The sooner your lawyers know about a DUI the better prepared you will be for this argument in court.
#3: Identify ALL of your property
What your lawyer needs to know: Every single piece of property you have. If it has a deed, a title or a wheel you need to tell your lawyer about.
This is true regardless of whether or not you think the property is worthless.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: If you don’t tell your lawyer about it at the time of your divorce you could be accused of hiding assets.
Even if you think the property is worthless, the best thing to do is to tell your lawyer about it and disclose it. Failing to tell your lawyer about it could result in you losing the property altogether.
It could also mean additional litigation which means more lawyer fees and possibly paying your ex’s fees for having to “uncover” this hidden piece of property.
Key takeaway: Disclosing your property, even if you think it is worthless, will save you time, money and heartache in the future.
# 4: Disclose your debts
What your lawyer needs to know: Just like your lawyer needs to know every single piece of property you have, your lawyer also needs to know ALL of your debts.
This includes student loan debt, IRS debt, credit card debts…heck, even the $500 you borrowed from your mom 10 years ago! Your lawyer needs to know about it.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: There are so many reasons your lawyer needs to know all of your debts that we cant go into all of them here.
The top three reasons are (1) if there are debts you plan to pay, this could actually lower any potential alimony so it’s important to include all debts; (2) if you don’t disclose the debt at the time of your divorce, you could end up paying 100% of the debt even if it is a joint debt; (3) taking a bunch of the debts could affect the way property is distributed.
In addition, if you don’t dispose of the debt in the marriage the creditor might come after you even if the debt technically belongs to your spouse.
Key takeaway: Failing to disclose a debt might mean you are paying more alimony than you should be or that you are stuck with more debt than is fair. Disclose all debts even if they aren’t technically yours.
#5: You should talk to your lawyer about potential increases in your income
What your lawyer needs to know: If you are due for a pay raise or a bonus or you might take on a new job or receive a promotion in the near future you need to disclose this to your family law attorney.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: Again…income affects how child support and spousal support are calculated. The last thing you want is to look like you are trying to hide something.
Failing to disclose an increase in income, a bonus or a promotion will likely result in you returning to court to explain yourself and you could end up paying for ex’s attorney’s fees for not disclosing this information earlier.
Key takeaway: The sooner your lawyer knows about the potential for an increase in income, the better your lawyer can help you plan for the financial aspects of your family law case.
#6: Tell your lawyer about other children
What your lawyer needs to know: If you have children from other relationships or if you are expecting a new child, you should disclose this information to your family law attorney.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: Having children from other relationships can affect your visitation schedule and holidays. It can also affect your child support calculations and alimony. The sooner your lawyer knows about other children, the easier it will be to plan for regular visitation, holidays and support.
Key takeaway: Disclose other children early to get the best advantage in advocating for the timeshare arrangement you want.
#7: If you are using illegal substances, the earlier you tell your lawyer the better
What your lawyer needs to know: If you are currently using, or if you have ever used, illegal drugs, you need to tell your lawyer about it from the beginning.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: There are so many reasons your lawyer needs to know.
Obviously, if you are using illegal drugs and your ex is aware of this you should absolutely expect your ex to use this against you in a custody battle. Prepare to be drug tested.
Failing to disclose illegal drug use will be deemed lying to the judge – not good!
Also, if your lawyer knows ahead of time that drugs might be an issue there are things your lawyer can do to protect you like helping you enroll in a drug treatment program or assisting you in finding a supervisor for visitation while you get help.
Trust us…if drugs are an issue, the last thing you want is your lawyer to find out standing in court. The earlier you disclose this information the better.
Key takeaway: If drugs are going to be an issue, the best defense is a good offense. Tell your lawyer at the outset and see what assistance your family law attorney can provide to you.
#8: Talk to you lawyer about prior Child Protective Services involvement sooner rather than later
What your lawyer needs to know: If child protective services has ever been to your home, even if a case wasn’t opened or your children weren’t removed from your care, you need to tell your lawyer.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: You should expect that if you have ever been involved with CPS your ex will use this against you regarding custody and visitation. The earlier your custody lawyer knows about CPS involvement, the easier it will be to shut these arguments down.
Keep in mind that getting CPS records might not be fast. So the sooner your lawyer knows about possible CPS involvement, the faster your lawyer can get these records and decide if there is anything to be worried about.
Early disclosure will also help avoid multiple court hearing while you wait for the judge to get the records. This will save you time and money.
Key takeaway: Telling your lawyer about CPS involvement from the outset will help avoid delays, save you money and allow you to present the facts in the light most favorable to your side of the case.
#9: Have a conversation about any plans you have to relocate
What your lawyer needs to know: If you have plans to move out of state, now or in the future, you need to discuss this with your lawyer from the outset of your case.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: Relocation can affect the custody of your children and can also affect the court’s jurisdiction over your case.
If you plan to move soon, your lawyer can help you decide whether it is best to present this information to the Court and can advise you on how it might affect your child custody case.
In addition, if you plan to leave the state during your divorce, this could affect whether or not the Court will be able to divorce you at all.
Key takeaway: Even if you aren’t moving right away, you should discuss any plans to relocate with your attorney to get the best advantage in your custody or divorce case.
#10: Work schedule changes should be discussed early on with your attorney
What your lawyer needs to know: If you anticipate your shift and/or your days’ off will change in the near future, you need to let your lawyer know. Also, if your schedule changes during your case you need to tell your lawyer.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: Schedule changes can make a difference in your visitation with your children.
Usually, judges try to plan visitation to maximize parent-child time. This means trying to give parents their days’ off with their children. If your schedule is changing, it is important your lawyer knows so that you can maximize your time with your children.
Advising of changes in your schedule can help your lawyer plan for your case. For example, if you have Mondays and Tuesdays off, your lawyer can try to get court dates scheduled on your days off.
Key takeaway: Advising your lawyer in advance of changes to you work schedule will help you maximize your visitation time with your children and will help your lawyer plan your court hearings in advance.
#11: Religious holidays that you want to observe should be identified at the outset of your case
What your lawyer needs to know: If you celebrate certain religious holidays or if there are special days you want to observe, you need to tell your lawyer at the outset.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: Holidays can often be the tipping point between getting a child custody case settled or ending up in a custody trial.
When your lawyer knows from the outset what holidays are important to you and why they are important, you will have a better chance of preserving those holidays as part of your custodial time.
In addition, we often find that most people view holidays as an afterthought.
Usually these holidays are left out of a custody or divorce decree which means if you want the holiday you will have to go back to Court and convince the judge your orders should be changed. This usually means more time and money on family court.
Key takeaway: Think about the most important holidays to you and let your family law attorney know about it. Negotiating these holidays at the beginning of the case can save you time and money.
#12: Talk to your attorney about any and all legal documents signed during or prior to marriage
What your lawyer needs to know: If you signed a quit claim deed, a prenuptial agreement, a post-nuptial agreement, a relinquishment of rights to a pension or any other legal document prior to or during marriage, you need to tell your lawyer from the beginning.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: Any legal documents signed by you or your spouse prior to or during your marriage that affect property, assets or debts can have serious consequences and greatly affect the outcome of your case.
Failing to disclose this information could also end up with you paying for your ex’s attorney’s fees if you force litigation only to have the judge find out you signed away your rights to certain property or agreed to take on certain debts, years ago.
Key takeaway: Any legal documents that might affect your rights to assets or obligation to pay debts needs to be disclosed to your lawyer – even if you think it doesn’t matter or that the document is a fraud. The sooner your lawyer knows these documents might exist, the faster and better you can be prepared for your divorce case.
#13: Believe it or not, you need to let your lawyer know if you do not have a valid driver’s license
What your lawyer needs to know: If you are involved in a custody case, or if you are arguing over vehicles in a divorce, you need to tell your lawyer whether or not you have a valid driver’s license.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: In a divorce case, if you don’t have a valid driver’s license, it will be very easy for your ex to argue that you shouldn’t get any of the cars because you don’t even have a license to drive. If this is the case, your lawyer can assist you in preparing arguments to combat these allegations.
In a custody case, if you don’t have a valid driver’s license, you should expect your ex to argue that you can’t drive with the kids in the car. You should expect your ex to use this to try to limit your time. Again if your lawyer knows this upfront, your lawyer can help you come up with transportation alternatives.
Key takeaway: Having a valid driver’s license is the best practice but if you don’t have one, you should tell your lawyer so you can protect your custody rights and the rights to your vehicles.
#14: Special information pertaining to your children should be disclosed ASAP
What your lawyer needs to know: If your children have special needs, if they are gifted in any way, or any other special information about your children should be disclosed to your lawyer right away.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: There are many reasons to disclose this information to your attorney.
If your child has special needs, talking about those needs with your attorney can help you plan for visitation and can help you address child support needs early on.
In addition, you may want to talk to your lawyer about who will make medical decisions for your child if you have a child with special needs.
If you have a gifted or specially talented child, increases in child support should be discussed with your attorney.
For example, if your child is a top basketball prospect, you will want to consider who will pay for coaching, gym memberships, nutrition, clubs and travel.
Key takeaway: Disclosing any special information about your children early on will help your lawyer better address child support, visitation and legal custody.
#15: If you have a mental health diagnosis, tell your lawyer
What your lawyer needs to know: If you have ever been diagnosed with a mental health condition you should tell your lawyer when you were diagnosed, what you have been diagnosed with, what you did for treatment, whether you are still receiving treatment and what medications you are taking.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: There is still a stigma for people diagnosed with mental health conditions.
This is highlighted when you are fighting for child custody.
If you have ever been diagnosed with a mental health condition, you should expect your ex to try to use it against you if you are in a custody battle.
Disclosing this information to your attorney will help cut off any of these arguments
Key takeaway: Disclosing any special information about your children early on will help your lawyer better address child support, visitation and legal custody.
#16: Any pending litigation should be disclosed to your lawyer
What your lawyer needs to know: If you have an on-going personal injury case, worker’s compensation case or any other pending litigation, you need to tell your lawyer about it.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: Personal injury settlements can be considered separate property so if you have a personal injury check coming to you, your lawyer should know this information to ensure you get 100% of the proceeds.
On the other hand worker’s compensation claims, or claims for lost wages, can be considered community property. If you are going through a divorce, you will want to be sure your lawyer pays special attention to these claims.
Likewise, if you are the Defendant in a lawsuit (like a car accident or employment case), you could end up having to pay a settlement. Whether or not this payment can be attributed to your spouse is important for the purposes of dividing marital assets and debts and for alimony.
Key takeaway: Make sure to disclose all pending and potential litigation to ensure your property, alimony and debt rights in your divorce are protected.
#17: Significant others during marriage or since separation
What your lawyer needs to know: If you have had an affair or taken on a significant other since filing for divorce, you should disclose this to your attorney.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: Even though Nevada is a no-fault divorce state, it never fails that if you have had an affair, or you have entered into a new relationship before you are divorced, your spouse will try to use this against you.
Sometimes, a spouse will claim “marital waste” for an affair. This could affect alimony, property and debt distribution in your divorce. Claims of marital waste might also cause your divorce proceedings to take longer and become more complicated in order to disprove these allegations.
Your spouse may also try to argue that you should not have your new significant other around your children. This can also cause delays and might put you in the position of having to prove your new significant other is not a danger to your children.
Key takeaway: Don’t be afraid to admit to an affair or a new relationship – it really can’t be used against you. The sooner your lawyer knows the faster your lawyer can cut off any arguments of waste or unfitness.
#18: Talk to your lawyer about your plans for daycare/watching children
What your lawyer needs to know: If you are working, you should discuss your plans for child care during your custodial time with your custody lawyer.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: Many times we see an ex argue that a parent shouldn’t have custodial time because they work.
In Nevada, the judge can’t use you having a job against you in a custody case.
That being said, it is much easier to convince a judge to give you equal time or joint custody if you have a plan for day-care for your children during your working hours.
Also, if your lawyer knows who you are proposing to watch your children ahead of time, your lawyer can anticipate any arguments your ex might have about your proposed day-care provider.
Key takeaway: Come up with a plan for day-care for your children and share it with your lawyer.
#19: Any history of domestic violence in your home MUST be disclosed
What your lawyer needs to know: If there is any history of domestic violence in your home, whether or not the police were called, whether or not charges and convictions of domestic violence occurred and who was involved.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: In Nevada, there is a presumption against custody if a parent has committed an act of domestic violence against the other parent or against the child.
Le’s face it…Judges don’t like domestic violence!
Regardless of whether or not you were convicted, if there are allegations of violence in your home, you are going to be under the microscope of your family court judge.
Telling your lawyer about any and all possible allegations of domestic violence can help your custody attorney address these allegations early on. This will save you time and money and should prevent your case from dragging on.
Key takeaway: Discuss domestic violence issues with your attorney early to obtain the best possible outcome for your case.
#20: Have a conversation about your child’s extracurricular activities
What your lawyer needs to know: Talk to your custody lawyer about the extracurricular activities your children are involved in. This should include how long your children have been engaged in the activities, whether or not your ex is supportive, how expensive the activity is, and whether you believe your child will continue to engage in these activities.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: Extracurricular activities for your children can affect child support as well as custodial time.
For example, if your child is engaged in football and the cost of football is $300 a month, you could ask for increases or decreases in child support so that your child can continue in football.
If the extracurricular activity occurs during your ex’s time, but you know your ex won’t take the child to the activity, you should try to adjust parenting time so that your child can continue with the extracurricular activity.
Key takeaway: Extracurricular activities are an important factor in custody cases for child support and parenting time.
#21: Identify all people who live with you
What your lawyer needs to know: Your lawyer needs to know everyone who lives in your home. This includes significant others, roommates, family members and children.
Why your lawyer needs to know it: In a custody case, the judge is going to want to know about any person that might have contact with your child on a regular basis. If someone residing in your house has a criminal background or has been involved with child protective services, you should immediately disclose this information to your lawyer.
Likewise, it is possible that your ex might try to argue that if you have multiple people living in your home, it is not safe or appropriate for your child to spend a ton of time in your house. Again, disclosing to your lawyer who lives with you can help head off these arguments early on.
Finally, if you have a significant other residing with you and paying your bills, your ex might try to argue that this should affect alimony. Providing this information to your divorce lawyer from the outset of your case can help your lawyer provide you a realistic picture of spousal support.
Key takeaway: For purposes of custody and alimony it is important that your lawyer knows everyone who resides in your home.
Hopefully, you found this list helpful.
If you think there are other things your family law attorney needs to know that aren’t identified in this article, please leave your comments below.
If you are someone you know needs a divorce or custody lawyer, please call us today at (702) 433-2889 or fill out our on-line form for more information.